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!

Advertisements

Fighting Gloom with Gratitude

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it feels like the universe is everything but on your side? A beautiful vacation in Michigan with my family was followed by a series of unfortunate events. I was about 20 minutes into my trip back to Philadelphia when a small deer attempted a dance with my car, resulting in the car doctor’s diagnosis of “most likely totaled.”

After scrambling to find a way back to Philadelphia, my brother graciously lent me his car. I drove home, left for a 6 mile run with a friend, and that was it. I ran home through a rain storm with the challenging moments of the week behind me, or so I thought.

I arrived back to work the next day, fresh faced and ready to roll, to be greeted by 31 voicemails and 53 emails. As I dug through, I learned of a series of client crises that had occurred while I was gone (one client suicidal, another in crisis, another arrested). I dealt with them with stride, taking things one step at a time. When the day was done I felt stressed and slightly overwhelmed but satisfied with the job that I had done.

As I parked my brother’s car that night, I let out a sigh of relief. Even through the heavy rainstorm I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, which for me, included a quick dinner and some HEAVY relaxation time. The next morning I was ready to do it all over again: work, relax, repeat. I soon found myself standing in soon parking spot… where my brother’s car used to be. I looked around, noticing all of the street cleaning signs that read “VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED.”

I felt my anxiety rising, hands shaking, talking to myself as I looked up the phone number for the City of Philadelphia while simultaneously texting my brother to get his license plate number, etc. I began walking back to my apartment when I saw it: the silver Dodge Dart that so beautifully stared at me from across the street where the tow company had relocated it. I repeated another, though stronger, sigh of relief as I clicked the unlock button to ensure that this was, in fact, my brother’s car.

On the way to work, I found my mind racing with the “What will be next?” thoughts. “Bad things always happen in threes,” I irrationally told myself. “I wonder what horrible thing will happen next.” I was able to catch myself by acknowledging that, although these events were unfortunate, they could have been so much worse. The more rational side of my decided that this is the perfect day for a gratitude list. So here is what I am grateful for:

  • I was not injured at all in the accident with the deer
  • I was close enough from my mom’s house that my dad and brother were able to come get me after the accident
  • My car is still able to be driven (regardless of the lack of reliability for the three hour trip back to the city)
  • My brother’s car was simply moved down the street and not to an impound lot, where I would have had to pay multiple hundreds of dollars to get it released
  • My brother-in-law offered to go car shopping with me if the insurance company agrees that my car is totaled
  • My supervisor is incredibly laid back and empathetic to my situation in needing an extra day of vacation to tend my car
  • I have delightful coworkers who helped to address the crisis situations at work while I was on vacation and supported me as I worked to follow up after my return
  • I have incredibly supportive people in my life in general, friends, family, etc. I could not have gotten through these events without being able to lean on them for guidance

Last but not least, I am grateful for this platform through which I can openly evaluate my negative thinking and reframe into more positive thoughts. I want to thank those who have engaged through follows or comments. I love the feedback. While on vacation, I did a lot of planning for this site that I hope to work on while life calms down. This blog helps hold me accountable, because if I am not being a Wellness Warrior myself, then how am I able to encourage others to be?  

Stay Grounded

Racing thoughts, ruminating, and general overthinking can have a serious negative impact on one’s mind and body. Working with clients, specifically clients with anxiety, we typically start from scratch and learn or review basic skills that they can utilize to self soothe.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love deep breathing and other mindfulness techniques, but deep breathing is only going to go so far if on the verge of a full blown panic attack or having difficulty regaining control over negative thoughts.

My favorite grounding technique is one I call the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, also known as the Five Senses exercise. This is an exercise during which one will identify the following:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can physically feel (such as clothing on your body, etc.)
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

I love this exercise, because it is easy to adjust to fit your needs. If a longer time for grounding is needed, one can increase the numbers or find as many things as possible. It can be quick and easy or it can be longer and more detailed. The purpose of this is to refocus on things outside of oneself, rather than what is going on in the mind. It’s meant to bring one to present awareness in times where one may be stuck inside the mind. And it can be done anywhere! In a park, at home, walking in the community, at work, in a car (as long as it’s safe!!).

This is one of the exercises that I teach clients most frequently and the one that I most frequently utilize myself. I always tell clients that I won’t tell them to utilize a skill or exercise that I haven’t tried myself. This is one that was so effective for me that I needed to share it with as many people as possible! I always love to hear experience utilizing this skill, so if someone out there tries it, let me know how it went for you! What works for some may not work for others, but this one hasn’t let me down yet.

I hope everyone is having a great start to the week. As we gear up to the work grind, don’t forget to stay mindful. Happy Monday!