Have you ever had a period in your life where you thought … I finally have made this a good habit. Or I finally have broken that bad habit. Maybe you started an exercise program and kept it going strong for 9 months and then a high stress period occurs and the next thing you know, you haven’t been to the gym in over 3 weeks. The most important thing for us to know and remember is that anytime stress shows up in an extreme way, we are going to regress when it comes to habits. It’s human nature. Think about when you’re hungry and you find yourself snapping at loved ones. The word “hangry” has caught on because it’s a real thing. Bad habits can creep up on us under pressure.
Once we understand how this works, we can shorten the gap where we find ourselves regressing. The truth is, we don’t always catch ourselves quickly. We can rage at people we love, we can binge eat fast food for multiple days in a row, or not make it to the gym for weeks before we realize that we have regressed to a previous bad habit. The good news, is the moment you realize you have regressed, you can turn back to your good habits. You haven’t unlearned the good habit. You’re capable of getting back to it, you just need the awareness that you are regressing under stress.
I worked for a large company that had fitness centers in each of the major buildings on campus. The same people would usually go around the same time every day and we became a little community. When our company went through an initiative that was highly stressful, exercising daily was one of the first things I cut from my day. Not a great move for me since exercise is one of my ‘go to’ stress relievers. I remember running into one of the Vice Presidents in the elevator and he mentioned that he hadn’t seen me at the gym in a few weeks. As I explained that the stress of the initiative was taking over, this wise VP said, “If you don’t give yourself the time you need for exercise, no one else will.” I knew he was right and I put my exercise time back into my schedule and my stress level was greatly improved.
The key here is simple. If you have had success at good habits, you can get there again by realizing you have temporarily regressed. What you will find with this awareness is that your bad habit gaps will become shorter. You will consistently catch your regression sooner and when you do … you will be able to reconnect to those good habits faster and easier.
So, next time you find yourself in a regression, don’t tell yourself that you are a failure and that you are never going to keep up with good habits. Take a deep breath, know you are human, address the stress or distraction causing you to regress, know that it’s okay and all humans go backwards occasionally, and get back to living life at your maximum potential.