1. Exercise
  2. Eat well
  3. Practice yoga
  4. Meditate
  5. Get ample (quality) sleep
  6. Spend time in nature
  7. Sit less; move more
  8. Read, learn, grow ….

Is your wellness to-do list stressing you out?

In the quest to fix what ails us — to live happier, healthier and more peaceful lives — we’re creating more demands on our limited resources.

Who has time to work a full-time job, parent, partner, take care of adult responsibilities (pay bills, take out the garbage, grocery shop …) AND do all the things you know you should be doing for your own wellness?

You do.

It’s true; taking care of yourself requires time. It can cost money. And while, for many, one wellness goal is to have more energy, it can take energy to get there.

time constraints don't cause overwhelmBut it isn’t really the I-don’t-have-time (or money or energy) syndrome that causes wellness overwhelm. It’s the unproductive thinking patterns. The ones you probably aren’t even aware of.

Wellness Overwhelm: Sound Familiar?

The bad news: These unproductive thinking patterns (also called cognitive distortions) can hijack your efforts to accomplish all (or any) of the items on your wellness to-do list.

The good news: You can change them. In fact, recognizing and reframing these thoughts are critical in your quest to achieve true wellness.

Do any of these have a familiar ring?

All-or-nothing thinking — Maybe you’re the kind of person who goes all in every time you start something new, including wellness. Time to get fit? You buy every gadget, prop and tool available to set yourself up for success. You promise yourself you’re going to work out every day. After all, why do something halfway?

Blame — You really want to find time for wellness, but external factors make it “impossible” to find time for wellness. Your boss threw another project your way this week. It’s raining outside (there goes the lunch-hour walk around the block). The gym raised its dues. Your kids need you to help with their homework. The new client is especially demanding.

external factors wellness routine

Judging/Labeling — These cousins in unproductive thinking both give voice to your inner critic, like a sound reel of a disapproving parent or teacher. You taunt yourself — what a loser … a failure … a lost cause — because you can’t build wellness into your routine in the way you had hoped. You berate yourself for enjoying those margaritas (so full of sugar, what were you thinking, you fool?) last night? As if someone were grading your every move, your workouts always have to be “good” and “bad” foods must be out of your repertoire.

Should —This one is a biggie for many. While wellness comes with guidelines, the rules are internally driven: I should (or shouldn’t) go here, do this, eat that. Do the opposite, and you wind up in a downward spiral of guilt, shame and frustration.

Related: Is the Fear of Upsetting Others Standing in the Way of Your Success?

Unraveling the Overwhelm

As is the case with creating or breaking any habit, developing awareness is the first step. Recognizing the desire to change is the next. If you’ve already taken both of these steps, pat yourself on the back: you’re already on your way to conquering wellness overwhelm.

change unproductive thoughts

When it comes to wellness, specifically, here are a few more questions to ask yourself:

  • What does wellness mean to me?
  • How will I know I’ve “achieved” wellness?
  • Where does wellness fall among my priorities?
  • Am I comfortable with being uncomfortable, even if it’s temporary?

Then, you can begin to challenge — and change — unproductive thoughts around wellness.

All-or-nothing thinking patterns soften as you recognize progress.

Blame becomes accountability as you take responsibility for your actions — or inactions.

Instead of judging or labeling, you accept.

Intentions replace “shoulds.” 

“I don’t have time for wellness” becomes “I choose to make time for wellness.”

make adjustments on commitments

It’s less about reaching your goal and more about recognizing progress along the way. Maybe going to the gym six days a week isn’t realistic in light of your other obligations, but four days a week is doable — and good enough, at least for now.

Related: Microhabits: Small-but-Mighty Agents of Change

Buying every gadget, prop or tool may not be financially feasible, but rewarding yourself with a fitness tracker is a great way to celebrate reaching a mile marker along your journey.

Developing an increased level of accountability will empower you to make choices — and keep promises to yourself — that align with your priorities.

If you really want to embrace meditation as a way to find greater peace in your life, you’ll find a way to keep that commitment to yourself, whether that means waking up 15 minutes earlier, or giving up something you deem less important (scrolling through social media?).

adjust your schedule

You’ll allow yourself the flexibility to adjust your schedule; if you’re catching an early flight on Tuesday, perhaps you’ll meditate in the evening instead of first thing in the morning. And if you miss it one day, you’ll pick it up again tomorrow — or the next day.

Because wellness is a practice, some moments, days or weeks will feel more on track than others. And it’s all OK. No judgment. No (self) name-calling. No overwhelm.

Productive thinking patterns encourage — rather than discourage — progress. When you shift your thoughts, wellness overwhelm becomes “wellness opportunity,” and you position for yourself for success.

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