Sunday, March 13, 2016

Goals - Looking Back at February and Ahead to (What's Left of) March

This post is a little late.  I've been scrambling a bit to catch up on everything that didn't get done while I was in Montreal, and I've been feeling a lot of end-of-winter blahs, so the blog has been a bit neglected.

I set three goals for myself for February:  Work out three days a week; go see the psychiatrist, and go out with friends/family twice a week.  How did it go, you ask?

Recycled February goal:  Go to the gym three days a week.

Nope.  Didn't happen.  I went a few times at the beginning of the month, and then sleeping in seemed more appealing than exercise (as it always does), and I stopped.  I think I've hit the dreaded point where I no longer believe that I can be successful at this goal, so I'm not even making an effort.  I'm not sure what it's going to take for me to get exercising again, but I do genuinely want to find a way to make this a regular part of my life.  I commented to my girlfriend yesterday that I'm happier and more relaxed when I exercise, and she looked at me as if I'd just said that the sky is blue and responded "Um.  Yes."

Second February goal:  Don't chicken out and skip the assessment with the psychiatrist.

With this, I was fully successful.  Not only did I go to the initial assessment, but I also went to three follow up appointments to convince him that there wasn't something seriously wrong with me and that I just wanted some help learning better coping skills.  (Aside:  I have never been asked about drinking, drug use, and suicidal thoughts as many times as I was in those four sessions with the psychiatrist.  Apparently physicians only seek help when things are terribly wrong, and I'm a bit of an anomaly for wanting some preventative mental health care.)  Having passed the psychiatrist's test, I'm now awaiting the availability of a psychologist who will do some cognitive-behavioural therapy with me.

At some point, I will write a whole post about my experiences with this and about physician mental health in general, but today is not that day.  For the thoughts of another soon-to-be physician on this subject, check out Kay's blog Premed Post-Mom.

Third February goal:  Spend time with people I love.  At least twice a week.  The girlfriend doesn't count.

Yes!  I did this*!  Apparently if I set fun goals for myself, like go out for dinner with my favourite people, I can achieve them.  Over the course of February, I did the following:
  • Took my nieces to see a play about Harriet Tubman
  • Organized a gathering of medical friends to try out a local restaurant promotion
  • Drove to the country to visit my bff from medical school
  • Went to my Mom's house for dinner and to help her move furniture
  • Went to dinner and the theatre with my Mom
  • Met up with a friend from grad school in Montreal 
  • Breakfast at a shitty new restaurant with my Mom 

This goal was a good one for me, as it reminded me that, as much as I love my girlfriend and her people, I get something unique from spending time with my people.  My family and my long-term friends know me and love me in a way that my girlfriend's people don't, and that connection and understanding are central to my happiness.  As an introvert, I am more than able to meet my need for time spent with other people through my girlfriend and her extroverted social life, but it is still important for me to maintain my own social contacts.

The main downside to this goal was that it completely wiped me out.  In addition to the activities that I did with my people, I also spent a lot of time with the girlfriend and her people, and it was simply more than this fragile introvert could handle.  By the end of the month, all I wanted was time in my pjs on the couch with my cats.  Which is pretty much how I've spent all my free time in March so far.  Also...all of the eating out was expensive.  My eating out budget is usually ridiculously high, but in February it was about 50% beyond what it usually is.

March's really vague, non-SMART goal:

For a while I was thinking of not setting a goal for March, as I'm mostly just feeling tired and in need of a break, but then I came up with something that I think I can do even in my tired state, which is kind of, but not really, a goal.

In March, I want to make more of an effort to recognize what I need and to meet those needs.

(See?  Vague.)

For essentially all of my medical training, I didn't think much about what I wanted or needed.  There was always a long list of things that I absolutely had to do, so I just focused on getting them done, regardless of how happy or unhappy I was doing them.  Thankfully, things are different now, and I have much more flexibility to do the things that are important and life-giving to me.  Or, on a smaller scale, to simply do the things that make me calmer and happier from moment to moment.

While I could've tried to make this a defined goal, I've intentionally left it nebulous because the things that I need vary from day to day.  Some days I need to retreat from the world and be with my cats, while other days I need to socialize and connect with the people I love.  Some days I need to be stingy with my budget and save for the future, while other days I need to be self-indulgent and enjoy the results of my hard work.  Some days I need to work less so that I can get enough rest and relaxation, while other days I need to work more so that I can get shit done and stop stressing about it.  Different days, different needs.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

*Technically I only did seven things instead of the eight that would be required to have gone out exactly twice per week, but I'm still counting this as a success.  In part because I achieved the spirit of the goal, and in part because one of my friends bailed on dinner plans at the last minute, so I can blame her for falling slightly short of eight.


  1. @SD -- I realized long ago that I was never going to be a morning exercise person. Despite everyone telling me it was the only way to ever exercise. Despite people telling me to try over and over. I hate it. I feel terrible when I'm doing it, ergo, I don't go, preferring to sleep. The ONLY way that morning exercise ever worked for me has been if I had to meet a group of people / person (i.e. like a FRIEND, not a random group of semi-strangers in a group exercise class), and if I felt like I was making progress. Neither of these things is ever going to happen again in my life.

    So. Not sure what the rest of your day looks like, but perhaps lunch or afternoon exercise can be something that happens for you from time to time now that you finally have a big girl job?

  2. Congrats on seeing the psychiatrist and being so proactive - Though I'm shocked they haven't asked about the standard things you mentioned!

    Morning exercise... yeah, not for me either. Just a thought - maybe you could combine the social activity with exercise? I.e. once a week meet a friend for a walk (skate? class?). Save money, knock out 2 of your goals etc.

    Your March goal sounds like a really good and needed one.

  3. Okay, so old post, but I've been creeping through your archives when I need to procrastinate from grading. What helped me reach the "three times a week" gym goal was to reframe the idea of a week. Totally weird, but thinking about my week as starting on a Wednesday really helped for me. For some reason, Wednesday was the sweet spot where I could always hit the gym, and then I could usually do Friday or Saturday. After that, it felt easy to get the one more time a week between Sunday to Tuesday.

    Of course, my advice is now old. I have a toddler and do not visit the gym. But I do plenty of toddler squats! We also go walking regularly. Not quite as good as the gym, but it's something.