The PSY 5108 Project Priority

This summer, I decided to take PSY 5108 – Health Psychology. Why? Well… I need 21 credits of PSY to satisfy the concentration for my PhD. It was offered twice a week over eight weeks, didn’t have any prerequisites, and I figured that it would be helpful, as part of my teaching repertoire is supposed to include how to tell first-year college students how to maintain healthy lifestyles during their inaugural semesters.

I’ve blogged before about my struggle to be healthy via exercise and diet. I don’t talk about it a lot in the online medium, partially because I’m very self-conscious about it and partially because I don’t think I do a very good job with it for myself. Of course, as with most of these courses toward the advanced degree, being in a class where assignments require a great deal of introspection and reflection means that you can’t hide from those issues for long.

One of the major assignments for the class was to choose a single health habit to put into effect for the remainder of the course and track our progress. I’d initially thought about using my claim that I’d participate in Tough Mudder with my boss and some of my students in December in Tampa, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Do I really need another huge goal/project to devote my time to complete? Am I not doing enough already? But… well, the professor side of me says that’s a cop-out, and I need to suck up and pick a project. Luckily, I’d planned on biking to work a few days a week to put more exercise into my schedule.

Of course, the presence of the project and the knowledge that I’m supposed to do something for class (but that I’m not judged on success or failure) imparts guilt but doesn’t really move me to do something for me. I’m not exactly “on” my diet, but I haven’t gone back to my godawful habits that I abandoned back in 2010. I haven’t gone to the gym regularly or done the morning runs; instead, I’ve spent that time on projects at ACX and reading for other podcasts. I make sure that I don’t get stressed out by not taking on too many projects and making time to relax in the evening before going to bed before 11PM.

And yet, I’m getting ready to write this short report on tracking my exercise over the past two months, able to analyze my behavior on no less than four different health psychology models, and I feel like I’ve failed. Why? Because I haven’t maintained a consistent exercise schedule? Or is it because that those priorities brought to light aren’t MY priorities?

It might be the last one. I’d like to lose another ten pounds (or is that re-lose? They came back, I guess they missed me…) but I’m not obsessing over it. I know that I lost them before, and I know what I need to do to make that happen again. I think that at the moment, voiceovers and writing and my family are the priority, because maintaining those three key things means that I maintain my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, I am genuinely interested in the course and I love learning about the subject matter and why people engage in certain behaviors over others. I just don’t know if it’s as high a priority as it could be.

One of my professors last fall said that psych grad students are a special breed and that “we” shouldn’t expect to be able to relate to clients or the majority of people our own age. When he said that, I looked around the room and wondered just how many other students in the class had families with young children, worked full time, and then worked part time in another venture. Needless to say, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. The more I go through the concentration courses, the more I struggle to find someone to whom I can relate. The closest person to whom I can relate are the faculty, and even then… there’s usually a ten year age difference, I generally have more children (my three to their one or two, and mine are younger), and the idea of a creative venture just isn’t there. And if you’re not familiar with academic circles, “faculty” generally lead different lives on campus than “staff” which is what I am. So the relatability often stops there.

(I’m rambling, I know. But I’ve been studying for two afternoons straight, I stopped on “social factors and sense of control as modifiers of stress” in my outline, and I figured I needed a break. Besides, I’ll have to write the two page report on my ‘health habit’ before Tuesday morning, and I’ll probably reference this post… maybe.)

What I’d like to do is step back and lay out all of the projects I have on hand, all of the creative ventures I’ve been managing, set those next to work and family, and stand back to go, “Now, where do you see me fitting this in right now?” That nasty little voice in my head wants me to sniffle and ask for pity because, sweet bowls of Cheerios, am I not doing enough?

Maybe. But I took on the responsibility of the class, of the doctoral program, just as I did for the voiceover contracts and writing agreements. I have a responsibility for my own health, since that directly affects my ability to perform in all of those areas. So standing back and claiming that I don’t have to be healthy because I’m doing everything else kind of defeats the purpose of the entire class. I can cite my stuff on Runkeeper as my working to keep healthy, and I can cite my chiropractor appointments as evidence that running is not a great use of my body (but biking is much better). I can honestly examine the barriers that exist, and I can consciously choose to do something differently that, in the long run, will have a positive impact on my health and creative endeavors.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… earning the doctorate (even the EdS, which would happen first) is one of the steps in my quest to focus more of my time on voiceovers and writing. Being healthy keeps me happy and keeps me from being so anxious, which allows me to enjoy my family so much more.

There’s also red dresses.

So, what did I do? Improve my exercise… not quite, but I figured out something that I can do reliably that I enjoy, and I can fit it into my schedule. Biking to work is a lot of fun, and it does provide me with blissful thinking time in the mornings and afternoons. The biggest challenge is scheduling it within other family-centric priorities, and that requires communication and planning. Do I need to do more? Probably… I need to go back to tracking what I eat and making more conscious efforts to stay away from comfort eating in the evening, which means going back to tea and a small homemade blueberry muffin for dessert -or- frozen yogurt, not both. I need to pay better attention to portion size, eat more veggies at lunch and dinner, and drink more water. I need to put more of an emphasis on exercise during the week when I don’t bike to work.

… I might need to go a little easier on myself, too.

So, there. One of the other things that I learned about most health-related goals is that making the goal public and enabling social support networks increases the likelihood of achieving one’s goal. As I am not an internet darling and there is sufficiently low traffic, I can make this goal and pledge forward semi-public by writing about it here, but not worry that someone uberfamous is going to make it go viral. Let’s face it… who’s going to see it besides me and you? Probably not my professor this term, but if she does?

Thanks, Dr. Van Sickle.

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 1st, 2012 at 1:49 pm and is filed under academics, time management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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