Have you ever felt like you fell off the health and fitness band wagon and then somehow ended up under the wagon... and then had the wagon roll over you a couple times? Yeah?... You're not alone!!
It happened to me not all that long ago, and what a fun ride that was... NOT!!
It was triggered by a gradual loss of my self-care practices over months, little by little, letting go of important things like my exercise habits and a nutritious diet. Followed by a couple of knocks to my confidence, after working towards something I thought would be AMAZING, but didn't eventuate. Finally noticing a lingering sense that I was pushing the proverbial sh!t uphill, without quite knowing why I was doing it...
Cue the throwing of hands in the air, and a dramatic 'f@*k this shit!' and suddenly I'd made new home under the wagon with the wheel firmly smooshed into my face and no plans to move any time soon.
I'm not usually one for dramatics, but, *just this once*, I let myself own it for a while, knowing that I would, eventually, get back up and move on from my slump. After all, we've all been there before, right? But, in all honesty, it took me a lot longer to get up, dust myself off, and bravely take the step back onto the wagon than I thought it would. Yet, here I am, functioning like a (mostly) well adjusted human again, a couple of wounds licked, and a couple of lessons learnt along the way.
Had this been me 10 years ago, I can tell you that it would have taken much, much longer, with many more wounds licked, and a whole lot more guilt and self-loathing, wondering what was wrong with me, and why could everyone else deal with life so much better than me (OK maybe I'm a little more dramatic than I give myself credit for!).
And I know that I'm not the only one who thinks that way in similar situations. I see snippets of the self-talk that comes with 'failing' a fitness routine or a diet or healthy lifestyle, when my clients fall off their wagons. The should's the could's and the would's that go with it.
We all go through forms of these kind's of 'failures' at different stages in life, triggered by a multitude of factors, and sometimes, we need a little reminder that we can, and will get back up again... probably a whole lot stronger then we were before.
While it can be hard to get from where you are, to where you want to be, often the best question to ask yourself is 'what is the best next step to take from where I am, right now?' and keep asking that question, until you get to where you want to be, or a the very least, until you're back on your feet again.
In terms of health and fitness (and of course happiness, because that's what I do!) there are some simple steps you can take to get started again. And, with a little kindness and the desire to get moving, these 5 steps got me from smooshed-under-the-wagon-I-fell-off-of... to mostly-well-adjusted-human-and-stronger-than-ever!
STEP 1: Remind yourself that you are totally normal.
Yes, you read that right- It's totally normal to go through this, and its so important to remember that you're normal when you're smooshed under the wagon wheel. Being in low places feels so much worse when you feel like you're alone, strange or broken. Not only is being here normal, all the emotions that come with it are normal too, even if they don't feel great or rational.
It's OK to feel sad, frustrated, disappointed, or whatever else you feel. Just make sure that you don't hold onto that emotion for too long. It may feel uncomfortable, but sitting with your emotions, allowing yourself to experience them before letting them go, allows the emotions to pass like a wave. When we resist feeling them, they can multiply and end up feeling like you're thrashing against them, getting you more and more worked up and exhausted, and feeling the emotion for longer than you need to.
As a Health + Happiness coach, I've learnt the best way to let go of negative emotions is to learn from the situations that brought them up. A great question to ask yourself is 'What do I need to learn from this situation so that I can let go of these emotions and move forward?' (P.S. If you feel like you get stuck repeating the same mistakes, or holding onto emotions, there's a great process I use in my coaching practice that to help you let go and move forward. If you'd like to know if this can help you, simply send me a message and we'll have a chat!)
STEP 2: Choose your mindset wisely.
If you know me or have read my blogs before, you'll probably know how much I love the power of mindset. Whenever you take on a challenge in life, the outcome will always be determined by the mindset you choose throughout the experience. It can determine anything from the outcome, what you learn, what hormones will be released, your physical strength capacity, your resilience, your pain threshold, the amount of weight you lose while doing daily activities and so much more.
In our falling-off-the-band-wagon situation, you could imagine that choosing a 'victim mindset' (it's not my fault, it wouldn't have happened if x, y, z didn't happen first, I had no control over the situation, etc. ) would have a very different outcome to choosing a 'growth' mindset (I can learn from everything I go through, I'll be stronger at the end of this, there's always a silver lining to be found). You may not have control over everything that happens, but you do have a choice on what you do next.
STEP 3: Just move.
When we don't know where to start, all you have to do is take a single step. It's easy to think that small amounts of movement don't 'count' but for the purpose of getting back on your feet, all we need is a little bit. Whether it's putting a little extra effort into cleaning the house or the yard, going for a walk, dancing in the living room or a workout in the gym... do what makes you feel like you're moving joyfully. When you do that, chances are, you'll feel like moving more and then you can begin to look at a more structured movement routine, whether it be a gym program, joining a bootcamp or dance class, or learning a martial art.
STEP 4: Add nutrients.
When there are a million 'Best diet's around' it's hard to know which is the best for you... if any at all. A problematic factor that many diets have in common, is that they are based on restriction. Focusing on what you can't have, can make diets incredibly challenging and quite often ends up encouraging us to eat more of what we can't have when the diet is over or given up on.
What's most important with any diet is that you get the nutrients you need to help your body function. When our nutrition is low, it can affect our mood and our capacity to feel positive about life. Instead of cutting out certain foods (or joy!) from your diet, start by ADDING nutritious food to it. For example: add fresh berries to your cereal, chop up a few extra veggies to put through your sauces, have a salad with your dinner, or add a handful of nuts and seeds to your lunch. Then, later on, you can decide which foods no longer serve you or need to be in your diet, and let them go from your diet. This way you're choosing the foods to take out of your daily diet based on what works for you, rather than feeling like you're missing out, because a diet told you so!
STEP 5: Stress less.
Stress is a major part of most of our lives, and we can't get rid of it, because we stress about what we care about. If we got rid of stress completely, we probably wouldn't have anything important to live for. Stress is a normal daily part of our lives, and in some cases can be very beneficial to our health. What we do want to avoid is accumulated stress. Accumulated stress is the type of stress that builds up and becomes detrimental to our physical and mental health and negatively impacts many parts of our lives.
The way we think about stress has an impact on how our bodies respond to it physically. If we perceive stress to be detrimental, your body will likely respond by releasing hormones that are detrimental over time, whereas if you see it as strengthening, your body will release hormones that physically help your body and brain grow and recover. A great way to start changing the way you think about stress, is by choosing not to think of minor stresses as problems. For example, little things like doing the dishes, or not having a tidy desk, or being a few minutes late are the types of things that can easily be very stressful, but can also be seen as things that are simply part of life.
Also, when we are in a stressed state, it's important we are able to bring ourselves back to a calm restful state when we need to, so that individual stresses don't become accumulated stresses. Taking a few minutes per day to intentionally relax or practice some mindful meditations can help you reduce your overall stress levels. You can take a yoga or meditation class, or you can download one of many apps available on your phone and listen to a guided meditation. I've used Calm, Headspace and Balance, which are all great apps. Find one that you like and keep practicing.
These 5 steps are not the be-all and end-all of steps to get you going again. You may find that a different order or adding an extra step works better for you, but I found these ones helped ease me back to where I wanted to be without adding the extra pressure of having to get it right or doing it all at once. I found once I took care of these 5 things, I then had the capacity to take on other more challenging, more impactful things to get me to start feeling healthy again (rather than simply being back on my feet)... which I'll go into in the next blog!
Have a Healthy + Happy day