We all read about how important it is to exercise to improve your health. Not just for our physical health but also our mental health.

And yet, you may find it hard to make time for exercise for all sorts of reasons. Some of those reasons may run more deep than you know or expect. This can be the case when you are finding it particularly hard to make time for exercise to improve your health AND you realise you most likely have the time.

I have that issue. I say ‘have’ rather than ‘had’ as I am not sure I wholly cracked it yet. But I am definitely working on making the time to exercise. So I want to share with your how this issue of mine runs more deeply than you might expect. To raise awareness that this can be the case with a change you are finding particularly hard to make. And what you can do about it.

In writing this, I am using the word ‘exercise’ to cover all kinds of physical movement. So if the word ‘exercise’ bothers you, substitute it with physical movement. Also, I am assuming you can do some amount of physical movement within the constraints of the illness or injury you live with.

Last week I wrote about how my issue with my achievement cycle, time and prioritising were some of the key obstacles for me to exercise. But my issue with time goes even deeper and this wasn’t helping me make time to exercise to improve my health.

It has to do with my work ethic and my family.

Read about how patterns of behaviour in your family can hold you back from making a #change you want for yourself #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury tell a friend

My family has a strong work ethic. I mean, really strong. And this runs through both my mother’s and father’s families. In fact, I read in a book about my fifth great grandfather where it refers to the fact that he and his sons were known for their work ethic. That was a bit freaky to read. Five generations back the work ethic was hard at work!

In my family, our job is to work and work hard. It leaves little time for much else, even if the ‘else’ is something we really want to do. My family wears its work ethic like a badge of pride. And for some of us it’s coupled with the perfectionism badge. A double whammy.

Picture of a woman wearing a work ethic badge and a perfectionism badge. She wants to take off the perfectionism badge so she can wear the exercise badge. This woman wants to make time to exercise as it is important. Exercise to improve your health.

The serious illness I had challenged my work ethic

I could not work to the extent I did before. Fatigue and pain would not let me and I needed a lot more rest than I ever used to. When I returned to work, I noticed I did as much work as I could in the three days I was working though!

Over the years the fatigue lessened and wasn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. I noticed the number of hours I work in a day crept upwards. I wondered about lessening my work ethic, taking my foot off that gas pedal. But that felt odd.

I felt like I wouldn’t be me in a sense. And I would certainly be setting myself apart from my family. I fully appreciate that may sound odd to you. Let me explain.

Sometimes things happen, and they may happen more than once to you but you cannot explain it. Or you repeat a behaviour again and again but you don’t know why. You might even see the same thing happening to family members. The issue may have been around for a good part of your life.


Chances are it can be a systemic issue

A systemic issue is bigger than you. It’s part of the system(s) of which are a member. A system can be a family system, a work system, your network of friends are a system, there’s the benefits system, the NHS, you get the idea. You are part of a several systems and actions other members of a system take will impact you in some way and your actions will impact them. We are all inter-connected.

A systemic issue isn’t a bad thing. It just points to where to look to start resolving the issue.

The work ethic in my family is a systemic issue

And it feels like the work ethic has been taking up all my available time and energy. That was not helping me to make time to exercise. The time exercise would take was conflicting with the needs of the long-entrenched issue of work ethic.

The work ethic in my family provides a function, which ties in with my issues of my achievement cycle and prioritising.

I haven’t fully unpacked the function(s) work ethic plays in my family, but what I have learned is to care for my intention to do something that really matters to me, like exercising to enhance my health. And giving myself permission to care for that intention and act on it. To do that, I had to let go of ‘being perfect’ as that was giving way too much fuel to the work ethic.

Caring for your intention to do something that really matters to you is important

Giving yourself permission to care for that intention and to act on it is also important

A question to ask yourself is:

What are the relationships like between me, the change I wish to make and my intention to make that change?

They are three distinct elements when it comes to the change you wish to make.

Picture of a woman sitting down considering the relationships between you the change you want to make and your intention to make that change when you want to make time to exercise to improve your health

After reading my story there you probably think I’m a basket case and there’s no hope regarding my ability to make time to exercise. That’s ok if you do.

I’m sharing my story to demonstrate why change can sometimes be difficult to make no matter how much you want to make the change. There can be some pretty deep-seated stuff happening that is getting in the way.

Many people shy away from issues that feel deep. They are afraid that they will open Pandora’s box. Uncovering and working through that deep-seated stuff can be emotional at times. But actually, rather than scary, it can be very empowering. You make that discovery of the reasons that have been causing you disbelief, pain, disappointment or something else. It’s a relief to because you then know what you need to change.

You have greater self-awareness, which gives you more choices

And the solution to these kind of issues can be simple

Even for all that deep-seated stuff, the solution can be surprisingly simple. You’ve done the hard work already by working through everything to get to the solution. Implementing the solution can feel easier.

There can be some pretty deep-seated stuff that gets in the way of you making the change you want for yourself. But when you work through it all, you can find the solution is simple. Read more about it here #wellness Click To Tweet

I say to clients who can exercise that ‘exercise to improve your health is important’

I was conscious that I was wanting to do more exercise to improve my health as I was saying that. I have started to exercise. Yay me!

I came across this do it at home boot camp via Twitter. The boot camp lasts 6 weeks and I am two-thirds of the way through it. I’ve exercised nearly every day and if I missed a day, it was usually because I had a long meeting that day requiring travel or was on a course. Then I would do two exercise routines the following day to keep pace with the programme.

I typically do the exercise routine first thing in the morning before I start work. It has the highest priority. That way, I know I’ve done it.

There are a group of people taking part and we all started and will finish the boot camp on the same day. I belong to this group and being part of a group that is working towards the same goal works for me.

There is a closed Facebook group for everyone taking part in the boot camp where we can share what we’ve done or not done, what we are succeeding at and what we are finding difficult. It’s very supportive. This caters to my extraversion preference.

I am noticing results. My jeans are a little looser. My knee pain from osteoarthritis is less. My walking is a little less laboured. I am loving the endorphin rush I get every morning from the exercise.

I am proud I am maintaining the discipline to get up early and do the day’s exercise routine first thing. Maintaining the discipline is important to me.

Discipline enables you to make exercise to improve your health a habit

My other half tells me he notices how disciplined I am and that there is less of me, and it’s good to have that external validation.

It’s becoming a virtuous cycle where my progress feeds my motivation to continue.

And you know what. It doesn’t take loads of time. About 45 minutes every morning. I always had the time. By figuring out what was getting in the way, working through that and taking the step by signing up for the boot camp, I was able to get started.

So when making a change in your life like making time to exercise to improve your health, consider these points

If making the change feels hard on some level and there is no rational explanation for that, it could be a systemic issue that has been shaped by habits, norms of behaving and events which have happened over the years and generations even in your family.

Sometimes it can be several inter-related issues which hold you back from making a change. Figuring these out can make implementing the change easier and make it more sustainable over the longer term.

Like I said last week, ensure the change you are making fits with your motivations.

Set up a routine to make the change happen. A routine can help you maintain discipline. Discipline makes the change into a long-term habit.

Feedback from others is great. It can feed your motivation. Just don’t rely on external feedback and validation 100%. Have your own measures for progress too.

It’s ok to start small. Small is achievable. You can build up over time.

Work within the symptoms your body experiences whether that is pain, fatigue, etc. You don’t want to exacerbate them to the point you can no longer do what you wish to be doing.

And connect to that part of your soul which gives you permission to make the change you really want for yourself.

Quote by Return To Wellness - Connect to the part of your soul which gives you permission to make the change you want for yourself, to make the time to exercise to improve your health

What’s it like for you?

What have you done to make the time to exercise to improve your health? Or to make another change in your life? What obstacles did you have to overcome? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

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