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Breaking Out of an Unhealthy Rut

Late fall rolls into the holiday season which is prime time for getting into a “rut.” By a rut I mean getting stuck. The actual definition of a rut is “a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.” I hear this theme a lot everywhere I go: “I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I can’t stop” or “being healthy starts Monday.” There is no worse feeling than the inertia of bad habits rolling into an overall poor lifestyle with no end in sight.  

Well into fall, we have already accumulated habits of going out too much, staying up too late, and just generally burning the candle at both ends. While this may not ring true to you today, this yucky, anxious rut feeling of losing control of your body may be lurking around the corner at any moment. Often after pushing the envelope continually with late nights at the office, happy hour, dinners out, and skipped workouts there is the inevitable “bad lifestyle creep”: poor habits that have creeped up out of nowhere are dominating the good healthy self you once were! Bam, you wake up and realize you’re in a rut. It personally happens to me every 3-4 months. The key to breaking out of the cycle is to focus on changes that reset your state of mind. Positive reinforcement from small successes will jumpstart a better cycle.

Here are a few ways to break out of this cycle of self-sabotaging crappy blah-ness:

  1. Own it: You are in control of your life and you make the decisions. Free will exists and you can say no at any moment to ANYTHING. If your calendar is daunting and full of commitments that you know are too much, start clearing the deck. Keep what is absolutely necessary and cancel the rest. Put a cap on the number of nights out a week that you can handle, then stick to it. There is no better moment than today to take back your life and realize that you need to watch out for #1 (you).
  2. Reframe your reward system: Sit down and write down the top five activities you participate in that you call “relaxing” or tell yourself you “deserve.” Do most of these activities involve abusing your body or running away from your responsibilities? Are these activities really helping you unwind and banish the anxiety from your job or anything stressful in your life? Likely the answer is “no.” Frequently drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, skipping workouts or meditation before or after work are just a few activities many of us label a “reward” for stressful times or hard work. The irony is that these rewards are actually abusing your body and they make for more stress and anxiety. When you are feeling the most rundown or stressed, try activities that nourish your body and your soul. Try a yoga, meditation, or a dance class you have never done before. Meet up with a friend for tea instead of an alcoholic drink. Make an evening phone date with a friend so you can go home early and get into your pajamas without being all alone.
  3. Make exercise accountable: Join something that makes you accountable for getting up early and being active or exercising 2-3 days a week. Booking a group exercise class or organizing a workout with a friend holds you accountable to showing up and is a great way to stay motivated and incorporate movement in your life. Working out with someone is an excellent way to go a little harder and faster than you otherwise would if alone. The activity does not have to be expensive to achieve this kind of accountability. There are many running groups, walking buddies, inexpensive outdoor boot camps, and budget gym memberships. Resources like meetup.com are a great place to start.  
  4. Reach out: Pick up the phone and call someone out of the blue who you care about but don’t speak to enough. See how they are doing. Ask them lots of relevant questions and listen. Re-connecting is a great way to break a cycle and remind yourself that there are so many people out there who love you and who you care about.
  5. Start giving back if you have not already: Volunteer your time and, if possible, do it with other people. Put it into your schedule and make it work. Go with a friend or by yourself — whatever encourages you to make it a habit as much as your schedule can permit (even once every 2 months is great!). Doing something good for others has PROVEN to be an excellent way to engender warmth and happiness. Feeling good about yourself is the best way to start the path to change.
  6. Go dry for a bit: Take two weeks off from drinking altogether. Anyone can do this for two weeks and if you can’t, it may be time to evaluate your priorities.   
  7. Give thanks: Stop what you are doing right now and write down 10 things you are grateful for. Really. Stop. Write them in your phone in the notes section or on a sheet of paper. Keep these next to your bed for the week and look at them every morning when you get up and look at them before you go to bed at night. You WILL notice a difference.
  8. Tidy: Read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and do it. Take a weekend and tell people you are away so you do not have distractions.  
  9. Morning moment: Wake up three mornings in a row right around sunrise and go out for a 15-minute walk alone. Do not look at your phone or email until you return from the walk. Enjoy the sun at that time of day and the space for yourself. Think about a few things you will do that day to take care of yourself (like putting fresh flowers in your apartment or office, reading a good book on the way to work, or calling a friend during your lunch break).  
  10. Make an effort to be kind: Carry out a few acts of random kindness every day.  Make them small but make sure you set a number and accomplish it.  

Are you in a rut? Could you use some accountability and coaching to get yourself back on track? The job of a health coach is to help with creative motivation and accountability techniques to effect lasting change. If you could use a change, consulting a health coach could be a great start! Contact us today to schedule a free 20-minute session to see if health coaching is right for you.