Why starting over is the best thing ever
Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian
I’d been slowly trying to blow myself up since before the dumpster fire that was 2020. As much as I preach about self-care and balance, I have a hard time working on those things myself. Like many veterinary professionals, I’m far better at giving advice than taking it.
When the pandemic hit, I put my head down and worked in preparation for catching the virus and being out of work for 2-4 weeks as it ran through my household. My house call euthanasia service skyrocketed overnight when the shut down happened. At one point in July, all of the house call services in our area were booked out 5 days and turning clients away. The end of the year came, and I didn’t (as far as I know) catch COVID. I had financial security for the first time in my adult life. And I had managed to make a mess of my mental health.
In 2021 I vowed to change my behavior. I took more breaks, made an effort to stop doomscrolling on my phone, and went on a small vacation. Our family got vaccinated, so my stress about the worst of COVID (minus the loss of several friends and family members pre-vaccination) eased. I was better, but still not great. I had a lot of pent-up anger and resentment. I knew I needed help, but the idea of trying to add difficult and profound work to my already exhausted soul was daunting.
In November, I joined BetterHelp through Not One More Vet’s free month offer. The first thing I told my therapist was that I didn’t feel up to doing “the work” but I hoped she would help me anyway. I was so fortunate to find exactly the person I needed. She told me my homework was to have fun and connect with people I care about – and then she held me accountable in a gentle and encouraging way. I also read Ten Percent Happier by Dan Harris and started using his app to meditate. I’d tried to start a regular meditation practice before and had “failed”. In another stroke of fortune, Dan’s uptight approach to mediation was the key that unlocked a daily practice. In that practice, I found what I was looking for to approaching my life differently.
There’s no such thing as “failing’ meditation. There is only beginning again. As long as we are alive, beginning again is an option (and who knows, it might be afterward too!). I’ve started to apply beginning again to everything I do. Instead of punishing or shaming myself for behavior that I don’t like, I realize that I’m doing something I don’t want to do. Then I make a choice to stop and begin again. I hit 120 days in a row meditating and then accidentally forgot a day when I was sick. I was able to allow myself to feel disappointment and then try again. It was actually a few months before I got back into a daily practice. I might have given up had I punished myself.
Like most people during the last 2+ years, my diet was another area where I felt I had “failed”. I attended a course on intuitive eating by Dr. Amy Porto and utilized the meditations on this subject on my Ten Percent app. Fighting with my body about food, weight, and appetite became less of a focus. Thank goodness, because when I finally caught COVID in April 2022, it caused derangements in appetite that would have been far more difficult to handle without this tool.
The most important way that beginning again has helped me is with exercise. After COVID, my doctor warned me that I shouldn’t rush into exercise. Since I also developed long COVID and then caught a cold just as I was starting to improve, exercising in my usual way wasn’t an option. Fatigue, dizziness, heart palpitations, and exercise intolerance were frustrating, but I was able to be gentler with myself than usual. I’ve made the most out of any workout I can do and rested when I’m not up to it. A record number of viruses this year has given me lots of practice beginning again.
This applies to so many aspects of our lives. Failure isn’t failure if you begin again – even if beginning again means trying something completely different. Rest and start over – this is my new mantra, and it sure works better than “push harder, you loser”. You don’t have to wait for January 1, your birthday, or the beginning of the month. Every day presents myriad opportunities to begin again. Try it and see what happens.