by stresswinner on January 5, 2010

What ever we resolve on New Year’s Eve, many resolutions soon bite the dust once we’re under stress. But failures and relapses are always part of successful permanent change — for instance, smokers on average need six tries before totally breaking free. When you have a problem keeping your resolution, ask yourself if it’s a mistake, a partial relapse or a full relapse. Imagine having resolved to lose weight, then finding yourself eating a cookie at bedtime. You pick up the second cookie — and suddenly realize what you’ve done and drop it. But if you eat it, then finish the whole bag — this is a partial relapse. A full relapse is when you allow the partial relapse to go on and on for weeks.

Try visualizing temptation as a big hole lying in wait along your way. A mistake” means you slip on loose gravel at the edge. But you recover and carry on. A partial relapse means you do fall in the hole — but you quickly climb out and keep going. A full relapse simply means you get further into the hole, but you can still climb out! Setbacks are actually useful — a chance to learn something new. If you give in to an urge to over eat or smoke, or watch TV instead of exercising, then think about exactly what you said to yourself, what was going on in your life — then try something different next time. If you learn from it, a mistake or lapse is not failure, it’s an essential part of progress to your goal. When learning to ski, you make progress, build confidence and go
faster. Then bam, you tumble, but you’re still a better skier than you were.

If you’re having trouble changing, check your motivation out of 10. If it’s not 10, look for hidden reasons which will hold you  back. Ask yourself: “Am I really prepared to do what it takes to change?” You probably won’t have to do anything really drastic, because habits are best changed a little at a time — but you have to be willing to! Some tools to use for relapse prevention: Relaxation can help you outlast temptations. Take three slow breaths, let your muscles go loose close your eyes and vividly picture the urge evaporating, replaced by a feeling of contentment and power. When faced with a craving consider the option of giving in, ending up in thehole, feeling miserable and guilty. Or, see yourself moving forward past the hole, avoiding the relapse — and feeling good about yourself as you leave it behind. It’s your choice. After a “mistake,” get back on track immediately. If you eat too much, you can get up and take a long walk. Identify painful emotional feelings and find better ways to let them out. Criticize your actions, but don’t run your whole self down. Decide to believe that you really are worth the effort. Remember that striving for self improvement helps give life purpose and happiness. Lapses are normal, but to make resolutions last: 1. Write them down; 2. Make plans; 3. Get started; 4. Hang in.
As Winston Churchill said: “Never give in! Never give in! Never, Never, Never, Never — in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

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