During a routine visit, your doctor tells you that you have high blood pressure. Panic-stricken, you join a gym, buy an annual pass to a yoga studio, and hire a nutritionist. After doing all of those things, you take your blood pressure, and it’s even higher than before. You ask yourself, “What is happening? I’m determined to lower my blood pressure, but it won’t go down!”
If you’ve ever been in a situation like this, you have experienced the frustration that comes when you are driven to hit a health goal, go to extremes to try and get there, and then the opposite occurs. Perhaps, you’re trying too hard.
One of the reasons Ayurvedic medicine, meditation, and hatha yoga can be so beneficial is that these healthy practices help you to gently coax your body back to health, and not to shock it. In the Western mindset of “more is better,” you can actually experience burnout while trying to get healthy, which, of course, defeats the purpose of your quest in the first place.
Here are five signs you might be overcommitted to your health goals. If you find yourself in this place, simply take a step back and make adjustments as needed to keep your sanity:
1. Frequently Checking Your Fitness Devices
Stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body, and the cause of that stress can come from multiple sources, including having too many things on your to-do list. Yet, in an effort to do everything you can to get healthy, you add in a fitness tracker app that tracks your nutrition and fitness and provides data analysis to see if you are on top of things. Moreover, you might even wear a device 24/7 to:
- Track your sleep
- Tell you when to meditate
- Give you a little buzzing shock when you’re not moving enough
Talk about stressful. The issue is not the device designed to help you stay healthy, but in the stress and obsessive behavior that can come with trying to live up to a goal that a manufacturer has set for you. In addition, you might even fall prey to being too reliant on your heart rate monitor or GPS running tracker that if they run out of batteries or you don’t get a signal, you feel like you can’t exercise without them. In reviewing fitness devices, it’s common to see genuine rage in reviewers whose devices didn’t work to their expectations. Getting angry over your electronic fitness device is probably not making you healthier.
The alternative? Try alternating your workouts and eating with mindfulness. Ditch the devices a couple of days a week and exercise until you feel genuine fatigue. Eat a meal in silence, and eat slowly so you can learn how your body feels as it’s getting full.
2. Being Too Clean
As an adult, you tell your kids to wash their hands as they sing through the entire song of the ABC’s. When you enter the grocery store, there are antibacterial wipes to wipe down the cart. When you’re at the gym, there is alcohol-based hand sanitizer at every workout station, and an anti-bacterial spray bottle to douse every machine after each use. Everywhere you go, it seems there is a push to make bacteria vanish. There’s an expectation you have to be ultra-clean.
Combine this with the overuse of antibiotics, anti-bacterial products, and antibiotics in animal feed, and there are many strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that exist today. According to the National Institutes of Health, all of these factors may limit development of immunities to environmental antigens in both children and adults. Your immune-system versatility may be compromised due to infections that normally wouldn’t be virulent.
The alternative? Get dirty once in a while. In a 2009 New York Times article, Dr. Ruebush, author of Why Dirt is Good explains that most micro-organisms cause no problem, and many are essential to good health. The millions of bacteria, viruses, and worms that live in dirt stimulate the development of a healthy immune system.
3. Changing Your Diet with the Latest Fad
If you do a Google search, you will find no shortage of the latest diet trends. Perhaps one of the strangest and most disturbing ones is called the “Sleeping Beauty Diet,” wherein people take sedatives and sleep, in some cases, up to 20 hours per day as a weight-loss method. The HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) diet, which became popular in the 1950s and had a resurgence a few years ago, was found to have serious side effects including stroke. While these methods may lead to weight loss, at what cost are you willing to pay for your overall health?
The alternative? Instead of going for the fad, stick with the time-tested tradition of eating whole foods from the earth. Stick to organically and locally grown produce from non-spray farms. Focus on a mostly plant-based diet, like a Mediterranean-style of eating, and leave the packaged food on the shelves.
4. Not Allowing for Simple Pleasures
“If you keep saying ‘not,’ it will tie you in knots.” Perhaps you’ve had the experience of going on a diet and saying, “I will not have ice cream. Not now, not ever.” And then, later that night you find yourself scarfing down a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Setting extreme boundaries doesn’t work for everyone.
The alternative? Use the 90-10 rule. It means 90 percent of the time, you stay on track with healthy eating and living, and the other ten percent of the time, you let yourself indulge. Life is meant to be lived. If you find you’re feeling deprived all the time, you are probably not enjoying life. Enjoy an occasional ice cream sandwich with your kids, and feel good about it.
5. Being Too Rigid
As Dr. Deepak Chopra says, “Infinite flexibility is the key to immortality.” Take the flexibility of the palm tree, for example. Most palm trees grow in tropical climates where hurricanes and other tropical storms occur. Yet, palm trees usually survive these intense storms. They survive because their fronds are flexible in high winds. A palm tree spreads its roots wide across the soil and its trunk can bend 40 to 50 degrees without snapping.
When you get into your health routine, you generally want what you want when you want it. Things must be done a certain way for you to be successful, leaving no room for flexibility. When your Zumba class gets canceled, you get frustrated. When the smoothie place is out of your favorite flavor, you take it as a personal affront. This isn’t a very healthy way to live.
The alternative? Be like the palm tree, and think about your end result. You follow a healthy lifestyle plan to be well, not to be perfect. The roadmap may change and differ from your expectations, but your outcome can be the same. Learn to not take yourself too seriously and laugh when things don’t work out. If you do this, you will find that living healthfully isn’t a chore, but an adventure.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
Learn personalized practices to bring you health, happiness, and balance at Journey Into Healing, the Chopra Center’s signature wellness workshop led by Deepak Chopra. Learn More.