Overcoming Setbacks to Attain Wellness


Let’s face it, nobody’s perfect. You want to cut back on sugar but that Nutty Heaven bar wouldn’t take no for an answer. You got sick and missed a workout. You got busy and skipped a meal or chose a less healthy fast food option.

If we hold ourselves to impossible standards, there is a temptation to give up when we don’t measure up. In fact, when we think about our wellness in terms of “achieving,” “measuring up to” or “conquering” goals, we risk setting up an all-or-nothing dynamic that can be very discouraging. By contrast, thinking of well-being as a set of new habits or pathways can encourage us to keep trying even when we face setbacks.

Update your goals

Rather than give up if your goal seems out of reach, consider re-framing. Are your goals SMART?  Do they involve creating new habits that lead to health?   It’s also important to consider whether your goal is about helping yourself thrive or meeting someone else’s expectations.

Give yourself a break

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Changing habits is a surprisingly difficult process. Our brains become very accustomed to doing things a certain way, and while our brains are also amazingly capable of learning and developing new neural pathways, it takes a lot of repetition to create a new habit. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again!

Use “Friction”

Check out this episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast for a fascinating discussion of how to make new habits stick (audio and transcript).  Experts suggest using “friction” to make it easier to change your habits – make it harder to do the thing you want to avoid and make it easy to do the thing you want to encourage. For example, pre-cut carrot sticks go at the front of the fridge, and unhealthy snack food goes in the back (or doesn’t go in the grocery cart at all). Here are some other ideas:

  • sleep in your workout clothes
  • pack your lunch the night before
  • put your healthy meal recipe on the counter
  • pre-print a stack of shopping lists
  • keep a zero-waste shopping kit in your vehicle or bag

Ask for Help

Talking to friends and family about your wellness can help alleviate stress and feelings of inadequacy. They can also provide support, encouragement and advice. You should also consider talking to your medical practitioner if you have any questions or concerns about your health. They can help you develop a program that works for you. Our customer service desk also has a wealth of resources, including guides like Eating Well on Budget, Healthy Snack Book, Wellness Guide, and more.