Yesterday ended another 13.5 hour shift. I work as a nurse therapist specialising in the treatment of eating disorders. One of the therapeutic groups I ran was on ‘Perfectionism and Procrastination’, how to identify these behaviours, challenge them, and eventually overcome them. These patients have known me for a long time, I don’t see the point in preaching to them without trying to aspire to what I’m saying.
Now perfectionism isn’t much of a problem for me. OK, I have a few “particulars” especially in work; handouts should be double sided and printed in colour, and if you’re going to paperclip them together rather than using a stapler, then have the decency to give the pages a quick tap on the table so that they’re not all messed up! I also spent my tea break organising the office white board with metallic black tape. Patients room numbers were put up there rather than just randomly putting patients details anywhere and things like frequency of vital signs and medical examinations needed were colour coded. I dread to think what I will be like when I’m not there and somebody else has to write on my board in legible handwriting that differs from mine, I do know however, that it wont cause me crippling anxiety when it happens (I’ll just correct it).
So yeah…Perfectionism, not an issue.
So we were all discussing what we procrastinate about and why. With people suffering from eating disorders it’s common that their high levels of perfectionism, the high expectations they put on their own selves and very seldom others means they can often avoid certain tasks and challenges for fear that they wont be “perfect”. This is a protective factor. If they did it and it wasn’t “perfect” this leads to thoughts such as “I am a failure, I am not perfect”, these thoughts, create feelings of hopelessness and low mood and in turn re-enforce their core belief that they are “useless”. The cycle continues.
Bit of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for ya there! Now although somebodies procrastination may not be being fed by their ‘perfectionism’ the thought cycle and belief system is the same. So my examples are (I didn’t discusses the marathon one with patients as I think that it’s unfair to be talking about my weight loss and fitness journey with people who are struggling to gain weight and reduce physical activity).
- Task 1 – Booking an eye test so that I can get my provisional driving licence.
Excuses – It costs money
Real reason Why? – Because I will then be able to learn how to drive.
Negative Thoughts and Assumptions – “I am 30 years old, I haven’t driven before”, “I prefer to be driven”, “I am too old, I wont be able to do it”, “I will fail”
Behaviours – Put off the test, don’t have to try to learn to drive, wont ever have to do test, wont fail.
Core Belief – “I am a failure”
Now I must stress, this negative thinking pattern, in people with chronic low self-esteem and confidence can be crippling. My self-esteem is generally good, and these thoughts and feelings do not impact in other areas of my life.
Result and goal set – I am to book my eye test appointment by next Wednesday.
- Task 2 (the big one) – Registering for the Rock n Roll Dublin Half Marathon.
Excuses? – It costs money, something may come up on that day which will mean I won’t be able to do it, then I’ve wasted money.
Real reasons why – Because it will make my goal real, rather than being a pie in the sky blog that could just as easily be deleted and never spoken of again.
Negative Thoughts and Assumptions – “I have never done this before, I wont be able to do it, I am fecked after a 5k, how am I going to manage over 20?”, “I will end up on the buggy bus because I am not fit enough”, “I will come last”
Protective Behaviours – Delay registering, promise myself that once I do 5K under 30 minutes and complete a 10k in under 68 minutes, then I will register.
The result of this procrastination is that I feel anxious if I do, I feel anxious if I don’t. If I do, the above happens. If I don’t, I may be too late and miss registration. Any work I would have done will have been a waste.
Core Beliefs – “I am stupid”, “I am not fit and healthy”, “I’m chicken”
So that was my day. I came home, and got ready to run…
- 5K mindful run
- Beat previous time of 32 minutes, 30 seconds.
Off we went, and I am not making excuses, but I can not stress how windy it was last night. It was like the windiest wind ever, I’ve never run in anything like it and it was damn well cold wind! Mindfulness was out the window and all I could think of was “Just run”. There is an area on our 5K route in Blessington, Wicklow, which is the dullest part of the town. It’s barren land, plain flat fields with the odd cow mooing about. It’s very open and to top it off…it’s uphill. Fantastic. It killed me, I was cold, out of breath and running against the wind. I was definitely slower that Tuesday. DAMN YOU WIND, WHY ARE YOU FUCKING EVERYTHING UP FOR ME? I’ll be slower now, think I’m failing, and probably just give up!
I got up the hill, round the roundabout and this is what I saw:
Yes, that is my husband way off ahead of me!
The glorious Wicklow mountains and accompanying sunset (pic doesn’t to it justice, but I was running whilst taking it on a little iPhone)
5K completed in 33 minutes 00 seconds. 30 seconds slower than Tuesday (damn you wind). I did however get my fastest 1K ever (it’s exactly the same as my fastest on Tuesday, but I must’ve been a millisecond quicker, anyway the Nike running app gave me a ribbon…I’m aving it!).
So, to procrastinate further, give up or keep going?
I registered for the half marathon today. Yes I am anxious, but it’s an excited anxious, there’s a difference. I will do my best, and keep telling myself that that’s good enough for me. Here’s the proof 🙂
The website if you want to join me is: http://ie.competitor.com/dublin/register
10K run tomorrow…It may all fall apart then, only tomorrow will tell. And, I’ll book that opticians appointment…later.