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Monday, January 3, 2011

Mystic Monday

Resolutions - Making Them Stick!

I wasn’t sure what to blog about, but tweaking this month’s interview questions got me to thinking about Resolutions. Many of us make them, and most of us struggle to keep them or fail miserably.

It’s pretty much the same with diets or other life changes. We try and inevitably we fail.


Well, from what the experts and my own experience tells me, we try too much too fast – our bodies and our mind just can’t adapt fast enough.

Yes, we can by nature, adapt to many different things, but when you add the stress of changing what you’re used to, forget it!

This led me to wonder why, after all of my failed attempts, did I finally manage to quit drinking soda, and caffeine in general?

I realized because it was the only bad habit I focused on, so all of my efforts went into correcting just one bad habit, not two or three. Plus, it helped a lot that I sort of, “got to know my body” without caffeine before I began to consider any other bad habits.

I know, it sounds strange, but my body seems radically different now that I’m not drinking Coca Cola. At this point, I know the caffeine had something to do with it, but I’m feeling the exhaustion and stiffness so much more now than I was before. It’s not pain, but exhaustion and stiffness. I’m tired all the time. I can sleep 12 hours, get up and fall asleep 4 hours later or sooner.

However, there are days where I fall asleep before 10pm, sleep until 1 or 2am and then I’m up all day long. Of course, I’m dragging. So basically, I’m tired all the time and my muscles are always stiff.

Because of the depth of these physical issues, I need to let my body, and my mind get its bearings before I even think of the next bad habit I want to fix. The stiffness and exhaustion are very emotionally stressful, so if I’m not prepared enough to handle that on a day-to-day basis and slog through my day, any change I do make could compromise all the good I’ve done so far. I have yet to have a set back with soda yet, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think, “I could really go for a soda right now,” or, “I wasn’t feeling this tired all the time when I was drinking soda…”

You know what, that may be true, the caffeine in the soda kept me “up” all the time. In fact, the “up” was so bad that I had a terrible time winding down at the end of a day and suffered from regular bouts of insomnia.

It’s been almost 3 months with no soda and about 2 without caffeine altogether – outside of the minute traces in tiny pieces of chocolate here and there – and my sleeping habits are more erratic than they’ve ever been. It was one thing to be able to sleep during the day, wake up at about 3pm to start my day, but my current sleeping pattern is ridiculous. I fall asleep somewhere between 9 and 10pm - usually in a chair – wake up somewhere between 1 to 2am, end up awake for a couple of hours anywhere until about 10am, get exhausted and fall asleep in my bed for a few more hours (3 or 4). But that’s not the worst of it. There are days - like this past Saturday – where I can sleep all day with the exception to get up and pee and drink water.

I admit I used to sleep like this on the weekends when I was younger (couldn’t during the week because I had school and I wasn’t working yet). At least once or twice a month, I would be so tired that I would sleep all night Friday night, get up the next morning, pee and eat, then turn right back around and go to bed and sleep for the rest of the day – maybe waking up at dinner time. I would pee and eat if I was hungry, but I wasn’t always, and then go back to bed. I wouldn’t feel like myself until late Sunday night, sometimes Monday morning.

We never figured out why this occurred because by the time I got into 7th grade, I had a lot more homework, especially over the weekends, and needed the caffeine to stay awake and function, especially since I began exhibiting night owl tendencies then already. It was always easier for me to sleep during the day than at night. Plus, I haven’t met an alarm I couldn’t sleep through. If mom didn’t wake me up every morning, I never would have made it to school…ever! My alarm would be blaring away, and I’m still out like a light. She had to physically shake me awake. It’s always been annoying.

I’ve talked to people about it over the years, and they had assumed that it had something to do with the caffeine. Well, I’m drinking any caffeine and it’s still an issue.

So what now?

Well, I want to tackle some of my other bad eating habits next, but I’m going to give things another month to see if my sleeping patterns are able to correct themselves. It’s quite possible that this goofy schedule is just something my body needs to go through while it fully adjusts to no caffeine and no soda. It doesn’t help that I’m still clogged – though seeing remarked improvement – and my ears are itchy.

As usual, I slipped off topic slightly, but I hope you'll see what I'm getting at, if not, I'll clarify. You need to remember that a bad habit isn't developed over night, but over a period of weeks, months or even years and isn't something you break in a day or two, sometimes, it does take weeks or months to truly break a bad habit.

The trick about bad habits is that you have to realize it's also about retraining your body and mind, including your very thought processes. For example, if you plan on quitting smoking, you'll probably gain weight because we always substitute one addiction for another. So, you have to find something you can retrain your brain to want instead of said bad habit.

I realize it's a bit more complicated than training your brain to want carrots or pretzels instead of cigarettes, but it is essentially just that. Sure, there's that pesky nicotine to deal with, but you have to realize that there are 2 parts an addiction. You have to consider every time you do this bad habit - such as smoking after eating, or on break at work etc. - and start first by replacing one specific instance of smoking a cigarette with something else - chewing gum, eating a couple of pretzels, eating a carrot, whatever. The longer you've been smoking, or performing said bad habit, the more ingrained into your behavior it is, so you need to give your body time to adjust with the one less smoking instance and get used to the new activity.

It takes work to give up any addiction, every day you need to be vigilant about the way you deal with it, or you will find yourself slipping. That's the thing with certain addictions or habits, there's two parts to tackle. It isn't just about dealing with an addiction to nicotine or caffeine, it's about the set habits of when you perform the bad habit that makes it even harder to quit.

Case in point, I find that while I don't necessarily miss the caffeine in my diet, I miss having that bubbly, caramely beverage with a meal, or when I have popcorn. Water is lacking. However, if I were to start drinking carbonated water, that would put on a slippery slope I don't want to be on because it's just one step away from drinking that soda. I have to adjust to being without that bubbly beverage when I eat, plain and simple.

That's the trick with any bad habit, you have to gradually replace instances of the bad habit with instances of the good one - gradually. I'd say about 2 to 3 weeks is a good length of time from one small step to the next. That's about how I did it. I first stopped drinking soda and instead drank tea as highly caffeinated as the soda and gave myself some time to get used to it. Then, because it really wasn't the caffeine I wanted, but the soda, my caffeine in take gradually became replaced with water. Now, I drink virtually 0 caffeine a day.

To put things into full perspective:
I've been trying to lose weight for years, and not succeeding. I've had the excuse of an under-active thyroid being the culprit - so not the case. I had to look at everything. Since my Coca Cola addiction seemed to be the worst of my bad eating habits, I started with that. All of my other bad habits are tied to it.

I find that, now that I don't drink soda, I do not have outright regular cravings for candy bars anymore. I used to consume candy bars and Coca Cola hand-in-hand. So, in a way, I've really dealt with two addictions by eliminating the one.

This is why it's so important to fully understand how all of your bad habits work. Knowing how connected your bad habits are to one another, you'll be able to devise a game plan that will set you up to succeed rather than fail.

With that, I’m zonked, so I’m headed for a nap.

What about you? What bad habits have you resolved to get eliminate from your life this year? What's your plan of attack on being successful with your New Year’s Resolution(s)?

1 Moonbeams (comments):

Sheila Deeth said...

Drinking coffee as I read... :)

My resolution is to get more organized, as per Sage Cohen's book which I've just read. She's visiting my blog today, offering a free copy.