I always love reading the flurry of blog activity around this time as all those students (and anyone who has a child or student in their home) are getting ready to go back to school. Every year it gets a little further away from my own reality, but I still love this feeling of September being a time for fresh starts, and usually fresher weather too although we’re still experiencing an extended summer here in London.
For me, this year more than ever as I’m working on a tight quarterly basis, the magic of September lies in the fact of it still being four months to the end of the year. It’s that extra month, beyond the quarter, that makes me feel like anything is possible. I can barely remember where I was four months ago, at the beginning of May – although I did set some four month goals at that stage too, I believe. It’s been three months since I started my daily push-ups (minus ONE SODDING DAY when I overslept and never remembered to do them!) and a lot has changed in that time – and there is still that much time, that much change, + one month, potentially remaining in this year. If I add up the change of those periods together, this year could really be a year of massive and permanent change. Life has already changed quite a lot in the past eight months and at home we’re starting to look to the future, towards next year and beyond!
A lot of the changes I’ve been making have been similar or related to goals or habits I’ve tried to implement before – health, music, finances and so on. But each September as students I guess it’s inevitable that there are new subjects to learn, and so today I want to focus on the brand new things that I’m prioritising for (probably) the first time. These are all things that I think will stand me in good stead in the long-term, habits I think I’ll need to acquire to be happy overall and not just at some vague future date. I think I’ve been making larger and longer-term dreams, in part to avoid having to accept what is here and now, so these things are designed to shift me out of that pattern just a little. There are some things I can change quickly (with a reasonable amount of work) and that could have dramatic effects – but this “school” year I also want to embrace the gradual, long-term improvements that can raise the baseline of my lifestyle.
- Prioritising Sleep. This is something I’ve talked about a lot but never really done. I have never really committed to going to bed at a certain time that’ll allow me to get enough sleep, and I have a problem sleeping in (and shifting my entire daily schedule to a later slot) even when this might be more appropriate and allow me to rest more naturally.
- Taking time off. Not just holidays, but a weekly day off from responsibilities. That has tended to be Sundays for us but now that HH is working unpredictable days it could be any day that we happen to have off together (which will require flexibility!). Ideally this is a day without a required workout, cleaning, or a set amount of music to do, where I can lie in if I want, nap if I want, and do what I want – which may well involve some exercise or some music but not enforced amounts of either. (The only exceptions are the tiny quick things that I absolutely must do on a daily basis – at the moment these include push-ups and vocal warmups, but those don’t take very long and I know I always feel better if I do them than if I don’t.)
- Letting myself feel good about where I’m at. One thing I’ve noticed, is that my level of contentment in life and acceptance of myself is measured most clearly on those days off. I used to get very depressed on days off and although I knew I needed a rest, used to try and spend the whole day sleeping so I wouldn’t have to think too much. That uneasy restless mostly comes from the feeling that my life is so far from where I feel it should be that I have no right taking down-time, I should be working until things get better. Lately, I have been enjoying my days off much more. I still find sometimes that they’re a little low-key which is probably due to the lack of exercise or needing to catch up on sleep (or both), but more often than not I’ll reach a point of happy peace. One day about a month or so ago I was reflecting on the physical changes I’ve been through, and how much happier I felt in my body than I used to. Regardless of how far I may still have to go, it occurred to me that probably that’s what other people do without knowing it – they take time off, they feel good in their bodies, feel good about themselves, can be doing quite ordinary things without feeling bad about anything. I want more of that in my life.
- I have been doing more CBT work from the pack I have and have been trying to actively work on my self-esteem wherever possible. This has led me, oddly and often subconsciously, back down memory lane to review and recast certain memories that have been fundamental to my view of myself. Going back (thank goodness for all those journals!) and being able to find more positives than I remember has enabled me to gradually build up a stronger vision of myself. This is something I want to keep doing in the long-term – not just because of the eating disorder but in a determined effort to think better of myself and become more confident. The other thing I’ve been learning about is how eating disorder sufferers base too much of their self-esteem on looks, food and weight-control, and how you have to take efforts to re-set that balance by investing in other areas. It’s also about spending less time thinking about food and easing up on the rules – being able to eat chocolate one time without needing to eat it all day, being able to let it go and focus on other things. It’s about being ok with all these changes in the long-term and accepting the long-term (ie slow, but permanent) rates of transformation that go with them.
For all these things to happen I need to have flexibility and confidence in my own discipline. I need to be able to relax on a day off knowing that I’ll find ways to work out on the other six days. I need to be able to sleep easily knowing that extra hour in bed is not going to throw out my whole day. I need to be able to take a day off without falling into a binge. So I’m trying to acquire those attributes as well to underpin the whole thing. There’s little instant gratification to be had but I’m taking a certain amount of satisfaction from seeing good habits build up over the longer-term. By the end of this school year hopefully I’ll be ready to “graduate” from having to consciously worry about any of these things any more!