How to Managing your Lapses?

Lapses occur in almost every person’s journey to a healthier lifestyle. We all have ways of coping with life’s challenges, but our methods aren’t always conducive to physical health. From food binges to long periods without physical activity, lapses have been the downfall of many a New Year’s resolution. How can you prevent a lapse in healthy behavior from progressing to an all out relapse?

The key is a new approach to everyday challenges. If and when a lapse occurs, seize the opportunity to examine the situation and develop a specific intervention for the next time the same situation arises. See situation and intervention below or some examples of common high-risk situations and their potential interventions. There is no one “correct” way to prevent unwanted behaviors from recurring. The best intervention is one that fits your needs, lifestyle, and personality 

Situation and intervention

I wasn’t that hungry when my kids were eating lunch, so I just skipped it. Later that afternoon, I was ravenous and found myself ravenous and found myself eating whatever wasn’t nailed to the floor.

You can’t always wait for the perfect time to eat. Sometimes, it makes sense to eat at least a small snack to prevent a “crisis” situation from occurring in a few hours. Have some fruit and roasted nuts at lunch time if you’re just slightly hungry.

I always get hungry at before lunch and find myself gravitating towards the only food in my building: the vending machines.

At the beginning of the week, prepare snack bags of work nutritious foods such as carrots, string cheese, and small containers of peanuts or almonds to leave at work. Bring a bag of mixed fresh fruit to keep on your desk or in the office refrigerator. When you get the mid morning munchies, you will be armed with a healthy alternative.

I have a habit of automatically eating when I sit down to watch television night.

Instead of letting your television viewing area be a place for eating, make it a no-food zone. If necessary, turn off the TV for a full week to break the cycle. Most people are amazed at at the time (and calories!) they spend in front of the television.

I went on vacation last month, my clothes don’t fit, and I haven’t been able to get back to my walking program since. Ack!

Vacations and breaks from your normal routine are a vital part of maintaining your enthusiasm for life in general. Right now, lace up your shoes, grab your dog or any willing companion, and head outside. Commit to walking for five minutes. When you’re finished, you have the option of coming back inside (but I bet you’ll want to keep going!). Sometimes, the law of inertia is your worst enemy. The next time you go on vacation, try to plan a little activity into your itinerary. Can you go camping? Schedule a walking or biking tour of your destination? Get up a little early to catch a gorgeous sunrise and stretch your legs a bit? It’s easier to get back into your routine at home if you’ve maintained even a minimal level of activity while you were away.

Many people who have just experienced a lapse remark, “I don’t know what happened. Before I knew it, I was just (you fill it in: eating an entire box of cookies, skipping my workouts, ordering a mighty mocha triple fudge coffee beverage at the local cafe, and so on).” Let’s face it, behaviors don’t just “happen.” On some level, you chose to partake in those activities because they offered something you needed: pleasure, a release, relaxation, or more time for other responsibilities. The key behavior that separates successful from unsuccessful people is a willingness to figure out just what those true needs are and seek new ways of meeting them.

What are some of your high-risk situations? Can you think of an intervention for each? Create your own list of situations and how you plan to react to them positively.

Learning from Lapses

Keep a log of your lapse experiences. Find patterns in your behavior so that you can modify your environment and plan ahead for the next time you are faced with a similar situation:
  • What were you feeling?
  • Where were you?
  • With whom were you keeping company?
  • What was the time of day?
It also might be helpful to jot down a behavior chain in a journal. This involves nothing more than writing down the series of events, situations, feelings, emotions, or experiences that led to the unwanted behavior. Your behavior chain might look some- thing like this:
  • I was having a decent day at work.
  • My supervisor asked whether she could speak with me in her office.
  • She proceeded to tell me that our department would have to make some changes and that my colleague and good friend would be leaving.
  • It would be my responsibility to perform his job duties until we could find a more suitable arrangement.
  • I was overwhelmed and angry.
  • I drove home in a “stew.”
  • When I got inside, I went directly to the kitchen to decide what to have for dinner.
  • Nothing looked good.
  • A package of cookies was on the counter, so I ate a few of those while I pondered what to fix.
  • Still couldn’t find anything that looked good, so I had some chips, too.
  • Settled on a frozen pizza but was really hungry, so I took the bag of chips into the living room and turned on the TV while I waited for the pizza to bake.
  • When it was done, I was already engrossed in the TV program, so I took the pizza into the living room, too.
  • By the end of the show, I had eaten six slices of pizza and felt sick to my stomach; I was too tired to go for a walk.
  • I cleaned up and berated myself for being such a glutton; then resolved to “do better” the next day.
The tips

The earlier you can break your behavior chain, better! For example, if something stressful happens at work, don’t wait until you’re standing in front of the refrigerator to take action. Go for a walk that afternoon to give yourself a chance to mull it over. When you get home, do something that gives you a sense of control— wash your car, clean a drawer, or go for a run. Do whatever it takes to break the cycle!

Sound familiar? I’m sure you could share count- less similar stories. Why go through the agony of writing it down? Because seeing it on paper demystifies the unwanted behavior. It’s easy to understand why you ate six slices of pizza when you take the day’s events into consideration. If you can get a handle on the purpose your behavior was serving, you can identify alternatives that meet the real need. Seek the help of a counselor, minister, or therapist if you need help identifying or determining how best to meet these needs.

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