Keep on Trying, That’s Good Enough
As excited as I am for this opportunity to discuss mental health, I feel somewhat unqualified. Traditionally, I would not say I’ve been particularly effective at managing my own mental health. I prefer bottling my emotions and issues up and dealing with them on my own. Procrastination and perfectionism promote a lot of icky feelings, negative self-talk, and unfavorable comparisons of myself against others, which drags down my mental health. When I procrastinate, I hate myself, and I procrastinate a lot.
Not doing school is just so much easier than doing school. I always pay big time when it’s three days till the deadline, and I’ve just started my term project. I frequently berate myself over why I can’t stop myself from doing it when I know it hurts me. As for my perfectionism, it’s a bad combo with procrastination. I fear my work doesn’t meet assignment criteria and obsess over how to make it better.
I end up spending half of my remaining three days overthinking and making assignments much harder for myself than they needed to be. I think to myself, “Why are you so stupid, doing this again!” or “Other people are managing way more than you. What’s wrong with you?” It’s exhausting, stressful, and discouraging every time.
Recently, I decided to proactively take charge and work to protect and improve my mental health. By recently, I mean maybe 5 or 6 weeks ago when SLC began discussing the importance of mental health and planning for this awareness month. On that note, I’d say joining an extracurricular group or club can be a great way to improve mental health and cope with school stress or loneliness.
I love being part of a group/team with a purpose and the chance to engage and connect with the school’s community. Getting back on track, I ended up scheduling a phone appointment with an LB counselor, and I can report that I don’t regret it. We discussed my negative self-talk and procrastination tendencies. Talking and letting out my doubts, insecurities, and issues felt relieving and elevating.
My counselor recommended that I repeat 3 indisputable, easy-to-remember positive statements about myself when I start criticizing myself. She also suggested I take a few minutes when I get overly stressed to focus on my breathing and use school resources like academic coaching for procrastination. Personally, I’m also trying to pray more as I don’t do it regularly enough.
So far, I’m doing what the counselor suggested irregularly at best. Sometimes I still don’t have anything nice to say about myself. I am rarely willing to take 5 minutes for breathing exercises when I have a pressing assignment and deadline I need to work on. I’m using school resources more, but I don’t always follow through with what they offer or recommend. I’m learning to be okay with that, and I hope others can too.
My procrastinating and perfectionist habits were cemented sophomore year in high school, and I’ve made many plans and attempted many times to correct these self-defeating habits and mindset. Most barely lasted a week IF they managed to make it out of my head. These failed tries discouraged and made me think it was a lost cause to try changing.
The thing is though, it’s a lot of effort to change from setting bad habits to establishing and maintaining good new habits. It doesn’t happen overnight, and I’m still going to be bad at taking care of myself a lot throughout this process.
My biggest takeaway is accepting my shortcomings and continuing on trying.
As a perfectionist, that’s not an easy pill to swallow, but it is the healthiest approach to take. Focus on what I am doing and not everything I’m not doing. My three positive statements are “I am loved no matter what,” “I do good work even if I feel I don’t,” and “I’m always trying my best and making baby steps towards better.” I don’t say these every day, but I say them when they occur to me and that’s good enough.
As long as I keep trying, I’ll eventually get there. Playing with my puppy or praying to God, talking with a counselor or confiding to my parents, relying on friends and peers, and taking time to mindfully take care of myself for a better state of mind, done sporadically or reluctantly, are steps in the right direction worth feeling good over.