How To Get A Grip When You Feel Out Of Control

Good habits can fly out the window when you feel out of control. Some people deal with stress by doubling down on hard work. But I seek comfort, and in this regard, I think

My basic internal dialog goes something like this. I’m so stressed because (fill in your blank here) work is tough, my kids won’t listen to me, there’s relationship trouble, society in general is dysfunctional and getting worse or some other real or imagined slight. (So many possibilities!) Therefore I am entitled to eat more, goof off, or do whatever it takes to get through a tough time.

It’s hard to stay on track. No matter how happy we are – and I am very happy person, grateful every day for my wife, kids, friends, accomplishments and all the opportunities I’ve been blessed with – there will always be rough patches. These disruptions can put me off my game for days, weeks or even months.

I went through one of those rough patches recently, one that was a bit longer than usual. The first thing to go is always diet. A regimen of lean protein with lots of fruit and vegetables gave way to over-eating in general and too much ice cream, bad carbs, and other “treats” in particular. Other bad behaviors followed. My routine of daily cardio and three-times-a-week weightlifting faltered. I didn’t work as hard as I should. And more.

Excuses, excuses.

Then, as usual, a random moment revealed how much I had regressed. As has happened in the past, a photo shocked me back to reality. This time it was a casual photo my wife snapped of me and one of our dogs. The little one was as cute as ever. Me, not so much.  I look like that?!? That’s not the ultra fit person I think I am! This visual splash of cold water in my face that reminded me of the consequences of poor choices.

As I was jolted back to reality, there was another epiphany. What I’m doing is not helpful, but I’m doing it anyway! These so called “comforts” aren’t helping to mitigate my stress one iota. They’re adding to it.

Of course I know this. It’s so obvious! Of course, of course, of course!

It’s just tough to see in the moment when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Comfort is inertia’s best friend. It just creeps up on you.

I’ll think, “Sure I missed the gym today and ate way to much. But I’ll have a big dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce after dinner because I’m stressed and I deserve it, right? And I’ll be better tomorrow.

Sometimes there are more than 30 or more “tomorrows” before I get back on track.

I am determined to identify, far earlier on in the process, these stress related lapses. We can recognize that stress is normal from time to time and that bad things happen in life that we can’t control. But we can control our behavior.

It’s natural to seek comfort to relieve stress. But it’s always the wrong choice. There was some great advice on an episode of The Knowledge Project podcast – and I wish I could remember who said it – that when we make easy, expedient choices, life will be hard. It’s the hard choices that will make your life easy. In other words, eat right, get enough sleep and get to the gym. Especially when you’re feeling out of control. That’s the time to double down and take comfort from your healthy routines rather than another bagel.

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