Help, I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!
As an advice writer, I receive questions on a variety of topics. Whether I'm writing about divorce, friendships or issues at work, I've found that many of my advice-seekers are struggling with the same general topic:
How do I recover from a setback?
I often hear one has given up on something important - they lack the motivation, drive and purpose to pick themselves up and keep going. Many have started a new health and fitness program, only to feel overwhelmed by it all and abandon it soon after. They end up where they were before (or worse).
Have you stumbled on the road to your goals? If you have not, you can stop reading now and get yourself to the Guinness Book of World Records, because you are a rarity indeed.
While we've all heard the phrase "each journey begins with a single step," what we don't hear is that each journey will be replete with mis-steps, stumbles, and downright wipeouts. How you recover from those mishaps says much about your likelihood for long-term success and your ability to maneuver around problems in the future.
5 Steps to Recovering from a Fall
1. Pick Yourself Up
Sometimes when life throws us a curveball it's easy to just give up and stop trying. This is certainly true for those of us wrestling with a diet and exercise program.
How many times have you told yourself on Sunday night that Monday starts the fitness journey that will finally get you to your goal, only to slip and fall into a vat of Ben and Jerry's by Wednesday afternoon?
That slip doesn't have to be more than a blip on your screen, so don't let Thursday find you topping off a triple-cheeseburger lunch with a visit to the ice cream shop.
As Winston Churchill noted, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
He also said, "Never, never, never give up."
If you missed a week of workouts, start fresh. Get out of bed. Go for a walk. If you have gained back 10 of the 20 pounds you lost, recommit yourself to your program and be thankful ten of those pounds are still firmly in your past.
There is no shame in falling down, but don't just lie there. Get up!
2. Identify What Made You Fall
If you lack understanding about what drew you off track you are likely to end up there again.
When enthusiasm morphs into complacency there likely exists an identifiable moment at which time your mood shifted. Perhaps things got tough at work or there were too many problems at home and suddenly keeping up the program seemed too difficult.
If you understand why you stumbled, you can better recover and avoid that same stumbling block in the future.
I was running/speedwalking/hobbling a few weeks ago and suddenly found myself flying through the air, only to land squarely and with a giant "thump" on the sidewalk as several people watched in both horror and amusement. After picking myself up (see Step #1) I looked around to see what made me launch like a rocket from upright to downwrong. As it turns out, my left foot went too far off the sidewalk and I turned my ankle in the parking strip grass.
What did that teach me, besides the fact I should probably carry a 1st aid kit with me at all times?
It taught me to keep a keen eye on my footing and where I'm going. Since that accident, I have yet to be tripped up by a sneaky parking strip or tree root on the trail runs.
You can't fix a problem if you don't know its root cause so do some critical thinking and ask yourself the tough questions that will enlighten you and help you plan for the future.
3. Talk to Someone. Ask for Help
Sometimes all we really need is to vent - to spill out our frustrations and anxieties to someone who will listen without judging us.
Many fitness professionals recommend finding a "fitness buddy" with similar goals to help in a fitness journey and this is a great idea because it combines camaraderie with accountability. My fitness buddy and I commiserate every few days and it's great to have someone to talk with about everyday challenges.
I also occasionally spill my guts to the mailman. He's asked me to get a post office box and leave him alone.
When venting isn't enough, ask for help.
Requesting assistance is really hard for some of us. Interestingly, the people I know who are the least likely to ask for help (i.e.: MOI) are also the most likely to offer assistance to their friends, family and co-workers when they see them struggling.
Stop being so damn tough and allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to tap into the human resources around you.
4. Make a Plan
It's not enough to tell yourself you'll get back on track tomorrow.
Rome wasn't built in a day, but it also wasn't built without architectural plans so get out your pen and paper (LOL, just kidding: get out your keyboard) and construct a doable, step-by-step formula for getting back in the groove.
I'll use myself here as an example just so you know I can absolutely relate to this struggle.
Like millions of others, I tend to put on a little weight in the winter. I looked in the mirror last week and realized that the fitness goals I achieved a few months ago were starting to unravel.
In other words, my skinny jeans aren't fitting so great and the thought of wearing a bathing suit is giving me an anxiety attack.
Using Steps #1 and #2 above, I am getting back on the program and I can identify exactly what got me here: white wine. It's too easy to relax with wine at night and it's filled with empty calories.
Using Step #3, I cried to my husband as I struggled with the nearly impossible task of squeezing myself into my jeans on Saturday.
And today brings us to Step #4: my plan is to continue my good work on the food I eat and the daily exercise I enjoy, but to stop purchasing white wine. If it's not in the house I can't be tempted, so that's the plan!
Apologies to the wine industry, as you may experience a sudden dip in profits for the next few weeks.
5. Let it Go
Step #5 is probably the hardest but it's also a critical component of success. While I've encouraged you to identify why things went wrong and ways to fix them, ruminating on setbacks is neither healthy nor productive.
You can't take back those weeks of skipping the gym and being on a first-name basis with the cashier at Wendy's, but you can forgive yourself and learn from your mistakes rather than letting them define you and preclude you from getting where you want to go.
Take a deep breath.
Apologize to yourself.
Graciously accept your apology.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint, so let's all pick ourselves up today and get back in the race, shall we?