I did something today that I haven’t done seriously in over two decades: I ran.
Your girl laced up her running shoes, purchased a million lifetimes ago, and set out to crush Day 1 of her Couch to 5K app.
I wasn’t going to do it.
For the first thirty minutes of my day, I mentally shadow boxed with my anxiety about the future (more on that in a minute). Then, lying in my bed, I wobbled between going for a walk, actually running, and scrapping the whole thing.
I’ve been choosing the latter option far too frequently these days.
I make it to the gym occasionally and get a yoga routine in here and there, but the consistently has faltered. I’m not really doing it like I need to. And I can feel it.
Letting Yourself Down…Again
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You lay in bed at night feeling a little (or a lot) let down by some choice you made. In my case, it probably involves french fries.
Maybe you pray or meditate about it. Or maybe you write through it. Whatever your process, you’ve got it in your head now that tomorrow has to go differently.
So you make yourself a promise that 6 AM “you” is going to struggle to keep.
You say to yourself, “I’m going to get up and go for a run.”
Or, “I’m going to wake up early and do some meditation and eat a healthy breakfast.”
Some promises are heavier than others.
And so you take your bedtime resolve to heart, set an alarm, and try to get some sleep, excited by the potential tomorrow holds.
Bedtime YOU and Morning YOU Aren’t Getting Along
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The same is true of early alarms and bedtime promises that fizzle in the face of 6 AM (or whatever your early call time is).
The alarm goes off and you are jarred awake, wondering what monster would set an alarm for this hour. (You. It’s you.)
You shake a couple cobwebs loose and remember that you’re meant to be running, or meditating, or preparing a lovely breakfast just now.
The entire idea makes you want to jab crayons in your eyes.
There’s a whisper in your brain saying, “Come on! You can do this!” But the louder part has 479 reasons why you should remain in bed, and so you do.
By the time you’ve gotten yourself awake and back into the same non-meditating, non-running, non-healthy-breakfast-eating routine you normally do, you’re hit with a pang of guilt.
Why am I so terrible at this?!!!
And round and round you go. Fighting yourself at every turn, feeling horrible about it, and getting absolutely nothing done on your personal makeover list.
It’s Your Habits, But It’s Also Your Mental Health
On the one hand, trying to break bad habits (i.e. chain smoking like it’s 1983) is an Sisyphean task for most human beings.
On the other, trying to start healthy habits feels equally daunting which seems counterintuitive to the survival of our species, yet we all struggle with it.
I’ve written extensively about both.
Related Post: Why Habit Staking Is The Best Way To Create New Habits
I know exactly the steps you’re meant to take, which are best, why they work, and what you can realistically expect for your efforts. And I KNOW they work, because despite years of trying and failing, I actually DID manage to stop smoking like a chimney and drinking myself stupid every night.
So why am I lying in bed every morning talking myself out of exercise when I know I am going to spend the rest of my day bemoaning the expansion of my waistline?
There are two possibilities here:
- I am a total wuss.
- My mental health is in disarray and contributing to my self-sabotaging.
Both are kind of the case.
I had a rough summer.
It was an isolating, scorching, air-conditioned apartment confining, lonely summer made more challenging by trying to entertain an energetic toddler. Friends moved away, plans fell through, and I found myself wishing I could just go home. (I’m an expat.)
It didn’t occur to me to drink again, but I certainly had no problem decompressing from a day of tantrums and 120 F days with 90% humidity with fries, or pizza, or Chili’s southwest egg rolls (they’re so good).
And it shows. I look frumpy and sad because, well, I am.
Now, in the past, I would’ve gotten stuck here. I’d get as far as saying “XYZ is making me miserable,” but then wallow in those feelings and drink myself silly. No action.
Once I understood that things had to change, I started working on it. The original plan isn’t working out, so I made a new one, talked it over with my husband, and now we are moving forward.
We are starting the process of heading back to a new life, new opportunities, and a closer proximity to family. There are a few aspects of that process that puts my anxiety on ten, but I’m mostly relieved it’s happening. It’s time.
But we’re not there yet…
It’ll be another month or so before we head out and I’ve allowed myself to fall into a sort of emotional purgatory.
Well, I’ll start the whole exercising regularly thing again once we’re back. I’ll stop eating like an asshole once we’re back. I’ll do better with my budget…when we’re back.
I catch myself in this mindset and, honestly, it pisses me off.
This is PRECISELY the kind of nonsense I dabbled with in my drinking days. I’ll stop drinking next week. I’ll quit smoking on Monday.
There’s a sinister thing we all do where we push back a big life change jusssst far enough into the future that you can feel like you’re kind of sort of doing something, while giving yourself permission to still be a hot mess today.
And it’s FINE! Because in like three days, you’re going to cut all that out, right? (We know how this cycle goes.)
Getting off the merry-go-round
My personal opinion is that engaging in this kind of cycle is more damaging than doing nothing at all because you are stuck in a behavioral pattern that reinforces the idea that you ain’t shit.
You make promises you don’t keep. Every time “next week” rolls around, you cave and find another excuse to push it back some more.
Next thing you know, a whole year has passed and you’re still banking on the mythically perfect next week to get it together.
And it has to stop.
That I would seriously entertain the thought of saying “screw it” for an entire month because I’m about to move is…frustrating to say the least. But I get where it comes from.
One thing, one day, at a time…
We live in a culture of instant gratification. And try as we might, it takes a lot of unlearning and personal work to opt out of this mindset.
I sometimes forget this and get swept up by feelings of failure because I was unable to completely overhaul my diet and fitness habits in the span of 30 days like some folks on Instagram allegedly do.
We want things to work NOW, quickly, and as painlessly as possible. For the conditions to be ideal.
I want to eat less sugar, but I don’t want to deal with the flu-like withdrawal symptoms for a week, so screw it. Here’s a tub of ice cream.
I don’t want to smoke anymore, but cravings feel like my head is going to explode, so screw it. I’m buying a carton.
This black and white thinking, which is apparently very common for folks who suffer from anxiety and depression, will be the death of us.
We have to learn to slow down, manage our expectations, and stop getting ahead of ourselves. Worry about today. Do one good thing today and keep it moving.
Done Is Better Than Perfect
And so that brings me back to this morning.
I woke up, did the whole “try to talk myself out of it” thing, and then made a different choice. I put on my workout clothes and grabbed a hat. Found a podcast I wanted to listen to. And I headed out.
I’m just so tired of feeling tired.
Running is good for mental health and mine has been in the toilet lately, so I’m going to run. I make no promises on the pace or looking good while doing it, but I’m out there.
And I can’t fall apart if I miss a day or use it as an excuse to drop the effort altogether.
You can have good days and bad. They’re allowed to coexist.
Moderation is tough for folks like us. It’s impossible where alcohol is concerned, but we can’t treat every other aspect of our lives the same way.
We have to learn to have good mornings where we run and have a sensible breakfast while not getting too bent out of shape if lunch is full of greasy, carb-y goodness. To order fries, but not stuff ourselves senselessly like we will never see fries again.
Fretting Over Forever
Anxiety means living in a constant state of fear over an unknowable future. If I ever bothered to count up the minutes I lose to worrying, I’d probably short circuit.
I’ve spent a week or two getting stuck in that fear. My life has switched to autopilot. Wake up. Get through the day. Worry. Eat. Repeat.
I got into a headspace that once we went back, THEN things will improve. Which, let’s be honest, is the perfect excuse to keep screwing up in the mean time.
I’m excited about the new professional venture I’m starting, which I can’t do much about until I’m back home.
That makes me feel restless.
I want to do better with my budget and eating habits, which I had been for a while and then dropped again. Somehow I got the idea that such things are only possible at home.
That makes me feel out of control.
And then there’s forever… When I get home, I’m quitting XYZ forever. I’m DOING XYZ forever… Always these weird life changing absolutes. I don’t know where that comes from but it is counterproductive to every good thing I’ve tried to do for myself.
First Things First
There are moments in our lives when we are humbled by our inability to practice what we preach and remember the lessons of our past.
That’s kind of where I’m at.
Sobriety is the starting point. But this whole live and do better stuff takes constant effort and upkeep. I haven’t been taking my own advice, which is probably why I haven’t been writing as much.
First things first.
Today, I went for a run. It wasn’t too bad and I feel better for it. My breakfast was decent. I drank some green tea.
I’m going to meditate later because my brain has been running a mile a minute with worry and nervous energy for our big move and it’s affecting my sleep.
Back to basics.
Tomorrow, I’ll do it again… except the running part. My program is three days per week.
But that’s fine. It’s all going to be fine.
Taking some time…
The rest of 2019 is shaping up to be exciting/scary/crazy/thrilling/exhausting. So I might not be here quite as much, but you can still catch me and the entire Soberish community over on the Facebook Group.
As my priorities start to shift, so will my publishing schedule. My goal is to keep up with at least a weekly post, but I might not always be able to meet that expectation, and that’s okay.
I’m still here, ready to support you all as best I can.
And I hope if anyone else if feeling like the air has been let out of their tires, that you take some time to reset as well.
Get back to basics. Do one thing today to help you recharge and recommit to your health.
And go easy on yourself while you’re at it.