Part of being human means that from time to time we stumble a bit and deviate from the intended plan.
We find ourselves eating junk food, or being lazy and not exercising, or not following through on a commitment to meditate or do yoga or any number of other self-improvement practices.
What the heck is going on here that results in it being so difficult to stay in a healthy groove?
One of the frequent refrains I hear from my clients when they’ve gone off track is that “life got in the way.” Hey, who among us can’t identify with that one? It’s the rare day or week that turns out as we had expected.
Many a day, it seems, things come up which were not on the schedule, forcing us to adjust. Often, the first things to get sacrificed are those in the category of self-care. Not a good thing.
So, what do we do when our healthy routines are interrupted by life? Go back to the basics — the pillars of our well-being.
When an athlete goes into a slump, a good coach will have them go back to the fundamentals of their sport. When we’re out of sorts and not in a good zone, we too can benefit from a return to health at its most elemental level.
Here’s what “going back to the basics” look like.
When we are:
Eating poorly (we know it because we feel it) — it’s time to reduce or eliminate sugar and processed foods as well as alcohol. This means returning to whole foods as much as possible and water as our primary beverage.
Our experience and intuition are good guides here. When we think back to times when we have felt our best, we can usually correlate it to cleaner living. And we all know what that means. If it worked before, it may be time to apply that old formula again, especially if it emphasizes the fundamentals of nutrition.
Sluggish and lacking in energy — it’s time to get out of the chair and become more active, physically — every day if possible. Humans are made to move, and generally the more we move, the better we feel. Formal exercise is good but not necessary. Playful activities are best because we’re more likely to keep doing the things we enjoy.
If we can’t get outside to do them, participating in online programs will do, as will using workout CDs or digital equivalents. Our investment in such activities goes up if we do them with other people. Having a workout buddy can provide some extra incentive for helping us remain committed, a key to sustained follow through.
Frenzied or overwhelmed — it’s time to press the pause button and focus on our breath for a few minutes, a truly fundamental act. Since breathing is automatic, we rarely notice it. By bringing our attention to the simple process of inhaling and exhaling, we take ourselves off autopilot and shift our awareness to the present moment. In so doing, we give ourselves a brief respite from our worries about the future, which are usually triggering the frenzy and overwhelm to begin with.
No, it will not reduce the daily demands upon us, but if we practice slow, therapeutic breathing a few times each day, it will help us feel more grounded as we reclaim control over at least some of our life.
When we find ourselves off kilter, the key to getting back on track is to return to the basics. Go with the things that have helped you get into a healthy place in the past. Review what you already know about yourself and what has worked before. Then rededicate yourself to focus on a few simple strategies that have proven themselves effective.
The fundamentals will usually serve us well if we’re smart enough to employ them.
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