wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Creatures of sabotage

I’ve always wondered why things that are good for our health are often the hardest to do? Eat better, exercise, spend less on makeup that you’ll use once and then stick in the drawer!

I have two main areas of difficulty:

  1. Exercise
  2. Alcohol

Yes I know I bang on about the importance of exercise all the time, but this doesn’t mean that I find it easy to do!
I’m a morning gym person, because after work it’s too busy and let’s be honest, I’d rather go home. I’ve also tried jogging outdoors, but I get bored and being a clumsy sod there’s a high probability that I’ll fall on my arse. Seriously, on Friday I was walking through Paddington station, slipped and came crashing down in front of all the rush hour commuters. I also bought a coffee in Starbucks and then left without it… so in general it wasn’t a good one. (Starbucks you owe me a Soya Caramel latte)!

I know that exercise makes a real difference to my mood and adrenaline levels. I wish that it didn’t, but it does. When I’m there I feel physically good and energised. So why is it that when I start again after a break, I still want to cry like a small child when my alarm goes off at 6:00? Why does my brain find a hundred reasons not to go?

Well the clue is in the word ‘break.’ They say that humans are creatures of habit, but that doesn’t mean new habits are easy to form. In fact, starting a new habit/routine is one of the hardest things for the brain to accept. Think of it like an elderly person who doesn’t want to deal with new technology, NO CHANGE PLEASE!

The rule of thumb is that it takes twenty one days to form a new habit right? But nobody ever explains the reason behind this!

Over time I’ve broken it down to three areas of brain sabotage:

  1. Aggressive
  2. Sneaky
  3. Positive

Ok, so let’s start with the aggressive stage.

If you’re lucky, day one and two of your new routine will go without a hitch. But suddenly, by day three;

Aggressive Brain

Thoughts: You stupid cow, why did you think this was a good idea? You can’t possibly maintain this. You don’t want to.
Emotions: Distressed, sad and frustrated.
Physical: Overly tired, achy and sluggish.

This is your brain furiously rejecting your new routine, because it’s a change to the norm. It usually lasts at least five days. Hang in there!

Stage two. By now we’re in week two and the aggressive symptoms have started to die down. However, they’re replaced with:

Sneaky Brain

Thoughts: You didn’t sleep so well last night, why don’t you take today off?
Emotions: Indifference and self-pity
Physical: Lethargic

Don’t be fooled, it’s a trick! Your brain is trying to sabotage everything with a new and kinder tactic. Keep going with your routine.

Stage three. Now we’re in the final week. We’re so close! Suddenly our brain becomes encouraging:

Positive brain

Thoughts: You’ve done so well, you should feel really proud. Why not treat yourself to a lie in as a reward?
Emotions: Satisfied, appeased and happy.
Physical: Relaxed

This is the part that normally gets me. But once again it’s a trick! It’s the final hurdle, so don’t stop now. This is your brain’s last ditch attempt to essentially kill the routine with kindness.

After week three your new habit will become much easier, almost like second nature. It’s a difficult slog, but if I can do it (and I’m a lazy cow), then believe me you all have a chance.

Top tips for dealing with the three areas of sabotage:
(I have listed these with the gym in mind, so adapt them to your situation).

  1. Be strict. Normally in life there is room for compromise, but when starting a new routine sticking to the plan 100% is vital. When the alarm goes off DON’T give yourself a moment to think, just get the f**k up. Or if you go after work, just go, no thinking.
  2. Incentives. Nothing works better on me than a bribe. E.g. I’ll make blueberry pancakes for breakfast before I go, (they only take ten minutes). I eat them whilst watching trashy TV.
  3. Future thinking. Try and think about how you want to feel later rather than how you feel now. There’s nothing worse than being disappointed with yourself, it’s demoralising. So when the negative thoughts start just think “I know I’ll feel proud of myself if I do it.”
  4. Rewards! When you’ve completed a session again reward yourself. I normally have a Starbucks coffee, (providing I don’t pay for it and leave)! Positive reinforcement is a great thing.

Happy February everyone! January is now behind us 😀



Categories: Anxiety

6 replies

  1. Hi Claire,

    Thank you for this!

    I’m currently trying out weight watchers and its just day 3, I NEED to hang in there!

    I don’t know what it’s about with the one year thing but it’s been a heat since my first panic attack and how I went into a zombie mode. I wasn’t even thinking about it but my brain must have subconsciously because I’m more panicky than usual and my brain reminded me that it was this time last year. I’ve woken up from my sleep very upset and panicky after months!

    As always, reading your blog helped so thank you!

    P.S: will you be attending the brick lane thing on the 11 Feb? And what time.

  2. Can totally relate to this! Especially sneaky brain!!

  3. Sneaky brain is the devil and what usually gets me! Ooh, you have a bit of a cough today, you need to relax and have a day off. Then my routine is smushed!

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