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Relapse Action Plan

Being prepared can help you get back on track faster

The Transtheoretical Model (Stages of Change) helps us understand how we make big changes in our lives.

The "relapse" stage is when someone has been doing well with their healthy behavior changes, but then goes back to their old unhealthy habits.

It's important to remember that relapsing is normal and doesn't mean you've failed. It just means you need to keep trying and learning from your mistakes. With time and practice, you can get back on track and make the healthy changes you want to make.

Make a Relapse Action Plan

A relapse action plan is a plan that helps you prepare for and cope with potential relapses in your behavior change journey.

Here are some steps to create a relapse action plan:

1. Identify triggers

Think about what situations, emotions, or people might trigger a relapse in your behavior change.

  • Common triggers: illness, injury, vacation/travel, holidays, stressful or emotional events, work overwhelm, social pressure, boredom


2. Know your stress pattern

Understanding your stress phenotype can help personalize a plan for your stress response. In the past, how have you typically responded to stress?

High sympathetic reactor (fight or flight)

  • Prone to no appetite when under stress

  • More likely to work long periods without taking a break

  • More likely to have trouble sleeping

High parasympathetic reactor (freeze or fawn)

  • Prone to emotional eating when under stress

  • More likely to mindlessly eat, especially hyperpalatable foods

  • More likely to isolate themselves


3. Plan ahead

Once you've identified your triggers and stress response, come up with a plan to cope with them.

High sympathetic reactor

  • Prioritize meal planning

  • Schedule grocery pickup

  • Take more genius breaks throughout the day

  • Prioritize your sleep routine

  • Use yoga or meditation to relax your nervous system

High parasympathetic reactor

  • Prioritize mindful eating skills

  • Schedule your exercise time on the calendar

  • Attend group exercise classes

  • Prioritize social time with a friend, neighbor, or loved one

  • Be of service to someone – the most surefire way to get out of your own head

4. Get curious

You cannot change what you’re not aware of. Ask yourself these powerful questions:

  1. Have I been justifying unhealthy behaviors too often?

  2. Have I been too strict with myself?

  3. What in my life isn’t working, is keeping me stuck, and needs to be released?

  4. What is one behavior habit I can start doing right now that can help me take action?

  5. What is one thing I’m willing to stop doing immediately that is keeping me below my potential?


5. Seek support

Don't be afraid to ask for help from friends, family, or a professional if you're struggling with a relapse. Know when you need help and don’t wait too long to ask for it.

  • Sign up for a membership at HealthFit or a gym close to you

  • Make an appointment with a personal trainer

  • Make an appointment with a mental health counselor

  • Use your RENEW community – reach out to a buddy

Remember, a relapse doesn't mean you've failed. It's just a bump in the road. By creating a relapse action plan, you can be better prepared to handle the challenges that may come your way as you work toward making positive behavior changes.

Relapse Action Plan
Download PDF • 403KB


Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1983). Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51(3), 390-395.

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