In life, I often find that the hardest part of some project or task or chore is just getting started.
Every year, usually around the holidays or the cold dark days of winter that follow, one of my running magazines will have an article about keeping your running motivation during the winter. As a runner, it’s hard to get out the door when it’s cold and dark. Just the act of getting ready for a run is a chore: multiple layers of clothes, a headlamp or some sort of flashlight, reflective vest, etc. So many times, it’s just easier to say “Screw it. I am going to watch back-to-back episodes of ‘Parks and Recreation’ on Netflix instead, in the warmth and comparative light of my home.” One of the tips that is always included in the Runner’s World article is to tell yourself that you’re just going to run for 10 or 15 minutes. The logic is that by just getting started, the worst part of the battle is over. Once you are dressed and out the door, you are much more likely to complete your regular run.
When I was in college, I generally hated studying. One of my friends once told me, “Sit down and tell yourself that you are only going to study for 15 minutes. Once you have started, you will keep going until your done.” This was sage advice and the first time that I realized that getting started was really the hardest part. Sure enough, once I started studying, I would lose track of time, and the next thing I knew, I would be done.
When I first got married, I drove a little 5-speed Hyundai Accent. Steve’s Jeep had died, so he wanted to use my car, but he didn’t know how to drive a stick-shift. We went to an empty parking lot, and I taught him how to drive. I remember saying, “The hardest part is getting started. Once you let out on the clutch and the car starts moving, it gets much easier.”
I was thinking about all these things this week, as I try to gather motivation for the many projects and tasks that I have to do around the house. I was talking with a friend of mine during the week about how I just had no motivation to do anything. He listened to me, and then just said, “Yeh, it’s winter. You’re depressed”. He then related to me how his wife suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and went through the exact same thing that I was going through every winter.
For reference, the Mayo Clinic offers the following information about SAD:
Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:
Tiredness or low energy
Problems getting along with other people
Hypersensitivity to rejection
Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Well, let’s see, I have symptoms 2, 5, 6, 7, and 8. So, yeh, that sounds about right. Winter madness!
Mayo also reports that symptoms are seen more often in women and people with other forms of mood disorder or clinical depression. I was diagnosed with cyclothymia many years ago, and took medication for it for a long time. I no longer take the medication as I am usually able to control the symptoms and relapses with lifestyle habits (mainly getting plenty of rest and regular exercise).
Luckily, the weather towards the end of this week has turned warmer, and a bit sunnier. It’s now light when we leave home in the morning, and light when we return home after work. That, combined with the end of my horrid head cold, has left me with a little more motivation and energy this past week.
And my better mood has got me thinking about getting started. This week, I got started with my running again and went for my first run in almost two months (I am still sore). I have another one planned for today. But today, I also plan to get started with my decluttering and simplifying again. After I do the dishes and start some laundry this morning, I am going to clear everything out of the corner in my dining room and go through it.
Because getting started is always the hardest part. But once you start, it gets much easier.