Feeling Stuck? How To Get Back On Track
…3 Steps To Get Motivated After Holidays, Vacations, or Stress
I’m writing this a week after Thanksgiving, mostly because I’ve had to remind myself how to get back on track after the holiday and figured you guys could benefit from the lessons I’ve learned over the years. Because my body is a rockstar at creating and perpetuating inflammation (these letters are dripping in sarcasm), I stay away from a lot of different foods. Doing so allows me to have energy, productivity, a good mood, ability to workout hard and run, and sleep decently well even though I have fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s.
So because I grew up eating junk food for most meals and I now have a somewhat restrictive diet (that I love and am grateful for!), loosening the reigns for special moments can cause me to de-rail at times. I think, “Oh, I had this food and don’t feel any different…what else do I miss having that I can sneak in during this special time…”
Usually, I only fall into this line of thinking a couple times per year when the event coincides with a particularly stressful period. This happened recently, with the passing of my best friend, my pup Zoe, a few weeks before Thanksgiving (for those of you who have experienced this gut-wrenching pain: I’m open to advice on how to get through!). Fortunately, I’ve learned over time how to limit these episodes to a couple days rather than what they used to be, a month or 2, which would reverse any health progress I’d made and keep my overall health stagnant even though I felt like I was trying. Now you can benefit from my mistakes!
Step 1: Have a Plan
Ever heard the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”? It’s SO true. When I start noticing myself skipping workouts, staying up late, or eating things in the break room I normally wouldn’t, I plan out the next couple days. I login to my favorite food tracker, cronometer.com, and enter my food for the next few days. I also log my workout in there, schedule it into my day, and write down exactly what I’ll do during it. Then I go to my To-Do App, and enter the small things I know I can accomplish, such as make a return, schedule an appointment, or clean the kitchen.
To ensure I then follow my plan, I’ll make my food the night before, and pack my workout bag. When you remove the decision points and just run on auto-pilot, you don’t need willpower because there are no choices. So, plan your day: schedule when, where, and what you will eat, exercise, and do so that you know you will have success! Will it look exactly as planned? Likely not. But it’ll look a lot better than it’s been!
Step 2: Have the Right Mindset
We all have times where we need a coach in our corner. In order to get better, we have to admit at least to ourselves that we are off, and even better, to others as well. I’m a pretty independent person, so I’ll see if I can get myself better first by consuming motivating material. This could be an online presentation or lecture such as a TED talk, a documentary, a book, an audiobook, blog, testimonials on social media, writing in a journal, or my favorite, listening to podcasts while walking or working out. There are even apps for this now, such as Youper, to help improve mood and give insights.
Look for something that is personal growth-oriented, and helps you to see things from a new perspective or understand more deeply why you should do what you’ve set out to do. Do this research during a good time, so it’s easy to go to during a down time.
In addition, reaching out to someone not only helps with accountability, but knowing you’re not alone and that someone cares will change the biochemistry of your brain so that you feel more happy and motivated. I will tell my husband: I don’t trust myself right now to not be impulsive, so if I start to stray (eat something that inflames me, drink alcohol, stay up too late, say I’m just going to skip this workout), then please remind me of my goals. I’ll also tell those at a social gathering my intentions right when I arrive- I don’t eat gluten, or I’ll have to leave by 9:30pm- that way I won’t change my intentions if I start to get swayed by the moment.
Finally, hire someone and have regular appointments scheduled ahead of time: a functional medicine specialist like myself, a personal trainer, a counselor, a life coach, etc. They know you, care about you, will remind you of your successes, and will tell you what you need to hear to start taking better care of yourself.
Step 3: Have Routines
This puts Steps 1 and 2 together. Routines allow you to have a plan without sitting down and creating one. The plan is automatically built into your day, perpetuating good habits without thinking too much about it. The more small wins you build up, the easier it is to do the things that are new or require a little sacrifice. You should have a morning routine and a nighttime routine that helps you reset, so that even if you fell off your plan during the day, you’re back to your healthy habits by the time you go to sleep and you start your next day right.
- Hydrate! Whether it’s plain water or water with lemon juice or 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar and cinnamon, get 8-16oz first thing upon waking to break the dehydration of the night and get the body going.
- Stretch or go for a quick walk. This is when I’ll often do my physical therapy stretches/exercises, or a few quick sun salutations from yoga.
- Practice mindfulness: be aware of how you’re starting the day, and start with intention. This can be done using an app like Calm, playing a couple minutes of calming music while deep breathing, sitting out on the porch and taking in nature, or meditating on a verse you read.
- Make a cup of therapeutic hot tea. A hot beverage can stimulate the bowels to clear out. Green tea is high in antioxidants, can decrease bad bacteria and increase good ones, and stimulates fat burning. Herbal teas, such as those from Yogi brand, have herbs that can stimulate digestion, induce relaxation, or support detoxification.
- Take your supplements right before having breakfast.
- Listen to or read something that gets you excited, motivated, or educates or encourages you. This could be a Youtube video, a song, a playlist, a book, a journal, or a podcast. You can read while eating breakfast, or listen while driving to work or the gym. This will ensure your mindset is in the right place and that you keep growing and improving.
- Prepare for the next day. Write down (or enter online) your food for tomorrow, when you’ll workout, what you’ll do for how long, and make sure everything is ready to grab and go.
- Turn off overhead lights, and avoid electronics or at least make sure they have a night time mode that switches the screen to a dim orange light.
- Take your bedtime supplements. I usually drink a magnesium drink (Neuro Revive from Energy Health Centre) in the hour before bed, and that reminds me to take my sleep aids (currently I’m just taking curcumin) or any supplements I forgot during the day.
- Feeling tight or achy anywhere? Stretch, foam roll, use a tennis ball against the wall for your shoulders or a golf ball against the floor for your feet, or take a hot Epsom salt bath.
- Pray to God, starting with thanking Him before moving on to requests. Or if not spiritual, find three things you are grateful for and write down a note to encourage someone the next day.
Before closing this webpage, write down:
- What you’ll eat tomorrow, when you’ll wake up and go to sleep, and when you’ll exercise.
- 2 or 3 sources you can go to (websites, podcasts, books, or people) to reset your thoughts.
- What your health-promoting morning and bedtime routines are that will reset your day and give you a few small wins.
Is there something that has worked powerfully for you to get your motivation back that’s not on this list? Leave a comment!