What I Learned From 7th Grade
It was the beginning of 7th grade and I decided to try track. On the day of our first race, I can say with absolute certainty that the second that horn blew and I started running, that I forgot EVERYTHING those nice, kind coaches taught me about running.
I didn’t remember to breathe or think about correct form. I didn’t think about moving my arms or holding in my core. The competitive side of me came out and I just started sprinting as fast as I knew how. One of the major things I learned in those first few practices was how to pace myself. This really went out the window and I definitely was NOT pacing myself or thinking about how I was going to sustain this pace until the end.
So there I was, running like my life depended on it (it truly wasn’t) and I could hear my dad screaming from the stands “Go Mel Go! Go Mel Go!” In a very loud Long Island accent that really is quite distinctive. That was when I realized I was in the lead! I actually could win! With only a few moments left in the race I tried to go faster knowing this was my TIME! But there was nothing left in the tank. Right as I crossed the finish line another girl took one giant leap and she came in first place. I was heartbroken.
Well, at least one of us paid attention to the pacing yourself part of the race, right? It just wasn’t me.
And that’s when it happened. My first real, full blown asthma attack. Right there at the finish line. In front of all of those kids that had just met me a few weeks prior. All those kids I was trying to impress now witnessed me completely unable to breathe. It wasn’t my finest moment.
In hindsight this was the start of a two important things for me.
I started to tell myself this lie that I couldn’t be a runner because of my asthma. Not that I had to take my inhaler first, not that I had to work on pacing myself. In that one race I decided I could not be a runner. That I was not only not good enough, but that it wasn’t an option for me.
It was also the first of many times that I would ignore my body and push passed any signs of fatigue to reach a goal, only to crash and burn afterwards. I did this all through college and well into my adult life. Just over and over again. Going and going until I reached full burn out or got terribly sick.
Looking back on this story, I wish I could have told myself that I could in fact be a runner, I just had to learn the fundamentals first. As well as tips for how to breathe correctly and how to pace myself. It wasn’t until the last 6 months when I decided to start running on the treadmill at my gym using a guided running app that I realized that SO much of my story was made up. I haven’t once needed to use an inhaler or felt like it was beyond my control. This was something I made up based on ONE run in 7th grade with little guidance or education about it.
My mindset has shifted so much, largely in part to realizing that I have the power to try anything and learn anything. If I’m listening to my body and focusing on what it needs, I can truly accomplish anything. This has opened up so much for me not just with running but in my business and life at home as well.
How many times in our life do we tell ourselves that we can’t do something because of one experience or without the actual training to do so?
It has also taken me 35 years on this earth to realize that having a strong work ethic and being hard working does NOT mean working all the time and ignoring your body. When I created my book The Confident Closet, it was the first time I truly looked at my plan and said “Ok, how am I going to do this with the time I actually have, and not sacrificing sleep or time with my kids and husband?” This may seem second nature to you, but I have ALWAYS sacrificed sleep and my health to achieve my goals. And as huge of a hurdle as it was to create my book and get it out into the world, the fact that I didn’t completely burn out in the process is a testament to so much inner work.
As a New Yorker, you are taught to go, go, go, as fast as you can or someone else might get there before you. Much like my run that day in 7th grade, I thought if I just went as hard as possible I’ll win, when in fact I now believe something completely different to be true. Now I aim to be present every day, enjoy big and little moments, be efficient and plan by being realistic about what I can accomplish, and listening to my body. I have seen more results from working less hours but with education and prep on my side then I ever did from working until I burned out.
And while I continue to meet people and circumstances that try to convince me otherwise, it is so important for me to remember that I am capable of anything I want. But not if I burn out in the process. And what a different world it would be if this was the mindset we celebrated!
So at this point you probably are wondering what I’ve done to change this pattern of work, work work, burn out.
Five Ways I’ve Been Changing My Burnout Ways
Time Blocking - I am notorious for creating lists that are completely unrealistic. Like really Melanie, you are going to write that entire month’s worth of content in an hour? Try again. Be honest with yourself about how long something is going to take and then find that amount of time to do so. It seems self explanatory but it’s something I have to work on all the time!
A Reasonable Bedtime - I know… I know… As a night owl who gets the most creative at midnight I’ve been actively trying to slowly move my bedtime up. When I can go to bed early and get a good night’s rest I am a COMPLETELY different person.
Taking Care of My Health - I can only speak from my experience, and that is when I am exercising and eating healthy I have more energy, am much less anxious, and am more clear headed. I am not super human and there are days that this is easier than others, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that I always feel my best when I’ve been eating healthy and working out. Notice how I didn’t say “look my best”. I’m way more concerned with how I’m feeling.
Space - I am someone who REALLY likes their job. So I can get caught up in the working every free second of the day trap. I just get so excited and I have so many ideas. Also, as a mamapreneur every free second feels like it needs to be filled. That being said, I am by far my most creative self when I’m not cramming in work every moment.
Check Ins To Catch The Pattern - I will start to notice that my bedtime is becoming later, or I’m working more often, or that I am being unrealistic with my time. These check ins need to happen often for me to make sure I’m not going back down the road to burn out.
I am in no way an expert in this. In fact I am full aware that this could be something I am always working towards. But if I have seen what both sides of the spectrum do to me as a person, and I’m so proud that I’m not still that 7th grader having an asthma attack due to pushing too hard, or the college student sleeping on a desk because I pulled an all nighter, or a new mom who didn’t have time to shower, but she had time to write that blog post. I’m proud of you too by the way. Cause we are in this together, and I KNOW you have been there too. Here’s to striving for balance and leaving burn out in the dust.