Expert Tips for Habits that Last
Maintenance (“I still am”)
The maintenance stage begins when your new behavior becomes a habit and is done automatically, without thinking about it. In most cases, this is approximately 6 months after beginning the action phase. Your confidence in maintaining your habit is solidified and your motivation is sustained and self-reinforcing.
Lapses can still occur at this point in the process and are quite common, so it’s important to continue to refine and engage your relapse-prevention plan when necessary. Many times in the maintenance stage, lapses can be brought about simply by boredom. Expansion of your view of maintenance can sometimes be beneficial. Luckily, lapses during the maintenance phase, when addressed early, generally do not cause significant changes to health or fitness levels long-term.
What have you discovered about yourself during this time of change? What are things that have excited you or encouraged you? On the flip side, what has caused either boredom or discouragement? Why are each of these important to the process and how have you navigated them during this time of sustaining your habit?
What are ways that you’ve developed to stay engaged in your new habit? How have these ways been helpful or not helpful? How can you mix up your routine to add newness and novelty to your behaviors? How can you expand this behavior to either encompass new areas or even other areas of your life?
Who are you a role model to? What do you think this person sees in you that perhaps you don't see in yourself? Why is being a role model important to you?
How have you learned to hold yourself accountable to your relapse-prevention plan? What have you learned about the times that you may have started to lapse, but engaged your plan to stay the course? How can you leverage this learning for future moments where you might sense a lapse coming on?
To reverse a relapse, even if you’ve moved into a previous stage of change during the lapse, revisit your vision for wellness, your strengths, goals, values and the many personal resources you have at your disposal to get back on track. More than anything remember to use self-compassion and kindness, not judging yourself for the for the lapse. Lapses are normal. Learning to identify it and reverse it is the key.
Sometimes, you may need external support to help you see blind spots or identify patterns of behavior that are not serving you. You may need quite a bit of support navigating through each stage of change, particularly if you’ve tried before and not experienced success yet. Health coaches can be an especially important ally to engage for further support, as we are experts in the behavior change process and can support you to navigate through each phase in a way that works best for you. We can help co-create your goals, help you stay accountable and provide the support that’s missing from many of the lifestyle change prescriptions that are given by healthcare providers.
Counselors can be especially helpful if you identify patterns of behavior that hinder you from achieving success in multiple areas or if you are concerned about your mental health. Mental health is a priority when embarking on a lifestyle change program. Sometimes, mental health treatment and behavior change can be done concurrently; however, do check in with your physician or mental health provider on their recommendations in this regard. Coaching can be initiated once you feel as though you have adequate support for your mental health.
Always seek the professional advice from a licensed healthcare provider before engaging in any form of lifestyle change whether eating habits, exercise, relaxation, stress management, sleep, or any other form of lifestyle change.