If you read my blogs for long enough, you'll find that most of my patients end up being my "favorite patients," since I think they're all great, and have a deep respect for how challenging the work they're doing is.
So, I was sitting with one of my favorite patients recently, who is really struggling. Her mood was down, and her weight was up...kind of like being hungry and tired. In other words, not a good combination.
We were discussing what would make a difference for her, since she needed to get back into action on her health. She told me that working out in the morning was the best plan for her, before she got sucked into the million details of her day.
She also told me that meditating daily did wonders for her mood and focus.
So I asked her what it would take to build those two structures back into her day, since her emotional, chemical spiritual and physical balances were off, and introducing exercise and meditation back in would be a great starting point.
Here were my questions, and her answers:
Could she get up and exercise first thing in the morning? No, she felt better when she exercised with her husband.
OK, then could the two of them exercise together first thing in the morning? No, he frequently gets up later than her and she feels bad waking him, since he doesn't sleep well.
OK, could she take a break from her work around 9 and exercise? Likely not, since by then she would be deep into her work and not interested in stopping.
How about a walk outside? No, that wouldn't work for her.
So I switched to meditation.
What would it take for her to begin meditating again? She wasn't sure, but didn't feel ready, but did feel like it helped her a lot when she meditated.
At this point, I'm wracking my brain. I am absolutely committed to inspiring and empowering every person along their health journey, and have not yet been able to find the key with her.
We discussed that not exercising and not meditating let to more feelings of depression and weight gain, and even a small amount of exercise and meditation could go a long way to altering her experience, but it wasn't enough to get her to commit.
Then I realized...it needs to be something smaller, more do-able.
So I asked her whether she left her house every day, and she said yes. I asked her if she would be willing to do the following:
Every time she went outside to her car (whether from her house, or a store, or her appointment with me or someone else), to slow down her steps, take deep breaths on the way to her car, and be consciously grateful that she was able to take the deep breaths?
THIS she could do. Not only that, but she told me that her therapist had suggested the SAME THING! I told her that meant the universe was speaking loudly to her and she'd better listen up!
It's not always the grand gestures that make or break an effort. In fact, sometimes you need to start with one small improvement.
So take a moment and think for yourself about something that you KNOW works for you that you are having trouble sticking with. Now, make that goal smaller and smaller, until you find a goal that not only doesn't crush you, but makes you feel sure you can do it.
For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you may not want to completely overhaul your diet, but let's make this goal into a task you can rock. Big task: lose weight. Smaller task, exercise every day and eat 1,000 calories a day. Even smaller task: exercise three times a week and eat 1,500 calories a day. Even smaller task: exercise once a week and eat 1,800 calories a day. Even smaller...take the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from each of your destinations so you walk more steps, and cut out your dessert. Still not manageable? Choose to either cut your dessert portion in half, or walk ONE flight of stairs, and then jump on the elevator.
With practice, small improvements lead to big wins, especially if you increase the difficulty level once you have mastered your current task.
Don't give up on yourself! If you can't accomplish the task you've set for yourself, ease up, and go back to it once the smaller one is comfortable.
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