How to Overcome Regression Toward Goals

Picture this: It’s been a months-long streak of hitting wellness goals. You go to sleep at a normal time and sleep well, embrace a healthy diet that a few years ago you would have scoffed at, and actually find yourself LOVING engaging in regular exercise. And then, boom—you go on vacation, your car gets totaled by a deer, stress builds. Routine goes out the window, and it feels like all of the progress that was made is quickly crawling away from the fires that have engulfed your once safe little nest. 

The thing about fires is that they go out eventually. The flames may burn us, but we can avoid the spiral of negativity and douse the fire with water and positivity until we are left to lick our wounds and move forward. Most of us know how difficult it can be to get back on track when life happens.

Here are 5 powerful strategies to moving forward after hardship attempts to derail progress.

  1. Identify the root of the backslide
  • Before we can find a way back, we need to identify what contributed to our slide in the first place. This can include increased stress from life changes, self-defeating mindsets and behaviors, illness or injury, challenging or more frequent life events, and/or challenges in time management. For example, my car recently got totaled. Working out daily was impossible when I needed to spend my free time looking at cars, talking to my insurance, taking my car to various inspection sites. Attending to my car had to become my priority, given that I commute to work by driving.

2. Try a different approach

  • Maybe while you were exploring the root of the backslide, you discovered some real barriers to working toward goals. Maybe you’ve been planning to exercise in the mornings, but can’t go to sleep early enough? Maybe you’re finding difficulty keeping up with a healthy diet due to limited variety of fresh foods at the grocery story you go to. Achieving goals may require some changes in approach, and that’s okay! Methods are going to look different for everyone. It’s all about finding what works best for you and using that to your advantage.

3. Create a schedule

  • I love schedules. I mean it— I LOVE them. Nothing makes me feel more organized than having a plan—even if it’s just loosely followed. My Sunday routine includes sitting down and planning the week—exercises I want to focus on, meals I want to eat, self care activities I want to do, and other tasks or errands that need to be completed. I create a schedule based on what my week looks like and then try my best to stick with it—but life happens, so I’m always gentle and understanding if my schedule changes in small various ways as the week goes on.

4. Find accountability

  • Studies show that the more people that know about your goal, the more likely you are to work toward it. Working toward holding yourself accountable is monumental in achieving goals, but better yet, finding other people who can hold you accountable creates a whole new layer of support in actually doing what you say you’re going to do.

5. Be gentle with yourself

  • Imagine me shouting the following from the tallest rooftop: Embracing positivity toward self and challenges can make or break the ability to overcome obstacles. Understand that backslides happen. Working toward a goal will not always be a forward motion—sometimes it feels like two steps forward, one step back. Negativity and frustration toward self or circumstances can cause one to shut down and can be a deterrent to finding motivation to work through failure. If needed, go back to the basics until you start to feel your groove again.

As Wellness Warriors, it’s important to put more emphasis on the sense of accomplishment we have when achieving a goal and decrease the focus we may put on barriers. We can choose to interpret hardships as an opportunity to utilize healthy coping skills and celebrate our strength, resiliency, and power. 

Happy Tuesday, Wellness Warriors! Here’s to hoping that the schedule I have outlined for myself allows me the ability to port more consistently now that my car fiasco is resolved!

Being Gentle With Myself

Since childhood, I have been a perfectionist. One of my most vivid memories is trying to build a house for my tiny Ernie doll that I had gotten with a McDonald’s Happy Meal. I spent hours with a hot glue gun, trying to piece together Popsicle sticks so Ernie could have a space to sleep. Every time I tried to stand it up, it fell to pieces again. With each fall, my body heated up and frustration tears rolled down my face, until I finally threw the failed project in the trash.

I still cry when I’m frustrated. This week, I’ve been attempting to navigate my activity schedule. Scheduling activities is a therapeutic technique that is used to treat depression. It gives the person something to look forward to, while encouraging that person to stay busy. I use it myself by sitting down every Sunday and writing a list of what physical activities I want to do that week, whether it’s running, strength training, yoga. I write a list of whatever I feel like my mind and body needs.

I’ve struggled this week to stick to that schedule. I was really excited to get more on track with a workout schedule now that my work schedule is a little more flexible, but things rarely go as planned. On days where I’d planned to work out, I got home from work too late, or had to stop at the store, or realized it didn’t fit as nicely into my schedule that day as well as I thought it would have. Several times this week, I’ve caught myself feeling disappointed and have had the thoughts, “I’m not trying hard enough.”

Through this, I’m learning patience. Things don’t have to be perfect. I have to show self love for fitting in runs and a workout throughout the week, despite my planning hiccups. Wellness is a process and a journey, and I must be patient with learning how exactly being active will fit my schedule through trial and error. I often tell clients, “We can plan all we want, but life happens sometimes,” and this week really opened my eyes to taking my own advice. I’ll be gentle with myself and give myself credit for my efforts instead of getting frustrated and throwing the project in the trash.