Archive | February, 2013

Burn, Baby, Burn: Managing February Burnout

28 Feb

I’m pretty glad that February is a short month that ends today.

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It’s no secret, February can be a challenging month to stay motivated.  Especially when it snows.  And when the snow is heavy and wet.  And it clings to the trees, making it look really pretty from your window, but not-so-pretty when you are chucking it from the end of your driveway into the slushy, ever-growing piles that line your street.  By February, your scheduled has normalized from the holidays, you are back in the daily grind, but still really, really far from the next batch of holidays.  It’s a great time to go away, if you can swing it, but if you can’t (or won’t), you might need some coping strategies.

For me, it’s not so much the February blahs – it’s the February overwhelm.  February is the month where I realize that I’m not quite so far along on those goals I set at the start of January.  February is when I have lists and lists of jobs that I’ve wanted to do since January 1, and have been avoiding for one reason or another.  By about this time of the year, they start to weigh on me.  February is the month that ALL the derby starts back up – captaining duties in full swing, having to make attendance again, needing schedules and planning for the upcoming season, FM intakes to organize, skaters to keep motivated.

I’ve been skating derby for four seasons now.  I don’t consider myself a hardened veteran, but I’m also not a newbie.  I’m somewhere in that weird, amorphous space between new and excited and jaded and done.  For me, February (and early March) is my derby kryptonite.

Ever wonder why you do your draft before the off-season, and then in February a whole bunch of people leave? I don’t think it’s only simple burn-out.  I think it’s timing.  February until November looks like a very, very long slog.  Even February until summer looks like a long haul.  Also note – you are not the only person who feels this way about February, most people do.  Therefore most people are cranky and terse.  This doesn’t mesh super-well with an activity (like the derbs) that relies on people communicating well and working together.

So, February, a month of sucky weather, tempting reclusiveness, upcoming deadlines, mounting responsibilities, gnawing self-doubt, short tempers, and no foreseeable end to the grind.

It’s easy for February to get you down.

Even my tiny dog is unimpressed.  She’ll walk three houses down from ours, look up at me like ‘are you kidding?’ and then turn around and walk back.  Even if you are a tiny dog, it can get tough to get out of bed in the morning, knowing how cold and bleak it’s going to be.

It’s important, when you’re feeling crappy, to evaluate how bad you really feel.  Check out this article to see if it might be time to consult with a mental health professional.  Track where you’re at, listen to your gut, don’t let negative feelings spiral to the point where you feel you’ve lost control.  Reach out, get help if you need it.

If you’ve self-evaluated and you’re just feeling maudlin, but not clinically so –  what do you do?  I’ve found a lot of “How To Beat the Blahs” articles and they all say the same thing: Go outside for fun, eat better, exercise, laugh with friends.

All of these are good ideas.

They are all things that can help you keep a handle on yourself through what can be a tough time of the year.  Here’s a list of what’s been helping me:

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DRINKING TEA:  First of all, tea makes you feel warm and snuggly.  This is a great way to feel after a long day out in the February.  Also, herbal teas, especially green, contain theanine – a natural mood enhancer. They are also full of antioxidants.

HAVING A VERY CLEAR TRAINING GOAL:  I am training for my Strongfirst Kettlebell certification in November.  That seems like a long time away, but it really isn’t.  I have a detailed training plan about where I need to be to accomplish this goal and when.  This helps me in two ways.  First, I know what I’m doing when I go down to my gym and don’t have to come up with ideas.  Because in February even coming up with a decent training session for yourself can be a challenge.  This way, it’s done for me.  Also, knowing my very clear goal and my process steps to get there makes me excited about almost every session.  I get to see progress.  I get to measure myself against where I want to be.  It helps, too, that my goal is kettlebell related.  Kettlebell practice is meditative to me.  It’s challenging, requires mental fortitude, can be extremely repetitive (but in a good, giving you feedback about your form sort of way), and is all-round a badass thing to do.  My love of kettlebells is no secret, and I have a post about why kettlebells are good for derby girls in the works.

All of this being said, there are days when it’s tough to get your train on.  Here’s an awesome article from Dean Somerset about what to do on those days (it includes more mobility drills than you can even imagine).

DERBY MENTORING:  It can be tough to get motivated to come to derby practice when your games are still months away.  For travel team members, this is less of an issue, but if you’ve already started bouting, burnout can become a concern too.  I’ve found that instead of thinking of the new fresh meat coming in as yet another thing you have to deal with, feed off their energy.  Like a vampire.  Okay, maybe not like an energy vampire, but let their derby enthusiasm infect you.  At practice, work with newer skaters.  You’ll feel good about helping them, they’ll feel good because they are getting better, and it’s far more productive than just looking at the clock waiting for the practice to end.

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GET NATURAL VITAMIN C – Yes, citrus is not particularly in season, however lemons, grapefruits and oranges at this time of year help to a) boost your immunity, and b) make you feel like it’s the summer.  Also, you can pretend that you’re a pirate that needs fresh fruit so that you don’t get scurvy (not that I do that).  While we’re on the subject of nutrition, I’ve also increased the number of salads and raw vegetables that I’m eating this month.  Helps my body function, tricks me because they feel like warm weather food.  It’s just like eating soup in the summer to cool down, which I used to do all the time when I worked at an outdoor festival (it was a Renaissance Festival, but that’s a story for another time).  I promise you, fresh fruits and veggies will make you feel much better than loading up on the starchy carbs.

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS: Being nice for no reason is its own reward.  Open doors, help people shovel, let people merge in traffic.  Bit by bit the kindness you put out in the world will come back to you.  And even if it doesn’t you’ll feel good about helping people, which will give you an instant mood-boost.

CELEBRATING SMALL DAILY ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
This is part of why I make lists – so I can cross things off of them.  I make a ridiculously big deal of minor accomplishments to celebrate my progress.  Make myself a smoothie for breakfast? – I am totally looking after myself, great work!  Shave my legs? – That means I might leave the house, awesome!  Write this blog post? – Look at all the commitments I am keeping with myself!  I am the most winning-est winner ever!  Am I going overboard?  Maybe a little, but celebrating the wins keeps me winning.  If I dwell on all the things I’m not doing, I will start to drown in them.  Focusing on the small things that I can accomplish keeps me moving forward and helps me stay motivated to keep on going when things are tough.

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That’s how I’m dealing with February.  That, and resting assured that things will even out in time if I keep putting one snow-booted foot in front of the other.  What about you?  How are you weathering the winter?

I Can See Clearly Now

18 Feb

I did something that I didn’t expect to do.

It’s a little bit airy- fairy for my normal modus operandi.

I made a vision board.

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It’s one of those things that “self-actualized” people tell you to do to clarify what’s important to you. When I first thought about making one, I was like, “sure, arts and crafts will totally help me get my mind right”. Side bar: I totally love arts and crafts, but normally they’re just one more job, so I’ve been scaling back of late.

You know what though, I think I’m going to need to eat my snark about hippie crafts not being useful. As soon as I glue-sticked the pictures to the paper, I actually felt somewhat inspired. And clearer. And like I had a bit more direction than before I made it.

So, the lesson is: don’t dismiss a tool just because it doesn’t look like a tool you would ever use. Maybe those tools are the best one to try when you’re hitting a wall. Maybe doing something you normally wouldn’t will help you see yourself and your situation with new eyes.

Here’s my masterpiece. It won’t mean anything to you, but (somewhat surprisingly) it means something to me. I might even frame it.

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Try something new today. Try something you think might be ridiculous. It might be totally worth it.