This article follows on from my earlier article – ‘The Essential Internal Process Required to Get a Healthy Gut’.
Essentially, what we believe dictates what we then think, our internal and external language and how we approach our health. It dictates whether we will exercise or work late, eat healthily or get takeaway and whether we will rest or push on.
If you have done some work around this, whether that’s with me, on your own or with another coach, and you’re finding yourself slipping back into old habits and old ways of thinking, read on!
The brain doesn’t like new things. It likes familiarity and it likes to do what it knows kept you alive.
For example, if you have a tendency towards being a people pleaser at the expense of yourself, there will have been a time (or many times) in your life where keeping others happy was important to keep you safe. Whether that’s safe from conflict, safe from feeling guilty or physically safe – your brain has now formed the belief that if everyone else is happy, everything will be fine.
There’s nothing wrong with helping others of course! But if you’re constantly doing it at the expense of your health and at the expense of what you’d like to do, that’s a problem. You start to become resentful and you feel exhausted and overwhelmed by it all.
In my last article, I spoke about how creating new neural pathways in the brain is like digging out an underground tunnel against hard stone. It’s very difficult. It’s even more difficult because there’s an already established tunnel right next to the new one that you’re seeking to build. The brain’s preference is to go down the established tunnel because it’s easier and it knows it kept you alive in the past.
The battle doesn’t end once the new tunnel is built. The brain doesn’t know this tunnel well. It’s new, it hasn’t been there before and it’s unfamiliar. The brain HATES things that are unfamiliar. It’s going to take some practice walking down this new tunnel before it becomes almost second nature.
You’ve been going down the old tunnel your whole life. However, this tunnel is no longer taking you where you want to go. The new tunnel will, but your brain needs to feel safe about taking the new path, which requires a conscious effort on your part to reassure it.
It’s all too easy to relapse into old ways without actively re-training your brain to take the new path. Every.Single.Day.
Drug addiction relapse rates are around 75%. All recovery programs have a section about handling relapse because it’s almost inevitable that it’s going to happen. It’s not a sign of weakness – it’s just how we are designed. It’s a survival mechanism. An ancient survival mechanism that is no longer very helpful in 2020.
A very common pattern is people-pleasing, especially in women.
You worry about keeping everyone else happy, worry about what everyone else expects you to do, thinks of you, thinks of your life, your clothes and perhaps most importantly, what they think of your ability be reliable, responsible and to ‘do a good job’.
Perhaps you recognised that this pattern is detrimental to your health. Perhaps you saw that by meeting everyone else’s needs except your own you were starting to burn out and people were relying on you far too much. You’ve done some work around this and you’re starting to do things for yourself, say no more often, and you’ve worked on letting go of the guilt and pressure that accompanies this.
But then you said ‘yes’ to something you really didn’t want to. And then it happened again. And again. And suddenly, you’ve stopped prioritising yourself and the things you’d like to do. You’re feeling more stressed, your mind is busier, and the anxiety is coming back. Your health problems are returning.
The first step is to recognise that it happened. See that you’ve slipped back into an old pattern.
That’s okay. It happens, and it will keep happening. Eventually, you’ll start to catch it earlier but that takes time and practice, so don’t be hard on yourself.
Next, examine what triggered the relapse with curiosity, not judgment.
What non-negotiable personal time or self-care practices did you let go of? What was it that brought this about?
Then ask yourself what one thing is that you can do to bring yourself back. Maybe it’s 20 minutes meditation each morning before anything else, no matter how much washing is in the basket or who is waiting for breakfast. Maybe it’s a 20-minute walk each afternoon at 4.00 pm, no matter what else is happening (unless it’s an emergency obviously – but it’s very rare that the things keeping you from taking time for yourself are a true emergency).
Commit to this one thing for 7 days. Show the brain that you’ll still live, even if you don’t drop everything for everyone else 24/7.
Be compassionate with yourself and be ok with giving yourself this time and space.
Ultimately, it’s what will keep you healthy, and it’s what will enable you to be there for others and to do all the wonderful things you do in a day.