I know what to do, so why can't I follow through?

Maybe you can relate...  

My nervous system is highly active.  Things that don't bother the average person are uncomfortable for me.  Things that are uncomfortable for most feel like pain to me.  I am also very easily distracted by both my environment and my overactive mind.

I've scanned through any number of self-help books over the years and tried all kinds of alternative therapies, but nothing really stuck.  I tried counseling a few times, but I was generally more analytical than the therapist so we never got very far.  I have an arsenal of wellness strategies at my disposal.  I know some of them might help, but it's so difficult to stick to anything consistently.

I always believed that there was a connection between my ADHD tendencies and chronic pain and fatigue (diagnosed as Fibromyalgia and Adrenal Fatigue), because they both seemed to be a function of difficulty filtering out information from my senses.  Only recently has there been the beginnings of research to support this, such as this article, which connects them both as an issue of the nervous system.  Unfortunately, when your nervous system is having difficulty filtering stuff out, it can also be difficult to regulate your response to your environment.

Self-Regulation and Chronic Pain

According to Steven Stosny of Psychology Today, "Behaviorally, self-regulation is the ability to act in your long-term best interest, consistent with your deepest values. (Violation of one's deepest values causes guilt, shame, and anxiety, which undermine well being.) Emotionally, self-regulation is the ability to calm yourself down when you're upset and cheer yourself up when you're down."

If you struggle with self-regulation, you are more vulnerable to a host of stress related issues and illness.  In turn, if you have chronic pain or fatigue, your self-regulation reserves are limited.   Almost all of the things we know to help increase wellness and decrease pain involve creating consistent positive habits.  Creating new habits requires a significant degree of self-regulation.

So what now?

I first wrote about this issue on my Leaving the Food Matrix blog last year.  All of the things I shared in that post still ring true to me.  As I've continued to read more about self-regulation and habit change, some additional strategies have come up.

Know your purpose!

Know your purpose and values - In order to act in our own long-term best interest, we must know where we are trying to go.  Taking the time to really examine our deepest values and purpose will help keep us on track.

Understand how needs are different from strategies - This is a key in Nonviolent Communication, which I believe is a helpful tool in not only communicating with others, but in communicating with yourself.  If you can understand the underlying needs that drive your actions, then you can find better strategies to meet those needs.  Even the ineffectual things you do are an attempt to meet a need.  For example, if I browse Facebook way too long, I might be trying to meet a need for rest, but there are many more strategies that could meet that need more effectively.

Automatize - The easier you make a new habit, the easier it will be to maintain.  Use structure, routine and scheduling to work things into your daily plan.  If you want to access something daily, place it where you can get to it without effort.

Give yourself a break - You may think everyone around you is doing so much more than you, but I can assure you they also think there are ten thousand things they should be doing that they aren't.  Everyone has their own strengths and we tend to overvalue what we don't have and undervalue what we do.  Remember that what you have to offer is viewed as extremely valuable by someone else.  Also, when it comes to our own health, comparing ourselves to others is never productive.

Take care of the ones you love by taking care of yourself - I mentioned this in my last post, but I think it's important enough to share again.  Your family will not remember all the cleaning you did and laundry you folded.  What they will remember is how you made them feel.  If you take the time to take care of yourself, you will be more available for the ones you love and act as a role model for taking care of themselves.

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Photos courtesy of Guy Holzman Photography