How to Deal with a Relapse When You’re Building Habits

Most people who try to start a new diet, exercise routine or any new habit encounter a relapse — straying off the path or indulging in bad behavior. When you’re building good habits, momentum is extremely crucial. As a result, a relapse can throw a serious spanner into the works. It could make you feel like weeks or months of good work has gone to waste, and it might discourage some people from adopting a new habit altogether. How do you deal with a relapse?

The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with a relapse. Most people who try to better themselves deal with this problem. Before you fall off the wagon entirely, know that relapses are common. Even the most strong-willed people occasionally give in and do something they shouldn’t have. Every relapse is a chance to learn something about yourself. With that in mind, here are some ways you can go about dealing with a relapse.

  1. Use it as a chance for self-reflection.

A lot of people don’t acknowledge relapses. They live in denial and go about their lives as if the relapse never happened. This isn’t a good strategy because the circumstances that lead you to relapse once might occur again, and you won’t have the mental fortitude to deal with it. Instead, whenever you relapse, stop and think about what happened. Try to understand the causes and inputs that veered you off the path.

  1. Allow yourself to feel bad.

Whether you’re shirking your habit a week later or six months down the line, give yourself the chance to feel angry or frustrated when you relapse. It’s OK. Accept the feeling and let it run its course. You will emerge stronger from the experience.

  1. Forgive yourself.

You’re only human, and every human being makes mistakes. After you’ve acknowledged your feelings, take the time to forgive yourself for slipping up. Mistakes are a part of your experience. They’re the challenges that you need to overcome as you become a better version of yourself. You’ll make mistakes in the future too. It’s not the end of the world. Give yourself a mental hug.

  1. Go back to the source.

If you’re feeling despair about a relapse, try to think of the reason you took up this new habit in the first place. Was it because you wanted to be happier, healthier and more successful? The reason you took up a habit is important because it will become your guiding light in dark times. Use your original intention to center yourself when you’ve strayed from the path.

  1. Take some action.

So you messed up and did something you shouldn’t have. Where do you go from here? What’s the smallest thing you can do right now to get yourself back on track? It could be something as simple as eating a bowl of greens after you’ve eaten too much ice-cream. You could do a quick set of body weight squats if you’ve been skipping gym for a week. Find some positive action that’s easy to do, and do it.

  1. Don’t dwell on the past.

All of the mistakes you’ve made up to this point don’t matter. The only thing that matters is where you go from here. Think of your life as a movie that is beginning right now. What would the protagonist of the movie do? Once you’ve found the answer to that question, do it. The past is the past. Let it go.

  1. Think of the relapse as an important milestone.

If you’ve committed to working out, why did you end up relapsing? If you desperately wanted to lose weight, what made you eat an entire cake on your couch? Often, people think of relapses as a sign that they’re weak or that they have no willpower. Instead, think about it like this – maybe the way you were going about building this new habit was faulty. Maybe you tried to do too much too soon and your body just couldn’t keep up. Use relapses as an opportunity to see how your habits affect your lifestyle, and make little tweaks to them so you don’t end up in this situation again.

If you’re looking to build better habits, you will have to deal with relapses. Think of them as a test of your commitment and fortitude. With the tips mentioned above, you can turn each relapse into a positive experience that will help you get better at building productive habits.


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