When I miss a workout, I am a pain to deal with. During high school, I listened to a yoga podcast and would practice every day after school. My sister, who is two years younger than me, would often barge into the room, as sisters do, to ask a question or talk with me. Naturally, in the midst of my calming practice, I would yell and hurl expletives at her until she left the room. So yogic of me, right?
I remember that story whenever it’s raining so hard I can’t go running, or I overeat because of stress or mindlessness. Whatever the trigger was that set me off my normal routine, whether it was my fault, someone else’s, or no one’s….what matters is not what happened, but how I react to it.
Sometimes a small step off of your healthy path causes other unhealthy choices (“I already screwed it up anyway”). We often get caught up in an “all or nothing” thinking that is so detrimental when inevitable mistakes or missteps occur.
However, with the right frame of mind, a negative circumstance or less-than-perfect day can actually strengthen your dedication and determination to your healthy practice. Here’s how it works:
The off days can teach you how important these routines are into your life: the fact that you got angry that you missed a spin class instead of silently thanking a higher power for letting you rest on the couch…that is a powerful message that you value your workouts, and that they are an important part of your life.
The off days can teach you about your resilience. When you have a slip-up with your eating, but you don’t go back for another slice of cake…that means you’re exerting willpower and that you value your health more than you do another bite of sugar. That’s a really important milestone to acknowledge!
But how to we cultivate a practice of reacting positively when these situations occur?
- Separate yourself from the story. The most important thing you can do is to take a step back and remove some of the emotions from the story. Take a few breaths, remember that it’s in the past, and if you’re feeling really emotionally charged about what happened, pretend a friend was telling you about what went wrong with their workout for the rest of these steps.
- Drop the blame game. What stopped your routine today? the traffic? A meeting? Sleepiness? Whatever it was…drop the blame. Think “traffic was slow” instead of “those slow drivers made me late”. “I had work commitments” rather than “my boss calls useless meetings”. “I needed to rest today” instead of “I am so lazy!” Can you see the difference? It is subtle, but dropping the blame makes it easier to separate yourself and your emotions from the situations and get to the next step…
- Ask yourself: was there really anything you could have done differently? Now that you’ve taken some steps back to remove your emotions from the situation, review what happened, like you were analyzing a problem at work or juggling a schedule: what could you have possibly done differently? If your answer is “nothing”…..say to yourself “I did everything I could do get to that spin class today. Thank you for doing everything you could do to get to that spin class today” (for example). And then drop it. If there’s nothing you could have done, it’s not worth spending more time and energy on it.
- Strategize for next time. But what if you could have done something differently? Then brainstorm for next time! Could you have packed an extra healthy snack in your purse? Left your house 15 minutes earlier? Identify the 2 or 3 factors that could have prevented this situation, and put them into practice! VERY IMPORTANT: even though you found ways to improve…that doesn’t mean you get to reenter that blame cycle!! Realize that from this situation, you have now realized how important your health is to you, was kind to yourself when something went wrong, and made an action plan going forward. Sounds like a really successful day!
Just remember – the missed workouts and slices of cake happen to everyone. It’s how we respond to those situations that determines how we move forward.
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.