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Ear fluid. Sinus infection. Random virus.
Yup, those are the diagnoses I had one right after the other – plus a few others – this summer.
It was one of those times where you get sick with one thing and then, right when you think you’re almost recovered, another illness hits you and BAM! knocks you back down. BAH. Not fun. For three weeks straight, I felt like doing nothing. You wouldn’t think that something as simple as ear fluid would make you feel so awful. On the outside it seemed like nothing was wrong with me: I wasn’t coughing. I didn’t have a fever. No chills. Simply FATIGUE. Well, at least that’s how it started.
We don’t need to get into each and every symptom that I ended up having. All you need to know is that I felt like doing absolutely NOTHING. I wanted to lie down in the middle of the day, every day, and rest. My typically positive “You can do it!” go-getter attitude was placed on the backburner for something more like, “I succeeded in getting out of bed today.” :/
I lost my mojo!
We all know that your body needs rest when it’s sick. But the odd thing that I struggled with this time was how to get un-rested. Being sedentary apparently breeds more of the same…being sedentary. Several weeks after feeling better physically, I still wasn’t back on the bandwagon with everything that I usually kept up with…cooking meals at home, exercising regularly, and practicing my vocal repertoire. I felt like I ought to be able to get motivated and hop right back in, but WOW, it was tough getting my booty in gear! I needed to get my mojo back.
Are you feeling the same way? Lost your mojo? Well, let’s see if we can nip this in the bud and get back on track together!
Know That Restarting Will Be Difficult at First
My first day back at the gym after starting to feel a little more normal was a straight up cardio day. Not too bad. A bit fatigued but I could pace it to my liking. I had a couple of days to rest and then a more intense interval training day with my personal trainer. Pre-illness, I could have done my typical 5-minute warm up before my training session without a hitch. Easy peasy. But this time, I was winded after just a few moves into the warm up. I felt intimidated. I wanted to give up. I felt like all my previous hard work at the gym had gone to waste.
Luckily, I have an awesome trainer. He told me something that has since been very encouraging. It was something along the lines of: “Trust me to push you to where you need to go.” In other words, let him do his job because he’s the trainer, not me. He’s been working with me for over a year now. He knows how hard to push me and where my limits are.
“Trust me to push you to where you need to go.”
Those words were like a revelation for me. All this time, I’ve thought things like I need to pace myself, or I need to make sure that he doesn’t work me too hard to where I pass out, or I need to make sure I don’t get so tired that I hate working out or… Or. Or.
Wakeup call! He’s the trainer. He’s not going to let me pass out, and he’s certainly not going to let me quit. And it’s okay to let him push me to the point of exhaustion because he will know when to let up.
And I think this can be applied to practicing singing as well. Right now, I’m in a summer lull, i.e. no performances or rehearsals or anything actively going on. Sure, I can keep it that way and enjoy the ease of laziness and let my vocal folds get weak. Or instead, I can allow my voice teacher to push me to where I need to go. I have a performance with the opera in early fall, and will have a solo recital later this year as well. If I don’t whip my voice into shape and knock out some of this recital repertoire now, I will have to make up for it later on.
My point here is to try to push yourself to do the easier (though still tough) work of keeping your body and voice in shape now so that you don’t hurt yourself when you need to get your act together later on. A healthy body = a healthy voice. They go hand in hand. It’s the blessing and curse of being living vessels of our instruments as vocalists.
It’s Okay to Make Goals, But Be Realistic
When I first started writing this post, I began my draft with a list of specific goals to get motivated that included your typical healthy goals like: “No carbs, PERIOD.” “Get in four days of exercise every week, NO EXCUSES.” “Meal prep at the beginning of the week, EVERY WEEK.”
As I wrote, my goals felt less like simple challenges to tackle, and more like chores to check off the list. I was disgusted with the idea following such a stringent plan. With “no exceptions”-type rules. With tracking every little morsel of food that went in my mouth. I’ve been there and done that. While it may be fun when first starting a regimen like this, following through with it day after day and week after week – to me – gets really old really fast.
The same goes for singing. Yes, I can make a chart of when I will practice what repertoire. I can write down exactly what warmups I will do on which days. I can create clear and specific goals for each and every practice session from now through the end of the year. And while certainly there is a time and place for planning, right now, while I’m still getting reenergized and re-motivated, I want to ENJOY music. I want to savor the feeling of singing through a new piece for the first time; spend some quality time translating all of my foreign language pieces word-for-word instead of rushing through it haphazardly; relish the feeling of really getting my voice warmed up before a big practice session. Those are the moments I love.
Motivation Breeds Motivation
Remember when I said that being sedentary breeds more of the same? Well, the same is true for being motivated. Motivation breeds more motivation as well!
I don’t usually think of myself as a creature of habit. If things in my life are too much the same, I get bored and feel like I’m in a rut; however, I feel better when I work out and eat right and practice singing regularly. And it keeps me from feeling anxious about needing to “catch up” later on.
So perhaps I do need a schedule of some sort to keep the motivation going. But obviously, I can’t it be too strict. So where’s the middle ground? For me, I think it lies in making some more general goals and agreeing that I won’t beat myself up if I don’t meet them 100% of the time.
“How do you do that?” You might ask. Here is what is working for me right now:
- Food. Per my personal trainer, I am currently using a chart for my meals. I simply put a checkmark in a box when I eat a healthy meal or when I work out. This way, I’m not bogged down with the details of tracking every little piece of food that goes into my mouth. What has been interesting, though, is that I find myself wanting more of those checkmarks the more I have.
- Fitness. My goal is still to work out four times a week, BUT, if I don’t make it to that goal, no big deal. I remember that anything is better than nothing, and remind myself that no one is judging the number of times I went to the gym this week.Similarly, the more I work out, the more I find myself wanting to do it. I can tell that my breathing is getting a little bit easier again, and my stamina is up from where it used to be after being sick. And I crave more of that instead of the sluggish feeling I had after being sick.
- Singing. Getting back into practicing voice was a little tough at first. Sometimes I find it difficult to be motivated when a performance isn’t right around the corner. So I’m trying to keep the end goals in sight and remember the same things as I have with fitness: it’s a lot easier to do the work now than later. Not only that, but it’s easy to forget that this is something I really love and want to make a full time profession out of one day. It may not always be easy, or even enjoyable, but overall, performing is what I’d rather be doing than anything else. And the only way to perform well is to practice well.
You Are Not Alone (Even Though You Might Think You Are)
Have your ever felt alone on your journey? I know I have. I’ve felt like the only person that I could count on was myself.
While that is partly true (no one can motivate you but you), I realize now that I really am NOT in this alone. There are people who want to help me, push me to the limit, and really see me succeed…not for their own sake or bragging rights, but simply because they truly invested in my success.
My trainer has put a lot of work into my fitness and wants to see me continue my healthy habits and keep improving upon them. My voice teacher wants to see how far I can take my voice career and thinks I may be a voice teacher myself one day. My husband lives a healthier lifestyle when I do the same. My family and friends cheer me on and encourage my successes as they see my dreams being fulfilled.
You may feel alone, especially after an extended illness, but you are not. Seek out the people who are invested in your success. Let them lead you in the right direction. Allow their words of encouragement to fill your motivational needs and give you that extra push to do what you need to do.
I’m sure you’ve read over and over again that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint. For me, this could never be so true as it is now, what with trying to get back into the game.
In whatever it is that you are trying to achieve (be it eating healthily, working out, practicing your instrument…anything!), remember that there will be pitfalls and setbacks. It’s easy to get depressed when you’re not feeling 100% for a long period of time. It’s easy to get distracted from your goals. It’s easy to forget that the things you do are things you are passionate about. During those times, keep your support system close. Talk to the people who believe in you about what you’re going through. Ask for help. Recognize the ones who really believe in you and lean on them.
Once you start feeling better, make small, attainable goals that, as your trudge through completing them, will give you the momentum to tackle the big ones once again. Practice really does make perfect, so keep your eye on the prize while you’re knocking out a quick practice session, or workout, or even a simple grocery list.
And last, but not least, believe in yourself! There is power in believing in yourself. Mindset really is a huge contributing factor in what you are able to do. If you can’t make yourself think genuinely positive thoughts, try to practice positivity until it becomes your reality. Your biggest battle is against yourself.
P.S. Are you in a slump? Have you found great ways to motivate yourself after an extended illness? What advice would you give others in a similar situation? Let us know in the comments!
Also! Use #KreativeMotivation to share your positive habits or advice on social media.