Knowing Your Limits

I have taken an unplanned but intentional break from this blog over the past two weeks, because I was focusing on reaching my CampNaNoWriMo target of 70,000 words. I wanted to keep posting throughout the month of CampNaNoWriMo and certainly the first week of August, but my plans went awry. The main problem was that writing like crazy in the last week and a half of CampNaNoWriMo, following a two week slump, left me exhausted. Mental illness often makes people prone to fatigue, but my energy levels had been a little better lately so I didn’t consider how exhausting it would be to strive towards an ambitious short-term goal.

I resisted at first, but soon realised that I couldn’t carry on as I had planned: something had to give. Since Resurfacing and Rewriting is a long-term project and I want to maintain a high quality, it was appropriate to put it on hold. It was a difficult decision, but I knew it was the right one — focusing on CampNaNoWriMo allowed me to reach my target of 70,000 words in one month, which was an important goal for me.

Reassessing your plans and goals is essential for optimal mental health. Circumstances change, actions have unforeseen effects and priorities fluctuate. Instead of struggling to stick to your original intentions, it makes sense to step back and decide what to change. The trouble is, this can often feel like failure; we tend to measure success against our original goals.

When you have mental health problems, this can bring up a multitude of issues — will I ever be able to achieve what I want? Am I just useless? — which can negatively affect your self-esteem and anxiety. I have struggled with this a lot, though I’m getting better at seeing the bigger picture and realising that setbacks are not failures. Part of managing your mentsl health (whether or not you have a mental illness) is knowing your limits and slowing down when you see signs that you are approaching your limits.

This is easier said than done, of course! I probably should have slowed down at least a week before I revised my goals. My sleep pattern had been disrupted (more than usual, I mean: I’m prone to insomnia) and I was eating erratically. I was worried about not living up to my own expectations. I felt more stressed than I had for several weeks. However, the important thing is I stepped back and reassessed my plans before I actually hit my limit.

People often don’t give themselves credit for developing the skill of reassessing their goals. While it can sometimes feel like a cop-out, revising your plans can, conversely, enable you to be more productive and successful. Relieving the pressure provides space to explore your options and seize opportunities you might otherwise have overlooked. Instead of stubbornly slogging on and failing to reach your goals and/or harming your health, you can adapt to your current situation.

Sometimes goals aren’t worth the price you have to pay. Striving towards goals which cause more harm than good is worse than not having any goals. Don’t be afraid to be flexible when working towards your goals. Life is never 100% predictable. Reassess your goals at regular intervals and decide whether they need to be put on hold, prioritised or dropped altogether. Changing your plans isn’t weak: knowing your limits is a strength.