1. Spend several days tuning into your own self- talk. Become aware of the rationalizations and justifications you give yourself to avoid sticking to your plan. Then decide you will not listen to this talk and that you intend to be successful.
2. Make a list of positive phrases you can say to motivate yourself. Every day will bring many opportunities for you to get off track, and having a few positive and realistic lines of self-talk to use when these opportunities present themselves will be key to your success.
Examples: “Cigarettes are not your friend;” “You have power over alcohol; it does not own you;” or maybe “You’re feeling better than you have in years.”
3. use your new positive self-talk when in stressful or trigger situations. Keep the phrases that work, and discard those that don’t.
- Expect to experience heightened anxiety when choosing the new healthy behavior over the old unhealthy one. Remember that anxiety is only a feeling. It can’t hurt you. It will go away. Use your self-talk, and if all else fails remove yourself from the situation completely. An escape route is always an option.
- If anxiety is a problem, use a deep breathing technique. Take five slow, deep breaths, and remind yourself why you are making this lifestyle change.
- Utilize the “Thought-Stopping” technique. This is a strategy for stopping a negative or self-defeating thought in its tracks. The second you realize you are having one of those
thoughts, do two things: First, picture a large, red stop sign in your mind. Second, say “STOP” to yourself. This will help you clear your mind so you may proceed with replacing the thought with one that will assist you in meeting your goals. An alternative to the stop sign is to wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it gently when you find your thoughts are out of control. Either one will work until it becomes second nature for you.
- Use the “What If” technique. When we try to stop a negative habit, we may feel anxious, keyed-up, on edge. We might think the only way to make the feeling go away is to go back to the old negative habit. Ask yourself, “What if I don’t do that?” The answer is “I’ll feel uncomfortable, anxious.” Then ask yourself, “What happens if I feel uncomfortable and anxious?” The answer is, “Nothing will happen. Being uncomfortable or anxious cannot hurt me.” Then ask yourself, “What else can I do to help reduce this anxiety?” The “What if” technique helps us see that the anxiety that comes from not doing the negative behavior may be uncomfortable, but nothing more. Adapted with permission from The Emotional First Aid Kit: A Practical Guide to Life after Bariatric Surgery (©2009 Matrix Medical Communications) by Cynthia Alexander, PsyD