As a licensed naturopathic physician with twenty years of integrative medical practice under my belt, I have seen over and over again that when people are trying to make change—whether this is a diet change, a lifestyle change, or an attitude change—their limitations, habits, and tendencies can get in the way of their best intentions.
The best way to set yourself up to follow-through with the changes you want to make is to identify ahead of time what roadblocks you are likely to face as you work to create a life that is in alignment with your values and purpose!
Here is a list of some of the most common roadblocks I see and how to think about getting around them.
Every personality trait has good and bad aspects. Being a perfectionist means always striving to do better—which isn’t such a terrible thing, until it makes you feel like a failure, keeps you from finishing what you need to finish, or even worse, keeps you from starting at all.
The Time Conundrum
Feeling like you have no time to invest in the changes that you want to make for yourself is a normal part of most people’s process. Know that as you engage in prioritizing yourself, your needs, and your values, you’ll begin to feel less pressure from external circumstance. You’ll be okay with doing less. You’ll feel the freedom of having space and ease in your life.
Self-Sacrifice and People Pleasing
Being raised to believe that a good person puts others first or being a people-pleaser at the expense of your own needs can be huge roadblocks to creating the life you want to live. Of course, it’s okay to do things for other people -- that makes you a good human. But if you put other people first all the time and what’s most important for you is to make someone else happy, you will never be able to prioritize what you need to do to take care of yourself.
Sometimes it’s depression or anxiety that keeps you from feeling happy and making choices that serve you. If this is something you struggle with, or suspect, consider working with your medical practitioner to get it sorted out. This may mean medication, or it may not. Many of my patients and clients are able to manage mild to moderate mental health symptoms with integrative care.
Excuses, Excuses and the Blame Game
About once a month I find myself working with a patient or client who can tell me with great authority why every suggestion I offer isn’t going to work. She can’t make dietary changes because she needs to cook for her whole family and they won’t eat protein. She can’t start exercising because of back pain that she knows won’t get better no matter what she does to try to get it better. She can’t go to bed earlier because she has to wind down after work. She will often say she’s “tried everything.”
There is nearly always something you can do—an attitude you can shift, a small step you can take, an unconventional way around a problem. If your whole family “won’t” eat protein, make a base dish and add a chicken breast to your own serving. If you have a back injury that keeps you from going to the gym and lifting weights, what exercise can you do? Swimming? Lifting lower-body weights only? Be willing to think outside the box. Push yourself!
Discomfort with Discomfort
Change is hard not only because it’s a challenge to create a new habit, but because so many of our less healthy habits serve the purpose of sedating our discomfort. Habits like eating sugar, overeating, overspending, obsessively interacting with our devices, and gossiping also allow us to check out or press pause on our feelings of sadness, anger, loss, loneliness—whatever feelings we’re uncomfortable with. It’s okay to do this sometimes, but only if we’re doing so consciously. When we stuff away or avoid our feelings on a regular basis, we end up losing touch with what we really need to address and process in our lives in order to feel better.
Choosing the Wrong Things
If you try to engage in self-care in a way that causes you more stress, you’ll never succeed in the long run. Not only that, but if you’re just trading one stress for another, why bother?
Change can cause stress because it takes work, effort, and intention, and because it may involve dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Choosing the right things to change—the things that are the easiest and give you the best bang for your buck—is a necessary part of creating a life of better health, greater resilience and peace of mind.
I posted this question on social media recently: “What are your roadblocks and how do you get around them?” One person responded beautifully, “I prioritize my live music and will plan around it . . . It feeds my soul and makes me happy. But yoga and meditation? Not so much. They feel like more ‘work’ for me, even though they are technically also self-care and likely will help me with my medical issues and state of mind.” She learned herself that she needs to choose the things that work for her. You can too.
About Dr. Samantha Brody
Dr. Samantha Brody https://drsamantha.com is a licensed naturopathic physician (ND) and acupuncturist and the owner and founder of Evergreen Natural Health Center in Portland, Oregon. She earned her doctoral degree in Naturopathic Medicine in 1996 and her Master of Science in Oriental Medicine in 2001 from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Samantha has extensive training and experience in both complementary and Western medicine. She has spent over 20 years in her practice addressing the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of her patients’ health to help them effectively address and achieve their health goals. Her new book Overcoming Overwhelm: Dismantle Your Stress from the Inside Out https://drsamantha.com/
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