For many of us, this topic is hitting close to home during these uncertain times.  It is important to recognize the mental barriers we create in times of uncertainty, fear, anxiety or discomfort.  This idea started going through my mind as I contemplated going outside to walk. To tell the truth, I really did not want to go outside.  Even though I had been inside, in a small space, for most of the day, the thought of going out created a feeling of overwhelming fatigue. I recognized that the walk would likely give me energy to accomplish other things I’d been avoiding, but it felt like a daunting task to even get shoes on.  However, I forced myself. For the first 5 minutes I felt “chilly” and resented the weather. My mental attitude was bleak. Why the heck was I doing this when I felt so terrible? However, as I reached the end of the block, I was feeling better and enjoying the crisp, fresh air. I started to really appreciate the fact that I was no longer inside; in the environment where I created all my ruminations and procrastination.

The point of I am trying to make is that I had almost allowed my mental state to prevent me from doing something that was going to make me feel good. We often put up mental barriers when it comes to exercise and healthy eating, especially when things feel bleak.  The challenge is recognizing these barriers and then persisting through them anyway. We must overcome barriers that prevent us from feeling our best.

A lot of our barriers are fear-based and thus, baseless fears. We are afraid of the unpredictable, the future and the consequences that might befall us if we make the wrong decision. We may be venturing into unknown or unfamiliar territory in our lives. While we are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and physical isolation, many of us are putting up more and more invisible boundaries (sometimes unconsciously) that are putting us into emotional isolation. Most often, we are simply selling ourselves short. We really don’t believe we can do what we want to do; or we believe we “can’t do it properly.”

The fascinating aspect about all of this is that we are battling our own thoughts and feelings. We are not being judged by anyone but ourselves. Ultimately, most of our feelings of self limitations are repetitive thoughts we have had for years and we just repeat them over and over and over again.

So, begin each day with this simple thought: You are good at what you do, and it is your birthright to go after whatever you want in life, even when circumstances may modify your original plan.  Do not sell yourself short. Focus on short-term and long-term goals – write them down. If you have a goal to lose weight, don’t fret about what you had to eat yesterday, but rather think about how you want to eat today that would make you feel good tomorrow.  Think about a small thing you can change and be consistent with the for the next week, or the next month.  Be committed to that one change, and then add another.  Think about these small goals as exciting, powerful, and healthy; avoid language like “this is hard; I can’t do this because of x, y, z, in isolation; etc.”  Create a different story about what you’re dealing with in isolation: what is one positive thing you could do to create a positive ritual or routine right now?

Learn to be aware of the mind’s need for a break: a break from work, anxieties, ruminations…often this brain-break manifests as a snack.  Create “bridges” – something other than food to give your mind a break; something to “bridge” away from the emotional need to eat.  Could you get 1 minute of fresh air in that moment? Could you make a cup of tea or broth to sip on and then re-assess?  Could you do 10 wall push-ups?  Could you play music and bounce around/dance for a few minutes? (Thanks to one of our patients for this great idea). If you are concerned about exercise, you want to develop the ability to push yourself to just start, rather than putting off the activity because you feel tired.  Often the tiredness is emotional, and the simple act of moving the body will create more energy going forward.

I think what is most important, is to learn not to listen to any negative self-talk. You might recognize it is there…but fight through it. The biggest obstacle to our success is how we talk to ourselves. Do not listen to the negative inner thoughts, push beyond those, and do things that will make you feel better about yourself. Go for a walk, even though you are tired; you will feel much more energized when you finish.

Do not wait for magic ‘motivation’, just do it. Start today. Do some movement. Come up with a “bridge” strategy for snacking. Think about how good you will feel in a few months if you develop healthy habits now.

Don’t ever give up!

Dr Doug