It Pays To Be Flexible

Trauma is a bitch. I do not mean the fun, snarky kind of bitch. I mean the straight up rude, obnoxious, grudge-holding bitch. It is the one that will force you to rethink your very existence. Well, in my case, it shaped how I think about mine.

My thinking took on a black-and-white mentality. There were only two resolutions to any situation. It was one way or the other. If I did not reach my goal, I failed. There was no in between. Without acknowledging the gray area, I set myself up for a higher likelihood for failure.

This idea really came to light following a discussion with my health guide. He is basically a certified athletic dude who provides me with suggestions, tips, and advice on a personal level. We got onto the topic of my inability to maintain a consistent diet/fitness routine. I explained to my health guide how I am able to get on track for several weeks. I go to the gym three to four times a week. I eat healthy every day and count my calories without hesitation. I meet with a personal trainer once a week. I get some strong progress going, and, then, suddenly, it stops. Everything would literally come to a halt. I would stop going to the gym. I did not give two shits what food was going into my mouth. I laid around like a lazy blob.

By talking to my health guide about this issue, we deduced that it ultimately came down to my expectations. I would go “zero to sixty” and expect to stay at sixty with results just pouring in. Then, after a few weeks, I jumped on the scale and expected a complete turnaround. In reality, I often lost a few pounds, but nowhere near what I expected. At that point, I gave up until the next round of motivation struck.

It turned out that my all-or-nothing thinking interfered with something as simple as developing a healthy routine. What else did I miss out on as a result of this distorted thinking? I likely stayed in unhealthy relationships longer than I should have. I know I jeopardized my health by working too hard. Not only were my thoughts extreme, but my feelings aligned with my thoughts feeding into extreme feelings of anxiety and depression.

Rather than stick with zero to sixty, what would happen if I went from zero to five, then five to ten, and so forth? I would still eventually get to sixty, but do so with smaller goals along the way and much more flexibility in how I get there.

For instance, I deal with fibromyalgia, which is a chronic condition that can flare up occasionally and cause severe joint pain. Yours truly has been smack dab in the middle of a flare up for the last two weeks. Last week, rather than call out of work, I contacted my clients (I’m a mental health counselor who provides in-home services), and offered them telehealth sessions versus in-person. I knew my body could not handle all the driving, but I could handle resting with my laptop next to me. They opted for it.

Also, during this flare up, you can imagine that it is difficult to engage in certain physical activity. I brainstormed with my health guide low impact activities that will still help me get closer to my weight loss goal. One morning, I woke up with joint stiffness and pain. Going for a long walk or playing basketball like I normally do were out of the question. Luckily, I had access to a pool. I threw on my swimming trunks and jumped in for a half hour.

Even as recently as today, I wanted to clean my bathroom. For anyone who has cleaned a bathroom, they know what kind of physical toll this can take on the body. You scrub the walls at weird angles. You are down on your hands and knees wiping the toilet. It gets to you, and it could have easily sent my flare up into overdrive. I sucked it up and asked a friend for help. She came over and helped me out.

How I reached the objective in each situation was far from ideal. However, by considering alternative methods, I pulled it together when I used to give up. With a little bit of cognitive flexibility and reducing my expectations on how to get there, the end result was still the same.

Think about where in your life you maybe go a bit too hard. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself? Is that extreme form of thinking inhibiting more than helping you? You would be shocked by the success you experience by making smaller milestones and looking for flexible alternatives. It might take a little longer. It might require a little bit more effort. You might even need to ask for help. It might not be the exact path you want to take, but it will still get you there.

-The Caring Counselor

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