Browsing "Doctorate"
Sep 30, 2018 - Devotional, Doctorate, Health    1 Comment

Procrastination vs. Self Care

Avoidance. Taking a break. Filling my cup. Delaying the inevitable.

All of life is a balancing act. I believe most people have more goals, tasks, or demands than they could possibly accomplish in a single day. Whether it is children who need attention, job or school tasks that demand completion, or relationships that require tenderness and time, we are all pushed to our limits.

I am in a season of incredible demands on my time. I am currently working full-time, nearing completion of a doctorate degree, and teaching a class at a local university. I’ve begun jokingly referring to my life and stress level as a category of hurricane. For instance, “Guys, there are seven toddlers coming to class today… what could go wrong? My life is like a category 5 hurricane.” It’s a good day lately when the category or hurricane was deemed to be three or less. I long for the days when I deal with the winds and demands of just a tropical storm level life!

The winds, rains, and hurricane categories will not abate any time soon. And yet in all of it, I cannot maintain the same pace of life; I need breaks. Real, guilt-free, purposeful breaks. My brain, heart, body, and soul cannot run this fast and deal with constant hurricane-force winds without real and serious repercussions. I’ve tried to be mindful of such strains on my body over the past several months. Those fingers that go numb because I slept wrong or the headache that hangs on longer than normal or the stress-filled dreams are all indicators of a need to care for myself. Caring for my body is crucial, but I am trying to be just as attentive to strains on my soul.

Whenever I have control of my schedule, I schedule weekly breaks. Real, intentional, purposeful, life-giving breaks. During these times, I don’t do school work. I don’t check emails. I don’t write dissertations. Instead, I create margins in my life. I watch movies, and take naps, I go to theme parks, have lunch with friends, I make crafts and do all the many, many items that get pushed off the edge of my plate on a daily basis during Cat-5 hurricane days!

There was a long period of time where I felt selfish for these actions. Like I was filling my world with too much “me-time” or feeling guilty for taking a break. I have been thinking a lot about the difference between procrastination and self-care. The difference to me is that procrastination is focused on task avoidance. I procrastinate when I don’t want to do something, when it feels overwhelming, when it isn’t fun. Procrastination is, at its core, saying “no.”

Self-care, on the other hand, is choosing to say a deep and resounding, “yes!” to something better. It isn’t primarily saying no to an undesirable task, but saying yes to something even more important. Self-care is saying yes to rest, to life-giving experiences, to reminding myself of my limits and my worth. My sanity and health are more important than any paper than could be written, any grade that could be assigned, any project that could be completed, or any course that could be taught. Self-care is not selfish. It is pulling away in order to re-engage at our best. This realization has let me take breaks without guilt. The tasks will never fully quiet. Even when I graduate and the semester is done, the pulls for my time and attention will continue. I am training myself to distinguish between procrastination and self-care, and to choose the best yes. Sometimes the best thing I can choose is to take a break.

 

How do you practice self-care?

Apr 5, 2018 - Doctorate    1 Comment

Worshipful Mediocrity

When I started seminary in 2007, my professor shocked me. He started the first day of the first class with this warning: “Some of you will not get an A in this class, and that will be a sin because it will mean that you didn’t take the class material seriously or work heartily as for the Lord. For those of you who will fall into this category, be warned.” I am an excellent straight-A student and I scoffed at this warning. This would not be my lot.

Yet, my professor continued, “Some of you will get an A in this class and that too will be a sin because it will mean that you neglected something more worthy in order to give time to this class.”

*Stab of poignant truth! * *gasp* (Imagine my heart doing a Shakespearean level death speech)

That was me.

I would almost always choose school and neglect worship, personal quiet times, community, service, or caring for others. I value my studiousness and it outranked so everything else for much of my life.

But since I am an eternal graduate student (going on year eight…), I am hoping to change my priorities and sometimes I practice worshipful mediocrity. This does not mean that I worship the Lord in a mediocre fashion! That would not be holy, honoring, or appropriately awe-inducing. He is worthy of all my worship. Rather, I perform other tasks with a level of mediocrity to allow space for worship.

I practiced this new balance this week as I turned in an assignment for class. It was good, but not my best. I estimate I will get a B+ on this assignment. I could have easily put more research into it. Found three more sources. Re-read my paper and honed a few sentences. And basically spent two more hours on this assignment to change my B+ to an A+. But I made the decision that I could spend these two hours differently. I could talk to my roommate, go for a walk, read scripture, pray, prepare for Sunday School, or just rest and remind myself that the world does not depend on my efforts continually. I also could have “saved” two hours from my school assignment just to squander them with mindless phone scrolling or frustration when I received my grade. The mediocre work wasn’t the win, what I did with my newly found time was what made it worshipful.

My time and energy are finite. It takes immense wisdom to choose the best yes for my limited resources. My professor’s first day speech has stuck with me more than a decade later. School is important. I want to complete it well, and still dedicate oodles and oodles of time toward it. But sometimes, mediocre work is the right choice. Intentional mediocrity reminds me that I am worthy no matter my grades and that I should spend my time and energy on the most important things, which isn’t always my discussion board post!

Where do you choose mediocrity and what do you put your energy toward instead?

Sep 27, 2017 - Doctorate, My Story    1 Comment

My Three-Year Pregnancy

Before you ask, I am not really pregnant.

But I feel pregnant.

I am in my second year of a three-year doctoral program and I’ve begun to think of each year like a trimester. Perhaps this is just because I’m surrounded by little ones all day long, but the analogy works in my mind! Each trimester brings with it joys and pitfalls. Each with new challenges and changes. Here’s what I mean:

First Trimester: I read the books before hand. I planned to enter into this “pregnancy.” I felt prepared. But I wasn’t. My body underwent changes. I stopped sleeping. I had strange cravings. Morning sickness, projects, and anxiety abounds as the future feels daunting. How can I make it to the end? This is not what I expected it would be like.

Second Trimester: Currently, I’m in the second trimester, I have worked through the morning sickness, am comfortable with the idea of this pregnancy/program, and able to make plans to meet this little one. I’ve hit a good stride and the second trimester is magic. I’m far enough into the pregnancy to feel familiar with my new routines, but not so large that I am physically uncomfortable. I’m planning for the future, picking out nursery colors, and watching as my baby and project begin to take shape.
Third Trimester: The third trimester/year will arrive soon enough, and I’ll be more than ready to birth this doctoral project and get this kid out of me so I can sleep again! I am sure I will have “senioritis” and the need to feel finished with this program in the coming months and years and will need encouragement to finish with grit and grace. I will be anxious for the “post-natal” phase of life to begin.
Even as I write this, I know that the post-natal/post-graduation phase of life will bring with it new challenges, joys, pitfalls, and changes. Life seems to be in a constant state of transition. Always seemingly just out of the reach of stability. But that doesn’t make it bad. My dad has reminded me ever since I can remember that each phase of life has its joys and drawbacks. None is inherently better than the other and I can learn from all of them.
Learn from the struggles. Accentuate the good. And keep living the adventure of life.
I’m trying to take his advice. So I continue to eat healthy, sleep when I can, exercise, go to the doctor and care for this little bundle of doctoral joy that I’m currently maturing during my three-year pregnancy.
Moms, what did I miss in my trimester analogy?
Jun 23, 2017 - Doctorate, Humor    1 Comment

Adding Playtime

Life is busy.

That may be the biggest understatement of the year for you, just as it is for me.

My friend recently told that I was effectively leading three lives, which she labeled as: full-time student, full-time therapist, and everything else (church, friends, sleep, downtime).

I have tried very purposefully to balance and keep the three lives moving in unison. But without constant vigilance, the first two lives balloon out and eclipse the third. I will not allow my school projects to usurp self-care time. I will work fervently when I am at work, and I will rest fiercely when I am away.

I’ve started adding time that I call Doctoral Student Playtime. I need it. My days are directed by infants’ schedules and productivity demands. My evenings are swallowed in research articles and APA citations. There has to be a third space to keep me sane.

I’ve fit lots of options into this third space: Disney, dinner with a friend, sitting outside and watching the birds at my bird feeder (Yes, I am an old lady). I’ve added another category: Play. Do the unexpected. Be ridiculous. Laugh at yourself.

I read a book recently, aptly called Play, which argued for the importance of play in childhood. As a therapist, I know this. Play is a child’s primary occupation. It is the principle method utilized to learn about oneself and the world. But the book argued that playtime was also crucial for adults. We need a balance in life. We will quickly run out of steam if work, productivity, achievement, accomplishment, and efficiency is our driving force.

Levity matters. Playfulness strengthens. Laughter heals.

It doesn’t take long. The more ridiculous, the better in my opinion. Five minutes of laughter can fill my tank after five hours of paper writing. So I’m committed to making time to play. I invite you to join me!

Feb 28, 2017 - Doctorate    1 Comment

The Quit-o-Meter

I work full-time and am in school full-time. There is little time for fun or play. And because of this my Quit-o-Meter is high!

I need people I can call and ask them to remind me why I’ve done this to myself! Why did I seek to get a doctorate? Why did I sign up for that committee at work? Why did I agree to that service opportunity?

I like to think that I can balance my life by subtracting things I don’t want to do, but in this season of my life that’s not possible. I cannot say, “I think it would be better for my health not to write that term paper, Professor.” Likewise, I cannot say to my boss, “I just don’t feel like working today. Can I just sit here instead?” I cannot subtract tasks from my life easily right now.

So my option is to add.

Add goodness. Add people. Add fun and well-mannered frivolity!

My Quit-o-Meter is sometimes high and my schedule is tighter than it has ever been. But somehow adding more is the right answer because it changes the relative enjoyment of life. So I’m adding massage appointments, and dinner dates with friends, and reading a book for fun. Sometimes these are done in fifteen minute increments because I still do have twenty page papers to write, but these additions are helping to lower my Quit-o-Meter and make me feel more balanced.

How do you achieve a feeling of life/work/school/family balance in life?

Semester One Recap

I have one semester of my doctorate under my belt.

Holy frijoles. What a semester!

doctorate, school, day one

I now know anything anyone could care to know about Florida House Bill 943 and can articulate a growth theory which likens our lives to a river blocked with rocks and aided by driftwood. I am a more knowledgable clinician now.

But what do I give up to do this?

I give up home cooking and instead I throw together meals and wraps last minute. I give up watching shows or keeping up with current events. I give up flexibility and spontaneity.

And what do I gain? Knowledge. Goals. Excitement about future possibilities.

I made a pact with myself to keep school in its corner and not let it expand and take over my world. I made a decision to be the World’s Okayest Student. I wanted to do mediocre work! And if you know me, you know that I am a perfectionist especially when it comes to school!

okayest student cup doctorate

 

I believe school is important and hard work will help my patients and possible students in the future, but I’m not willing to give up relationships and ministry to do it. I want to strive for more and be content with where I am. In the wise words of Cool Runnings, “If you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.” That includes doctorates, and relationships, and houses, and children, and jobs, and bank accounts, and awards. If you are in need of this reminder, as I am: You are enough. Just as you are.

Balance and adventure. Determination and relaxation. Mediocrity and ambition. These pairs of juxtaposing ideas have circled in my head throughout the entire year. But in the midst of all of it, I am enough.

I can work out of my worth instead of working for it.

In this knowledge, bring on next semester!

 

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