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Having a lapse or relapse is normal when trying to change, and that's ok

Hey everyone, hope you are all doing well in this wacky time. I wanted to write about the importance of understanding lapses and relapses when trying to change a behaviour or start a new routine or activity. For those who are unsure of the differences between these phrases: a lapse is a momentary return to a previously undesired behaviour, whereas a relapse is a full return to a previously undesired behaviour. For instance let's say I want to exercise for 30 minutes a day and for two days in a row I don't do exercise but the next day I do. We could consider this a lapse. If, however, I was to abstain from exercising all-together we could call that a relapse. Such terms tend to be associated with a form of addiction. Although it is true that such lapses and relapses are common in addiction, it is also the case when trying to make virtually any sort of major behavioural change. I think before trying to make a change in our lives it can be super helpful to create a sort of preparation list for if or when a lapse occurs. By doing this we can try and alleviate the possibility of a full-blown relapse occurring and help us stay on the right track Smiley Happy. Just like buying running shoes before taking up jogging creating oneself a relapse prevention plan can help you run those extra miles. I've got a couple of sample questions that may be worth considering before creating a major change Heart

1. Why did I start the activity in the first place, what do I want to achieve?

2. Who are some people I can talk to if I slip back into old habits?

3. Who are some people who can encourage me?

3. What are the benefits of sticking with this activity?

4. How do I feel when I have completed this activity?

5. What are the pros and cons of continuing this activity or routine?

Re: Having a lapse or relapse is normal when trying to change, and that's ok

Hi @James99 ! Hope you are doing well in this wacky time too! Learning about how to make sustainable change is something I am so passionate about, thank you so much for making this post, I think the questions you ask make a lot of sense. And I think they can be so helpful in not getting bogged down in feeling like we've "failed." If you're comfortable, could you talk about what kind of changes this has helped you to make?

I'm going to think about these Qs in terms of trying to exercise and form a cleaning routine, I have definitely tried these before and when they haven't worked perfectly, i have given up - but i love your tip of preparing for a lapse Heart

Re: Having a lapse or relapse is normal when trying to change, and that's ok

Absolutely!! I found it helped me feel more accountable for doing the things I set out to do. This was especially the case when looking at the pros and cons. Keeping a journal with a to-do list was also super helpful as I felt a sense of achievement when ticking something off the list. I also found I was and am more aware of when a lapse is occurring and I try to then go back and reflect on why I am doing a certain activity. All this stuff has helped me heaps in terms of exercising daily, especially reflecting on pros and cons and really embracing the feeling of accomplishment. Hope this helped @Hannah-RO 

Re: Having a lapse or relapse is normal when trying to change, and that's ok

Hey @James99! I think this conversation is really important to have, particularly in a time where things are so whacky and people can't stay on top of everything like they'd like to. I like that you've drawn a distinction between a lapse and a relapse which is time-based. I've definitely lapsed with my exercise because of assessments but I've got complete plans to get back into it. I think remembering why you're doing things is so important!

They also say it takes a good 28 days to start a new habit. So it's all about having discipline in those first few weeks too.

Re: Having a lapse or relapse is normal when trying to change, and that's ok

@James99  hiya! I love the self-reflection and kind honesty you have helped others create in this thread!


I think when I relapse into not studying for my online courses a good technique is to just try to do 5 minutes of the task- I literally set a timer. If, at the end of the 5 minutes I don't want to continue with it deep down, then I don't. Simple. But often I do because I sat down and broke through the procrastination barrier! It works well for hobbies that you need a bit of extra motivation to sit down and tackle things!

Re: Having a lapse or relapse is normal when trying to change, and that's ok

Thanks @Tay100. That sounds like such a good idea, I'm gonna have to try that out next time I'm procrastinating some study Smiley Happy