Feeling anxious, fatigued, unhappy, or uncertain? These tips will help you overcome the negative emotions that interfere with your exercise and nutrition plans.
Anxious, fatigued, unhappy, uncertain? We’ve all been there, all known times when our emotional hot buttons take over. We swear to ourselves that this time we will overcome those emotions and stay committed to our goal, but when it doesn’t work, we react with indulgent self-gratification. “I had such a long day, and I just don’t feel like going to the gym today,” or “I’ve already fallen off the wagon, so I’ll just eat what I want and start again on Monday.”
Sound familiar? Making exceptions “just this once” gives us immediate relief from discomfort, but afterward, when we muster the courage to confront our actions, we become sad, disappointed and frustrated. What happens next? We further engage in indulgence and self-comfort!
Why do we self-sabotage despite our best intentions? Many believe we have no real control over our feelings, but with awareness—and some handy tools in our mental toolbox—feelings can be regulated, managed and manipulated.
Haley Perlus, PhD, adjunct professor at the University of Colorado and author of The Ultimate Achievement Journal and The Inside Drive, describes how to keep your emotions within your control so you can get results.
Visualize Emotions as Cartoon Characters
Did you see the movie Inside Out, where emotions were represented as animated figures? Similarly, you can picture your own emotions as cartoon characters separate from yourself—it will create distance and add objectivity, making it easier to deal with them (Wallin 2012). When they are cartoon characters temporarily taking up space inside you, you can work to calm them down, listen to what they’re saying and then take charge (like a parent taking a nonnegotiable stand).
Eat for Emotional Control
Poor moods can lead to poor food choices, which can further affect mood. We may feel immediate pleasure from sweet carbohydrates and fat, but then we become sad, disappointed and frustrated, and we’re likely to eat more unhealthy foods to console ourselves.
Stay in control by being organized. For example, if you know that you typically start to feel sluggish around 4 p.m., eat something healthy around 3:30 to give you energy. If you get home and grab whatever food is most convenient after a long day, curb your cravings by packing a healthy snack and eating it before you get home.
Research suggests that low- to moderate-intensity movements that are rhythmic and repetitive promote self-reflection, creative thinking and a better mood overall. In addition to your training schedule, begin to incorporate this type of exercise into your day. A quick 10-minute walk around the block can release endorphins into the bloodstream, causing beneficial changes to your mood.
Practice Cognitive Restructuring
We can’t always control what thoughts enter our minds, but we do have control over how long those debilitating thoughts linger. Here are two techniques for conquering these thoughts:
Reframe. For example, change “I can’t snap out of this bad mood” to “I can turn the day around by giving myself 5 minutes to get engrossed in this indoor cycling class and feed off everyone’s energy.”
Make molehills out of your emotional mountains. Our thoughts and emotions can so consume us that we get caught up in them and succumb to temptation. Asking “So what?” brings things back into perspective:
- “So what if I had a difficult meeting with my boss today?”
- “So what if I didn’t sleep well last night?”
- “So what if traffic made me miss my kickboxing class?”
This self-talk makes all emotional mountains sound like excuses (which they are). If you want to achieve results, acknowledge the mountains and cut them down to size. Then you can pursue your goals with energy, commitment and drive. In other words, you can feel the emotional pain and do it anyway!