So, here we are several weeks into a new year and perhaps the enthusiasm you felt on January 1st about getting a handle on stress and improving your health is already waning. I understand. The dark, cold days often make it more difficult to maintain a high level of motivation. There are a few strategies that can help you get back on track and stay committed to your goals.
Glance Back Before Sprinting Ahead
Before you keep pushing full steam ahead, may I suggest pausing and looking back for a moment?
I think it’s a great practice to look back and acknowledge what we have accomplished and how far we’ve come. Rather than beating yourself up about how far you have to go to reach your goals, pause and give yourself a pat on the back for how much progress you’ve already made.
- Perhaps you’ve decided to start walking more to shake off all the stress, even on those cold winter days.
- Perhaps you’ve decided to drink more water or skip the fries when you order out.
- Maybe you practice breathing exercises and spend time praying before you start your day.
Each of these seemingly small steps makes a big difference in the long run, so don’t underestimate the power of celebrating the small victories.
Take It Slowly
Learning to manage your stress and develop healthy habits is an ongoing process. Just like anything worth having in life, it takes time and effort. So many of my clients get frustrated when they think about everything they need to do in order to feel more in control of their lives. That’s why it’s crucial to choose one healthy habit at a time to focus on. If you’re feeling exhausted and you notice that you’re having to drag yourself out of bed every morning, then you may want to consider prioritizing your sleep routine. If you’re crashing in the afternoon and you’re reaching for coffee or a sweet treat, then you may want to focus on consuming more energizing foods that will keep you focused and productive at work and patient with your family. Trying to overhaul your entire lifestyle in a few weeks isn’t realistic. Remember, steady progress wins the race.
Be Honest About What You Really Want and Why
Jumping on a specific diet or exercise bandwagon may initially feel exciting when you hear others talking about doing it, but if you’re not clear on WHY you want to do something, it will likely not keep you motivated for long.
Ask yourself, “What is my real motivation for doing this?” You may want to exercise more this year because you want to have more energy to play with your kids, more focus at work, and more patience overall.
If your goal is to get a handle on stress eating, ask yourself why this is an area you want to improve. Is the stress eating causing you to gain weight which is causing you joint pain? Is it causing you to have digestive upset that keeps you up at night? Is it causing you to silently beat yourself up for not having self-control?
The more specific your reason is and the more you can picture the benefits of practicing a new habit consistently, the easier it will be to stick to your plan.
Create the Space for What You Want
When you feel ready to begin making lifestyle changes, your next step is to create the space physically and emotionally for what you want.
For instance, if healthy eating is one of your goals, clean out your pantry and replace the processed snacks (that you know are your weak spot) with healthier alternatives.
If more movement is your goal, schedule specific times when you will put on your sneakers and hit the pavement for a walk or run, or pull out your yoga mat for some stress-relieving poses.
When it comes to creating time for self-care rituals that will energize, relax, or uplift you, you may need to begin setting clear boundaries with certain people in your life. This can look like enrolling your spouse into taking care of the kids every Sunday afternoon so that you can take a relaxing bath, read a book, or grab a cup of coffee with your bestie.
These are all areas I support my clients throughout my Choose HOPE (Healthy Habits On Purpose Everyday) Stress Relief Program. The more committed you are to creating space for what you really want, the easier it is to develop new habits that will last.
Track Your Progress
Documenting your progress as you upgrade your habits can help you stay motivated when you’re not feeling particularly inspired to stay on track. Using a journal, calendar, or phone app to keep track of your progress can be extremely helpful.
Start paying attention to those signs that you’re on the right track. For example, you look back and see that you haven’t snacked after dinner in two weeks. You realize that recently you’re sleeping more soundly and your favorite jeans seem to be fitting better. Woo-Hoo! These are encouraging signs that what you’re doing is working and will definitely inspire you to keep going!
Be Kind to Yourself When You Fall Off Track
Falling off track with our goals is not only common, but it’s to be expected because we’re human. Sometimes we simply have a bad day and can’t muster the mental or physical energy to do what we know will move us forward. Rather than beating yourself up or punishing yourself the next day, practice self-compassion and commit to starting again tomorrow. The quicker you offer yourself grace, the less stress you feel and ultimately the happier and more motivated you are to pick up where you left off.
Have an Accountability Partner
Changing habits can be challenging when you don’t have support. Sharing your goals with a friend or family member can be beneficial. However, sometimes you may be the only one in your family who’s on a mission to improve your health and that can cause tension. It’s hard to reduce the amount of sugar you consume if your husband keeps buying cakes and cookies!
That’s why having a health coach in your corner throughout your journey can make it so much easier to stay on track. I help my clients stay committed to their goals by uncovering areas of resistance, anticipating and problem-solving obstacles, and strategically setting up the conditions for their success.
If you’re ready to commit to lasting habit change, and you’d like to be inspired by other like-minded women, I invite you to join my Facebook Group, Christian Women’s Stress Relief HOPE Circle, where I offer strategies for conquering stress so that you can experience increased energy, confidence, and feel more in control of how you are showing up in your life.
I look forward to supporting you!