Sometimes the journey to a goal can feel arduous and riddled with roadblocks. But don’t give up. Instead, find the bypass that gets you to your destination.
Here are typical roadblocks on the way to a healthier lifestyle—and routes around them:
Roadblock One: I don't have time, or I'm too tired to exercise today.
Find the fun. You’ll find a way if you enjoy what you’re doing. Maybe you can sign up for an appealing dance class, says Tanya Babaei, LCSW, Supportive Medicine Medical Social Worker at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. If lethargy is the culprit, perhaps you hit the gym or take a walk over lunch.
Break activity into bite-siized portions. Refrain from an all-or-nothing approach to exercise. Perhaps you need to work out earlier in the day or squeeze in short fitness bouts.
"Perfectionism and procrastination are cousins," Babaei says. "When you cannot attain your goal you're more likely to procrastinate."
So be reasonable. Accept that 20,000 steps or hour-long workouts won’t always fit in your life. Carve out 10 minutes here and there. Climb office stairs when stymied or sagging instead of hitting the vending machines. Take a walk around the block with your kids after dinner while your spouse cleans up.
Buddy up. Find a partner to join, or to whom you can report your progress. “Accountability makes exercise more enjoyable—and it’s harder to beg out if you meet friends or make new ones at your fitness class,” Babaei says. “You show up to hear what’s going on in their lives or because they tell you they wish you’d come back.”
You also can motivate yourself with gold stars on a chart or recording your pedometer steps on a calendar, says Laura Salazar-Hopps, MDiv., BCC, Chaplain, Supportive Medicine Chaplain at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center.
Roadblock Two: I'm stressed and my to-do list is a mile long.
Set priorities and boundaries. Be judicious in volunteering and don’t sign up for more than you can handle. “Take stock of what makes your work and home life unbalanced, but without being judgmental,” Salazar-Hopps says. “If family is your No. 1 priority but you’re working 12-hour days, something has to give. Perhaps you carve out time for family on Saturdays.”
Improvise–perhaps by holding a family meeting to figure out how to meet your needs. Your kids might pare their after-school activities or you might choose a physical activity you can do together.
Meditation calms your mind, but once again, perfectionism fails you. Few of us can dismiss every extraneous thought. Insight Timer, Headspace and other apps offer guided meditations and progressive relaxation. Yoga class often ends with relaxation. “It’s easier to meditate when everyone around you is meditating,” Salazar-Hopps says. “You’re not as likely to be bored, and if you lose focus, you’ve got someone to chuckle with you about it.”
Be mindful. If you don’t meditate, then pay attention to the world around you as you walk: the rustling of wind through trees and other sounds of nature. Such things help you unwind, unlike email or TV.
Roadblock Three: I don't have time to cook something that my kids won't eat anyway.
Accept you're not Martha Stewart. Our Resolution weekly meal plans include family-friendly recipes or you can find healthy substitutions for your kids’ go-to favorites.
The H-E-B® shopping list makes navigating the grocery store for the items you need each week simpler. If you find dishes your family loves, hit repeat. No one’s grading you on originality.
Roadblock Four: My self-care takes a back-seat to soccer practice.
Don't beat yourself up. “We all have stress and anxiety,” Salazar-Hopps says. “We did not evolve from laid-back creatures. Those were the ones that got eaten by wild animals. Our ancestors were hyper-vigilant.”
Acceptance alone is progress toward self-care.. “Self-compassion and getting the right support from those around you really helps,” she says.
And when you’re particularly slammed at work or your child gets sick, be kind to yourself. Unexpected things come up. Maybe you only can exercise five minutes, instead of an hour, but celebrate what you’re able to do despite challenges.
Heed signals. Note what soothes you—not for three seconds or minutes, but longer. “You may find riding your stationary bike for 20 minutes is manageable and makes you feel better.”
Babaei has her own salves for anger, anxiety and fear: She cleans house or organizes closets. As vital, she says, is acknowledging her emotions, instead of burying them with denial (or brownies).
“Accept your emotion as part of you. For 20 minutes, sit with it: picture it, talk to it. Scream into a pillow or take a shower if you need to. Then you can move on,” she says. “Berating yourself only makes feelings worse.”
Seek help. If emotional triggers reoccur, you may need outside help, Babaei says. Your primary care physician may know resources, your employer may offer counseling or your insurance may cover teletherapy.
Sometimes the route to health is over such hurdles, she says. Other times it’s going through them. Either way, the end result is a healthier, happier you.