fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 24: What if you always dread your practice?

I’ve had a lot to say over the past 23 days about all of the things you can encounter as you build your practice. You’ll have ups and downs, there will be obstacles, things might feel weird, you might be grumpy. All of those things are part of the process. It’s ok to feel how you feel and you don’t have to assign any particular meaning to those feelings, unless it serves you well to do so.

But what about if the only thing you feel about your practice is dread?

What if the idea of your session never feels good or even neutral?

Let’s be clear, feeling psyched about your practice session isn’t a requirement for building a habit. You don’t have to be excited or even want to do your practice. If you can go ahead and meditate or move without any motivation or enthusiasm. – you can be fueled by stubbornness, anger, or you can have no discernable feelings about it at. If your feelings on the matter are irrelevant to you, or if you can make a practice so routine that you can do it on autopilot, have at it. You don’t need my advice on the matter.

However, if you dread your practice, constantly look for ways to avoid it, or if you feel like you have to climb a metaphorical mountain every single time you consider practicing, it might be time to review why you have chosen this practice and whether it is actually serving that purpose.

If, for example, your practice is about recovering from an injury or dealing with an ongoing issue, you might want to stick with it, even if you dread it, because it will serve you well down the road. You might be able to make it less awful by choosing music or a podcast or show to entertain yourself while you do it, or by getting a friend to join you -in person or online- while you do your dreaded thing and they do something that they dread. You are the only one who can make the call about whether the dread is worth the results.

But, if this practice is something you have chosen with the idea of expanding your life in some way and you are hating every part of it?

RECONSIDER!

Pretty please.

Why did I choose the word reconsider instead of just telling you to stop?

Because there is probably a complex thought involved in choosing your practice and in choosing whether to change it. Being told to just drop it doesn’t honour that process.

That being said, it may not be that complex for you. So, if you hate your practice, you wish you had never started, the mere thought of it ruins your day and you have no real reason to continue it, consider this is your official permission to drop it and carry on with your life.

If it is more complex than that, please read on.

Why did you choose this practice?

So, there was a reason you chose this practice in the first place.

Maybe you want something that this practice will bring.

Maybe you started this practice to keep someone else company.

Maybe you’ve been given a medical reason for this practice.

Maybe you just thought you should do this.*

Maybe it was a whim, something you thought you would try.

Those are all valid reasons for starting a practice. (Yes, even the word should. Should is a trap but it catches us all sometimes.) But they may not be reason enough to continue.

And we all dread our practice sometimes, especially at the beginning when our brains are keen on sticking with the old pathways instead of putting energy into building new ones.

But now we are a few weeks into our practices and it’s worth taking some time to evaluate how we feel about them.

And if you are still dreading your sessions all the time (or if you haven’t been able to do them at all), this is your chance to take a close look at your intended practice and the reasons behind it.

Things to (re)consider

1) If you want something that your practice will bring, peace of mind, greater strength, additional flexibility, increased endurance, but you dread your practice so much that it ruins your day or that you can’t make yourself do it, your practice is not serving its purpose. There are very few things that can only be achieved in one way. You don’t have to stay on this path because you have already started walking it. Research different ways to reach the same destination.

If you feel weird about starting over or if you are worried that you ‘wasted’ this time so far, remember that your efforts so far count – even if all of your energy went into avoiding your practice. And you are not starting from the same place you were weeks ago. Now you have more information and you know some things to avoid.

2) If you started this practice to keep someone else company, perhaps you can change your side of things. If they are doing yoga and you can’t stand getting on the mat, perhaps you renegotiate. If you are working together in person, perhaps you can do strength training or regular stretches or meditation or read or write or colour while they get bendy. Or perhaps you can find another way to keep them company and cheer them on while you undertake a different challenge.

3) If there is a medical reason for your practice, you may not have the option to stop trying to do it. I’m sorry about that, I know it sucks.

If you can’t escape your practice, you’ll need to find a way to live with it. This might be a good time to engage for full stubbornness abilities and go for angry self-care, or it might be a good time to pay some attention to the issue as a whole.

You may want to start with exploring your feelings around the whole situation. Sometimes our resentment or frustration around medical issues can show up as our brains refusing to cooperate with the very things that will help us most. I find that freewriting in my journal or recording my thoughts as I complain aloud often helps me to figure out the emotions that are getting in my way.

If you start to wade into your feelings around this and you get overwhelmed in any way, please speak to a mental health professional. Not only is it outside of the scope of these post but I am not trained in guiding people through intense emotional reactions. I don’t want to ignore the fact that there may be deep-seated emotions involved in these things and I don’t want to appear cavalier about how to address them.

If the problem doesn’t seem to be based in your feelings about the medical situation, it will be helpful to get specific about your dread. If the practice painful? Is it boring? Are you annoyed about a lack of progress? And then try to figure out what you can do to address those issues. Can you do a different practice and still help your medical situation? Can you do something to make it more interesting? Do you have a realistic sense of how long it will take to make progress? Can you measure progress in a different way? Can you develop a wildly disproportional reward system (i.e. every set of reps earns you 30 minutes of reading your novel)?

4) If this practice was something you thought you should try for some reason but it is not serving you it is definitely ok to stop.

You can take some time to explore why you thought you should try it and if those reasons are important to you, you can figure out a different way to accomplish the same thing.

There is no reason to feel guilty or bad about not doing something that doesn’t work for you.

Yes, even if you announced it to everyone and asked people to ensure that you stick with it.

You are allowed to change your mind and if someone gets uppity with you about it, try adopting a shocked, haughty tone of voice as you respond with something like, “Surely you wouldn’t expect me to continue a practice that didn’t meet my needs? That would be ridiculous! Maybe you like getting trapped in that sort of thing but I refuse to treat myself that way.” Usually that baffles people so much that they back off.

5) If you started this on a whim but you hate it? The experiment is complete. You have your results. You hate it. Feel free to move on.

Changing your mind doesn’t mean that you give up too easily. It doesn’t mean that you can’t stick with things. It has no meaning at all unless you give it one.

If you get any grief about it, respond that you think life is a buffet and that you have no intention of having seconds of a dish you didn’t enjoy.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I invite you to either recommit to your practice, to change it, or to ditch it, whichever serves you best.

You don’t owe anyone else an explanation about which one you choose and you are the only person who knows what is right for you.

I wish you ease as you figure it out.

And here are your gold stars for today. There are lots of them in the photo because the process in this post may require lots of different little bits of hard work.

Your hard work counts. Your efforts matter.

And, what you WANT and what you LIKE matters.

a small rectangular drawing of a tree made of curling lines with a spiral at the end. Gold stars hang from each spiral.
After I finished this drawing, I considered redoing it because the tree was so tangled but I decided it was a metaphor for the fact that even when circumstances are tangled we can earn a gold star. Image description: A drawing of a tree covered in gold stars, the drawing is on a small white card that is resting against a green notebook on my ink-speckled white desk. The tree is drawn near the right edge of the card and it is made of black lines that stretch upward before looping at the end. Each loop has at least one gold star hanging from it. There is a pile of gold stars at the base of the tree and the ground is green and slopes upward to the left. The sky is light blue.

*There’s that damn word again. *shudder*

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 20: You’re Worth It

Have you ever sat around feeling kind of meh about doing anything but then someone needed you and you sprang into action to help them out? Didn’t you feel less meh when you were done? Maybe kinda tired but decidedly less meh?

You probably decided to take action for them because you value them, they are important to you, and you want them to be happy and at ease. *

They are worth taking action for.

Well, Team, I’ve got some news for you: YOU are also worth taking action for.

Let’s talk about that a little.

Inertial Meh

I know it is tricky to generate internal motivation sometimes. Inertia is a powerful force.

Plans, and encouragement, and rituals can help but there will still be days when things are kind of meh.

Even if your practice is important to you. Even if you really want to do it. Even if you have the time and the capacity and the ability to do it. You still may struggle.

And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that you have given up. It doesn’t mean that you don’t ‘really’ want to build your habit. It just means that things are, well, meh, right now.

If that meh feeling compels you to rest, have at it.

But, if that meh feeling is generating thoughts like ‘This isn’t worth the effort.’ ‘I won’t bother.’ ‘Who cares if I do this?’ or ‘It’s not making any difference anyway.’ Then I want to remind you of why you are putting in the work to build a habit in the first place.

You Want Something Different

Sorry to spoiler you by putting the main point in the heading but here we are.

You want something different in your life. You want to be stronger or calmer or more flexible or to have more ease or to have less pain. And your planned practice is a path toward that new thing, that expanded self.

Yes, it takes effort. Some days are easy, some days are hard, and some days you have to take a break. But you are trending toward the difference you are trying to create.

If you knew that your effort on this meh day was going to make a difference for someone you care about, if it was going to move them in the direction of something they wanted for themselves, you would be up stretching/dancing/meditating/practicing your Taekwon-Do/doing the hokey-pokey and turning yourself around, in a heart beat.

Today’s Invitation

I’d like to invite you to treat yourself with the same kind of care and compassion.

I’d like you to consider your practice as a way to put that caring and compassion into action.

You, your well-being, your feeling of ease, your sense of satisfaction, are worth the effort to do your practice.

It may not be fun today. It may not be easy. But, like Nicole said in her post today. It can be worth it to push through.

You matter. Your efforts matter. You are worth taking care of.

It makes sense to put effort into your well-being, even when you feel meh.

And my robot friend here is offering you a gold star for your efforts today, whether your efforts were epic or whether they were about creating a tiny sliver of space in your brain for the idea that you are worth the effort you need to put in to have something different in your life.

an ink drawing of a robot holding a gold star
I don’t just draw gold stars, sometimes I like to draw a robot holding a gold star. That’s me, living on the edge over here. Image description: An ink drawing of a mostly rectangular robot with arms drawn as spirally wires. The robot is holding a gold star and smiling. The drawing is on a small white card and the card is resting on my black keyboard.

*Yes, I know this is a very positive spin here. You might also spring into action to avert disaster, to get someone to stop whining, to prevent a mess, or because you don’t want to/are unable to face the repercussions of inaction. I’m not denying or downplaying the existence of that sort of motivation but for this post I am talking about times when you’re just kind of sitting there and ANY sort of request from someone you care about can shake you out of your malaise.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 17: Keeping Perspective

A few years ago, I was doing a writing challenge that required me to write 1000 words a day. It didn’t matter what those words were – fiction, non-fiction, a journal entry – as long as I met the target for the day.

As you can tell by my chatty posts, I can pour out a lot of words in a day. That capacity increases if I can just go on about any old thing. And if you take out the need for quality and/or comprehensibility, I can churn out all kinds of half-useful nonsense at lightning speed.

After a few weeks of figuring out when to schedule my writing time/how to break my writing up into sessions, I found my rhythm and the challenge was not much of a challenge for most of the year. For months and months and months, I didn’t break the chain – I churned out 1000 words every day. Some were good, some were mediocre, some were awful, but they all counted.

And then, one day in December of that year, I forgot to write.

I was so annoyed with myself. I had time to write. I even had things to write about. I just forgot all about it.

I was complaining to my friend Nat about it. (This isn’t blog friend Nat, it’s a different delightful human. Let’s call this friend Nat the Engineer, because that’s one of the things she is.)

Nat the Engineer, being math-inclined, quickly came up with a new perspective on my frustration.

I was looking at the situation as me having broken the chain and ruined my streak of success. I wasn’t going to give up writing for the rest of the year or anything but the whole challenge felt a little tainted. I had long since gotten over the idea of aiming for perfection in my words but apparently I had been aiming for perfection in my habits without even realizing it. I was inadvertently telling myself that only 100% success would count. (Glerg.)

Luckily, Nat the Engineer came to the rescue with a reframing that looked like this:

Christine wrote for 348 days out of 349. That’s a 99.7% success rate. That’s cause for celebration.

Nat the Engineer’s perspective snapped me back to reality.

Yes, it would have been cool to be able to say that I had written every single day but saying that I had a 99.7% success rate was a whole different kind of cool.

99.7% of the time that I had tried to write, I had succeeded. That’s terrific!

Your Success Rate

If you are being kind to yourself and you have set reasonable expectations about what counts as a practice, given your current capacity, resources, and abilities, thinking in terms of success rate can be really motivating.

Sure, it’s fun when you can complete your practice every time you had planned to but life can often get in the way. Using a success rate lets you keep perspective on how many times you *could* pull it off instead of feeling like missed days have ruined everything. It keeps your focus where you need it to be.

In fact, you could even make a certain success rate into a goal and track your progress that way, if that serves you well. If you had a low success rate in a given week, you could challenge yourself to increase it a little the following week. Or if this month was rough, you could tweak a few things to see how the changes affect your success rate.

Remember, you set your own bar for success so keep it reasonable. If you are just starting out, you could make putting on your sneakers or sitting on the floor for meditation the marker for success. If you have more practice, you could choose something else that has meaning for you. Right now, I’m using the ‘cardio’ percentage of my daily steps on my Fitbit as a marker, for example.

While I know that lots of our readers will be comfortable with calculating a success rate, I also know that the idea of math makes some people’s brains freeze. To alleviate brain freeze, here’s how to calculate your success rate: take the number of times you did your practice and divide it by the number of times you had planned to do it. Multiple that answer by 100 to get your rate.

Keeping Perspective

This post is not intended to narrow your focus to one particular definition of success. And it is definitely not meant to imply that the number of complete practices is the defining metric for success.

Instead, this post is an invitation to keep perspective on your efforts by finding different ways to celebrate the things that are going well for you as you develop your practice.

When I forgot to write on that December day, one part of my brain really felt like I had messed up a whole year’s work. I kind of felt like one missed day had negated all the effort that went before. This is foolishness, of course, but you know what brains and feelings are like once they get going.

Nat the Engineer’s calculation of my success rate helped me shift my focus to my overall project.

While I had been planning to write every day, that was just the process not the actual point of the exercise. My true goal was to make writing sessions routine, ordinary, and low pressure. And looking at my success rate made me realize that all my work was adding up to that result. Even if my success rate had been 10%, I would still be 10% closer to making my writing easier.

Your success rate can point to the same thing. It can take the pressure off any given practice. AND it can remind you that all of your efforts count, even if they add just 1% to your success rate.

Here is your gold star for today’s efforts, big and small, visible and invisible. Your efforts matter. Your work counts.

And you are doing the best you can with the resources you have available.

You have a 100% success rate for showing up for yourself. Your rate for everything else will add up as you go along.

 a drawing of a gold star with a happy face on it standing on a hill made of gently curving lines.
The lighting in my office right now is making this star look copper instead of gold but it is celebratory all the same. Image description: a drawing of a gold star with a happy face on it standing on a hill made of gently curving black lines. I coloured the hill green and the sky blue using coloured pencils, the star is coloured with a gold marker, and there are asterisk stars in the sky drawn in black ink. The words Go Team! are next to the star.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 14: What can you notice?

When I was doing yesterday’s video from Yoga with Adriene’s current series ‘Move’ and she reminded us to pay attention to HOW we were moving I suddenly realized that I have a lot more mobility in my upper back that I did when I started the series.

It has only been 12 days of practice so I wasn’t expecting any results yet. I doubt that there’s any visible change in my movements or my mobility but something good is definitely happening. And if Adriene hadn’t prompted me to notice, I may not have felt that extra mobility right at the base of my neck.

That feeling, in turn, prompted me to notice a few more differences in my movements. My ankles are moving with slightly more ease. It’s a little easier for me to go deeper into downward dog. All kinds of small differences that I hadn’t recognized until I was prompted to notice.

So, I wanted to prompt you to notice some small things about your practice today.

Is there anything different about how you are sitting in meditation? How does your body feel while you are there? Are your thoughts behaving any differently?

If you have a physical practice, have you noticed any differences in your movements or in your strength? You probably aren’t breaking any world records at this point but I’ll bet some things feel a bit easier or more natural or at least little less hard.

If you are trying to rest more or to be more mindful, can you notice any difference in the details of your practice?

If you are at the ‘trying to figure things out’ stage, have you noticed any softening around your concept of what would be useful to do? Or around your steps toward clearing time or space for your planned routines? Is your brain starting to maybe, perhaps, kind of, work its way around to considering the idea of making a low-key plan?

It’s worth your time and energy to notice any and all changes that you are experiencing.

This is part of focusing on the process of change rather than on a specific result. Noticing and celebrating positive changes (or noticing and adjusting things that aren’t working) lets you be more in charge of your routines (notice that I didn’t say in control!) and shifts your focus away from a distant future and into what’s happening today.

Noticing lets you celebrate every stage of expanding your comfort zone.**

It lets you enjoy even the smallest difference in your capacity, ability, or strength.

And even though your efforts ALWAYS count, having a little bit of evidence can really reinforce that message.

So, Team, today, I invite you to notice even the smallest of changes and celebrate them.

Whether you sat for an extra second of meditation before checking the timer, or you took one extra step, or your outstretched fingers are one iota closer to your toes. Or if your hips are more comfortable when you sit down, or you have a little more energy in the afternoon, or you feel a bit calmer behind the wheel. It all matters, it all counts, and it is all worth noticing.

To celebrate your small efforts, your small victories, and your small changes, here are three small gold stars that I drew earlier today. I had so much fun with yesterday’s burst of creativity that I decided to give it another whirl today.

A small ink drawing of three stacks of coloured shapes on strings with a gold star at the end of each one. The background is white with green dots.
Apparently, these drawings on strings are called dangles, which I think is a fun name for them. Image description: A drawing I made of three gold stars on individual strings. Each star has a small stack of shapes on top of it, an orange triangle, a purple square, and a red circle, in a different order. The background is white speckled with green.

*I like to consider myself as expanding my comfort zone rather than stepping outside of it. I know it is really a matter of semantics but word choice matters (it matters A LOT to me.) The idea of expanding my zone of comfort has a lot more appeal than being forced outside of that zone. I can tolerate discomfort in the name of growth but I sure as hell don’t want to be told that I have to leave all comfort behind in the process. Your mileage may vary so feel free to expand your comfort zone or to step outside if it, whichever works for you!

About the Go Team! posts:

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 13: Give yourself the things you need to feel good

For 30 minutes this morning and 30 minutes this afternoon, I met two halves of a Grade 3 class online. I told them a story* about how feeling like yourself helps you access your power and then I led them through an activity to create a list of things that make them feel like themselves.

My basic premise in my workshop is that while we all have a variety of skills and abilities, it is very hard to access them when you are don’t feel like yourself and you can end up feeling pretty powerless. So we want to figure out ways to feel like ourselves even when we are overwhelmed or feeling weird or we can’t follow our usual routines (say, during a pandemic, for example.)

And, as usual, focusing on explaining these ideas to someone else reminded me of ways that I needed to apply them in my own life.

Last year, one of my Go Team! posts was about giving yourself the things you need to make your habit work.

I still want to encourage you to do the sorts of things I suggested in that post – setting reminders, getting kneepads for yoga, whatever works. AND I want to encourage you to think about the other kinds of things you might need, activities, objects, habits, and support that help you to feel like yourself and to be able to make good use of your personal power.

It feels a bit weird to be using the word power that way, like I am trying to be a self-help guru shouting at you about personal empowerment so I am going to explain a little further. A therapist once explained to me that we all have a variety of skills that use to get through situations we encounter and we store them until we need them. It’s a bit like having things on shelves in the basement, ready for when we need them. However, when we get anxious or overwhelmed or end up in the grip of a challenging emotion, it is like the basement floods. The tools are still there but we can’t quite get to them.

When I’m talking about power in this post, I’m not talking about roaring at ourselves in the mirror or viewing ourselves as superheroes. I’m talking about the everyday power we have, our skills and abilities, our capacity, our feeling of well-being. When we don’t feel like ourselves, for any reason, it is harder to use our skills, to access our abilities, to figure out our capacity or to find a sense of equilibrium.

When we don’t have access to those things, it’s extremely difficult to add new habits or to adjust to new routines and there is a real risk that we will be hard on ourselves about our inability to do so.

So, we want to do whatever we can to maximize our access to our power and that means, in part, giving ourselves the things we need to feel good, to feel like ourselves.

For me, that means things like practicing my Taekwon-do patterns even though we can’t have class right now. It means choosing to have tea in my favourite mug. It means drawing and reading and taking the dog for a walk. Giving myself all of those things, even if I have to alter them slightly for time or circumstances, makes me feel like myself. When I feel like myself, I can more easily use my existing skills, and I have more patience with myself as I a develop new practices.

I hope you can consider what sorts of things you need to feel like yourself and that you can provide them for yourself in some form, as soon as possible.

Note: Meanwhile, if you are dealing with an especially stressful or difficult situation right now, also consider pausing the habit-building until things ease off. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone and you don’t have to take on a new habit just because it is January or just because you thought you would try it now. Please be kind to yourself.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I invite you to consider the things YOU need to feel like yourself and to feel a bit more in charge of your habit-building and of your day-to-day.

What do you need to feel more like yourself? Do you have some anchor activities that can help ground you? Like drinking from a specific mug, doing things in a particular order, or taking a break at a specific time?

What do you need to be able to include your habit building in your current routine? Do you need some of the straightforward adjustments like reminders and specific clothes that I suggested last year? Do you need specific support to make your routine work?

Drawing is one of the things I do to feel like myself, so I decided that I would draw today’s gold star and enjoy the little burst of creative energy that came with that process.

I am offering this gold star to you in celebration of your efforts today, no matter what they are.

I hope you feel like yourself and I hope your habit-building process is working well for you, whether you are starting out or well-underway.

I wish you ease.

a small drawing of a gold star, gold dots, and the words 'Go Team'
Image description: a small drawing of a gold star surrounded by gold dots with text reading ‘Go Team!’ at the top. The edge of the paper is outlined in black and the paper itself is sitting on an orange surface.

*The story in question is a version of Lady Sif’s Golden Hair that I have reshaped to emphasize specific aspects and to highlight Sif’s power instead of making her just a plot point.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness

Go Team! January 11: Feelings Part 3 of 3

As a life coach, I try to help people be kinder to themselves, to notice patterns in their thinking or behaviour, and to brainstorm solutions to obstacles or challenges they are facing. I am not, however, a mental health professional. I want to be clear about the kind of guidance I am able to offer and I am doing my best to avoid doing any harm to anyone who needs support that goes beyond reframing and encouragement.

In this post, I’m talking about solutions and workarounds for emotional obstacles or challenges that might be annoying or frustrating to you.

I usually refer to these these kind of emotional challenges as ‘garden-variety’ feelings – things that are very much part of our day-to-day range of feelings. They may cause frustration, may upset you in the moment/for a short period of time, or they may lead you to choose to avoid some activities sometimes but they don’t generally cause intense distress. They may be recurring issues, they may cause some anxiety, anger, sadness or stress but the feelings I’m referring to aren’t generally overwhelming and they don’t linger for extended periods or cause a cavalcade of other emotions. If you are experiencing something above and beyond what I describe here, please see the ‘Intense/Adverse Emotions’ section below.

So, now that I have done the extended remix explanation, let’s talk about some of those garden-variety feelings that can emerge when building fitness or well-being habits.

Garden-Variety Feelings

Whenever you are building new habits of any kind, your emotions are going to get churned up. This is perfectly normal and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or that you are doing something wrong. It just means that you are adding new things into an established routine and you are making some adjustments as you go.

And, as usual when annoying or frustrating things are just part of a process, the key thing is figuring out how to sit with them until they pass or accept them while you get used to them.

I’m not saying that that either of those things are easy to do, so please don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle to accept them/wait for them to pass/adjust to them. The effort you put in to be kind to yourself and to try to accept those feelings will make things easier in the long run.

Since I am assuming that you don’t need a lot of support through any happy emotions that your practice generates, let’s have a look at some of the other garden-variety feelings that might emerge as you build your habits.

You might be frustrated – with your progress, with your body’s unwillingness to do certain things, with advice you have been given, with the challenges around making time or space for your habit.

You might be angry – maybe your movements are stirring up bad memories or an injury is keeping you from doing things the way you want to.

You might be sad – maybe you are mourning the things you used to be able to do, or you are adjusting to some change in your body, or you are missing someone you used to work on this habit with.

You might be anxious – perhaps you are carrying a lot of ambient anxiety about the world around you and your meditation or exercise time is when it seeps out or you might be concerned about how well you will able to do certain aspects of the program you have chosen.

All of those feelings are normal. You do not need to judge yourself for feeling them and you don’t have to try and push them away.*

Instead you can work your way toward accepting them as part of the process of building your habit. Here are some of the things I do as part of the process of learning to accept those feelings.

Label it

It sounds a bit weird but when I have an emotion float up out of nowhere when I am practicing a new habit, I find it helps just to call the feeling what it is. “Hmm, I feel angry right now.” I try not to even explore why, I just put the right label on it and keep going.

Go ahead and cry

When I mentioned this to Nicole, one of the other Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers, she reminded me about the important role tears play in dealing with the emotional side of exercise/wellness. If I get that ‘about to cry’ feeling when I am exercising or meditation, I try to just let the tears flow and let the feeling wash away. Trying NOT to cry can really just make things harder.

Breathe through it

If a wave of emotion overtakes you while you are doing your practice, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to take some slow deep breaths. I know that deep breathing is touted as the solution to everything but that’s because there are so many times when it is genuinely helpful. Dealing with a wave of emotion is definitely one of those times. You don’t need to focus on dismissing the feeling, or exploring what it is rooted in, you can just breathe. I find it especially helpful to count as I inhale and exhale. (I like 4 in and 8 out but you do what works for you.)

Change focus

When I feel frustrated, stuck, or annoyed during my practice, it is often because I am looking toward the results I want instead of focusing on where I am (or on how far I have come.) If I keep my focus on specific results, my impatience grows, I get frustrated, and I feel worse. Coming back to something like ‘I’m on my yoga mat in downward dog, am pushing away from the mat with my hands.’ can really help my frustration to fade. (Focusing on the results instead of the process is one of the best ways to make your practice harder. I advise against it!)

Take it easy/Go a bit harder

Depending on the emotion, it can be helpful to either take things down a notch or amp them up a bit. It’s hard to predict which one will help with any given emotion but that’s where a little experimenting will come in handy. Generally, I find that I can let anger run its course by pushing harder but sometimes slowing right down and breathing through the feeling serves me better.

Make Adjustments

Of course, there will be times when these emotions are too much to handle on a given day. If that’s the case for you, go ahead and adjust your workout or practice to give yourself the emotional space you need. If running makes you feel anxious (as it does for me), and today has been a stressful day, there is no need to add to that stress. You can so something else instead and leave the running (and the acceptance of the resulting emotions) for another time. Knowing your capacity is not the same as avoiding things and it is always a good idea to treat yourself with compassion, especially when you are building new habits.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I am inviting you to be kind to yourself about any emotions your practice might be stirring up for you. And I am inviting you to choose a response/approach that serves you best.

Perhaps today is a time to change your focus or to try breathing or to adjust your workout. You know what will help you the most right now.

As always, here your gold star for your efforts, no matter what those efforts involve today. Whether you are zipping along on your cross country skis or lying in bed breathing through a wave of emotion, your efforts matter.

Please be kind to yourself in the process.

a metal decoration in the shape of a gold star with decorative dots punched out of it hangs against a light green wall.
This gold star hangs over my desk to celebrate my efforts at consistency. Today, is also celebrating your efforts as you build your habits. This is a very hard working star, maybe it needs a gold star for its hard work, too? ⭐ Image description: a metal decoration in the shape of a gold star with decorative dots punched out of it hangs against a light green wall.

Intense /Adverse Feelings or Overwhelming Emotions

If the emotional challenges you are facing cause you intense distress or if they persist, the advice I am offering here will be inadequate.

As I mentioned above and, in my post yesterday, I am not a mental health professional and I don’t have the training or expertise to provide appropriate and structured support for anyone who is dealing with a mental illness or trauma. I don’t want to imply otherwise and I don’t want to cause you further harm or distress.

Here are some links with more detailed information about connections between exercise and emotional distress of various kinds. These links aren’t intended as solutions, just as information you might be able to use to feel less alone or to have some vocabulary to use when seeking help from a mental health professional.

I’m not sure if these are the kinds of things that can be triggering, so please proceed with caution.

What if exercise makes you feel worse?

Exercise and panic attacks

Exercise and increased anxiety

Exercise and intensifying emotions

Mindfulness and adverse reactions

Meditation and difficult emotions

Why yoga can be triggering for trauma survivors

Exercise and PTSD

*According to Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, any given emotional wave only lasts for about 90 seconds and once that time passes, the emotions are being fueled by our thoughts, stories, and reactions around them. So if we can learn (and practice) to observe our emotions and not fuel them, they can pass quite quickly. It’s not an easy thing to learn to observe feelings (or maybe unlearn fueling them) but it would definitely be worthwhile.

About these Go Team posts:

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.