Friday, 09 August 2013 08:10

The Art of Change: How to Embrace the Discomfort of Change

By Meghan Lemery | Families Today

As I was recently having dinner with a dear friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in months, I noticed her skin was bright and pink, her eyes clear, and she seemed to exude peace and confidence. 

“You look amazing, what is going on?” I asked her, anxious for her to pass on her beauty secret. “I’m dating a trainer and I now work out four days a week, you have to try it.”

Now, I love to break a good sweat, and my best friend and I have a ritual of power walking a few times a week together. This means we put on workout clothes and walk really fast up and down Broadway perusing the best buys. But the truth was, I was feeling a little unmotivated to do much of anything lately except inhale any carbohydrate within a 100-mile radius. I definitely needed a skip in my step and wanted to increase my energy level. The next day I called my pal’s new crush and begin the journey of “training,” (aka Pure Torture).

“Let’s start with legs,” my new coach said. Having been a fantastic field hockey player over 20 years ago, I was certain this would be easy. By the third squat thrust I felt my legs twitch, and by the seventh I face-planted into the mat. I was certain my Maker was coming to get me out of this hell, so I waited patiently with my face buried into the mat that smelled of stale sweat and testosterone. 

Trainer stands over me and yells, “Move it, Lemery, this is not for sissies. Get up.” 

I slowly lifted my head up and replied, “Excuse me Trainer, if we are going to work together I feel you need to speak respectfully to me. I am very uncomfortable with your tone of voice.” 

“Listen Chatty Kathy, talking about your feelings won’t get you into your skinny jeans. Now, move.” 

Gasp. He did not just go there. 

After my “session” I crawled on my elbows to my car because I had lost all feeling in my legs. I then called my neighbor and asked if I could borrow her shower chair and walker for a few weeks. Luckily, she had an extra set of both and I was able to get around even if I could not sit without feeling like my legs would fall off. 

The next day we did arms. After that session I tried to put my mascara on only to see my hand shake and twitch so bad that I could only manage to get half an eye covered. This was getting ugly. Literally.

Day three, I was certain we would do shoulders and back with bamboo shoots under my nails to burn extra calories. No matter how bad I wanted to fit into my skinny jeans, this was so not fun.

Change, even good change, is hard. Whether it’s the decision to exercise more, eat healthy, walk away from a toxic relationship, job, or kick a nasty habit, change is rarely easy—especially in the first few weeks.

The best way to make lasting, healthy changes in your life is to do it slowly and consistently. Trying to change all at once can be overwhelming and stressful (refer to self induced torture above).

When we first start out to make a change, we have motivation cheering us along on our new path. But when we really get into the work of pushing the change through, we can become disheartened. Having a plan of action is essential to seeing any healthy change through.

 

Write it Down:

If your goal is to shed some pounds and firm up, put it on paper. Writing your goals down helps you become focused and is a great reminder of what it is that you are working toward. Pick out a picture of something or someone that inspires you in staying on the path of healthy change. Post your goals and picture where you can see it every day. Visualize yourself looking and feeling healthy and strong. 

 

Chill Out:

Making long lasting healthy changes is a process. Recognize that the first few weeks are the toughest. During this phase, make it a point to chill out and plan time for relaxation and rest. If we don’t take the time to refuel our bodies and rejuvenate our spirits, we can easily fall off the wagon. Make sure you go to bed at a decent hour and take the time you need to unwind and de-stress.

 

Support Team:

Have an emergency list of pals who know what your goals are. When you need a pep talk, seek out your support team for encouragement. Know that you can’t do this alone, lean on loved ones for support and help when you feel yourself backsliding.

Know Your Limits:

We all have bad days. If you are feeling discouraged about pushing your change through, recognize it and give yourself a pass to have a lousy day. When my buff pal called to tell me how proud she was that I was surviving boot camp with her new squeeze, I replied in Sybil-like fashion, “Anything you say in this moment can and will be held against you.”

That is code for “I am having a bad day and will pick a fight with you to unleash my negative mojo.”

It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself when trying to meet your goals. Have a pity party, and then pick yourself up, dust off the negativity and keep going.

 

Be Real:

The truth of the matter is I am not a boot camp kind of girl. Having someone push me to engage in activities that cause my muscles to twitch and contort is not exactly bliss. That being said, be real with yourself. If you are someone who loves a more mild type of exercise environment, take a yoga or dance class. Do something healthy that is fun and enjoyable, and be honest with yourself if your current plan of action is leaving you feeling discouraged or adding more stress to your life.

I now have a few weeks under my belt in pursuing my goal of health. While those first few weeks were torture, I definitely have more energy and feel more focused in my day. I don’t need a walker anymore, but do keep the shower chair for bad days. Now I can actually do 10 squat thrusts without hyperventilating or face-planting. I do realize, however, that I am someone who prefers napping and yoga to pumping iron in the gym. And while it’s great to have a coach cheer you along the path, I am definitely more suited for gentle guidance and encouragement. Making this realization helped me to really take the time to think about the activities that make me feel restored and refreshed, rather than exhausted and moody. 

Whatever change you want to make, have a plan in place and remember, change is a process. You can do it. Call me if you want to borrow the walker or shower chair. 

Wishing you strength and health today and always.

Ms. Lemery is a psychotherapist practicing in Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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