How to run a mile, one baby step at a time.

Have I been a little scarce? I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a rough summer in a lot of ways. I’m generally in favor of being positive. I’ve been known to adopt a “fake it til you make it” strategy. But there’s value in venting, sometimes, too, and in owning it when you are feeling a little rough. Me? I’m bogged down in dissertation hell, hitting some roadblocks and hearing crickets when I reach out for help. I’m frustrated with some issues at work related to the general support offered to clinicians. There was a death in my family back in May that required some traveling and a lot of emotional intensity. And I’m still recovering from a stress fracture in my foot.

I’m not making a list of sob stories to complain— au contraire. I’m doing it to give myself permission to feel a little beaten up and to give myself credit for pushing through and to congratulate myself for the progress I’ve made. It’s way too easy to say “I haven’t written as much as I need to have written”, and “I am not going to PR in a fall 5k like I wanted”. It’s harder to say “I learned how to write MPlus programs from scratch this summer” and “I can make it through the hard yoga class without pain” and “I ran a good mile on the treadmill at PT yesterday before I had to stop.”  These things are progress, even if they are baby steps towards my bigger goals. They count.

So, how can I help myself acknowledge the setbacks and appreciate the baby steps, rather than stew in my personal pity party?

1. Make a list. (Woah, are you allowed to start a list with a list?)

NoteToSelfI’m a list-maker. To-do, books to read, places to go, people to do (JK. I haven’t done that one since college). . . This one’s about things I HAVE managed to do. I like to do this on my birthday every year— what did I do this year? But it’s also useful when you’re feeling discouraged. This is where you can write the baby steps you’ve taken. Seeing them written out makes the actual progress seem more legitimate, somehow. It’s about how far you are from the starting line, not how far you have to go to the finish.

2. Connect.

PoolPartyI have friends who have been injured. I have friends who struggled mightily in the end  (or middle) of their grad school programs. I have friends who’ve lost relatives. I’ve read blogs about all of this stuffy (hi y’all!). I’ve read books. The point is, whatever’s getting you down, you’re not the only one. A little company feels good. Just try to steer it towards “I hear ya!” and less towards “woe is me!”.

3. Have some fun, dammit.

cocktailsI firmly believe that fun heals (almost) all. It’s hard to plan fun when you’re in a deep, dark hole, but it’s worth it. Enlist help. It doesn’t have to be a vacation to Cabo (but man, that’s gonna be awesome). It can be tiny. Other fun I’ve worked in this summer, with help from the sis, the hubs, and assorted buddies: a weeknight movie date, a concert, a baseball game, a running-group meet-up, a happy hour prosecco date. Yes, you have time. You actually need the time away from the stuff that’s stressing you out. That’s often when the breakthroughs happen— it’s like why you get good ideas in the shower.

What else helps you when you’re way down in the hole?

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