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4 Tips to Stay Motivated When Your Life is Turned Upside Down

By Richelle Epstein.


I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "Food is the most overused anxiety drug and exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant."


How do you care for yourself in times of crisis?


We can have the best of plans and intentions for both health and fitness, and what our life will look like... yet it can turn upside down in an instant. Sending you spiraling down into unknown and turbulent waters with nothing to hold onto.


Grief is an ugly and unpredictable beast. Yesterday was a super tough day for me.


Backstory... My husband passed away unexpectedly at 39 years old about a year and a half ago, leaving me as a single parent to my four girls ages (ages 11-15).


Every grieving person's situation is unique and every individual's grief path is their own. There's not magic formula for coping. There's no perfect manual with your specifics instructions for survival.  But I want to share how I've been able to not just survive but also THRIVE through what life has thrown at me. And maybe it will be something you can use too. 


I like to compare my grief to an onion. Peeling back layer after layer. I don't really know what will trigger the next peeling layer. And I don't really know what that layer will look like. The layers seem to get smaller in size as I journey forward.


I feel I am close to the core. I have come so far. I am not ashamed to say this proudly and confidently.


It's been tough, sometimes excruciating work. And yesterday was a particularly rotten, black layer that I found. When these dark layers hit me it is always extremely difficult to pull myself out. 


I decided from the beginning of my journey not to use any medications or prescriptions to cope (although I know they work for some & I have nothing against others using them). I chose to use weightlifting & cardio as my therapy & drug.


And I'm succeeding!


It's been a struggle, clawing, scratching, digging into the climb. Some days just trying to not fall off the cliff. And somedays slipping back a few feet. But it is one that I've been determined to conquer on my own.


So yesterday was dragging me down hard and fast. I tried my normal mental & physical tools. Replacing my negative thoughts with positive ones, hugging my mom, taking a nap, setting the big life items to the side for the moment to just concentrate on steering my brain back to level.


But it wasn't until I got my evening workout in that I turned that corner. And that was NOT an easy task. I had a million legitimate reasons to not go. Despite those, I forced myself to get dressed and got in the car knowing I would feel better after it was done.


Just get there. Just get there...


I always remind myself of the after-feel when it gets tough to go to the gym.


Then once I pulled into the parking lot, I sat in the car for a long time running through excuses to not go in. Again, reminding myself of the after-feeling. I promised myself, "You only have to walk 1 mile then you can leave." I know I will most likely do more, but this is how I keep from being so overwhelmed that I give up.


Just walk inside. Just walk inside…


I go in and battle my mind in the locker room. I finally get to the treadmill and walk my 1 mile. I start to feel a little release so I run 1 mile then 2. At this point my body has released more stress and I move on to lifting weights.


Most days I kind of enjoy talking with other people between my sets. But on these days, my music is loud. My hat is low. My head is down. My thoughts are cloudy and consuming. And many early days (very few now) tears would be running down my face.


But the lifting is what I need. I lift heavy and intensely.


My frustration and pain leak out into the weights. It is therapy. It is release.


It is my formula for not just surviving but being able to thrive. Being able to care for my children both physically and emotionally carrying them. Fitness has been my antidepressant and therapy and fuel for years now. It is a choice because I value myself. I can't control life but I CAN control myself and how I choose to deal with it. I want my girls to see this example.


So, what do you do when life throws you a curveball? When it turns upside down and you're barely able to breathe? Where do you turn? How do you keep your health in check through it?  


Here are some tips:


1. Remind yourself of your goal. What do you TRULY want health-wise? We each need to have these set ahead of time. And press them hard into our brains so they are solid when chaos hits. 


2. Tell yourself "I am WORTHY of that goal!" And CAPABLE. You MUST reinforce this truth to yourself over and over. It doesn't matter what anyone else is doing, saying, thinking. You have to value yourself FIRST. It is your choice alone.


3. Have a plan. But stay flexible. We all need a plan. But sometimes we need to be flexible to flow with life as well. Don't stress it, just adjust so you're still moving forward, maybe just working around the curve.


4. Pinpoint what you need to do just TODAY to get one step closer. What is your one next move? Always moving forward. Pause to rest maybe, but then inch forward. Crawling if you must. But move! 


5. Rehearse in your mind all the positive feelings you will receive if you accomplish this today. And then also all the negative feelings if you choose not to take that one step. We all have these feelings from past experiences. Relive those in your mind. 


4. Tell your brain to SHUT UP & SIT DOWN. Our brains are so powerful to push us in either direction. In stressful times they usually pull us back and down. Choose which direction you're moving in. Totally your choice.  You will have yourself to be proud of or yourself to be disappointed in.  NO EXCUSES! 


Life is tough. For everyone. We all have stress.


Even if grieving is not your path right now, life is full of tough situations you must navigate. We all fight the battle between our minds desiring one outcome yet pulling us toward the opposite result.


Set your mind straight before the next wave of life hits. Then when it does, you can weather the storm with more strength and purpose.


This will always benefit you and those you are closest to.


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