In my last post 2 months back, describing my 3yo toddler’s attempts to put her head under water in the pool, she was still work in progress. As of September 19, she did the impossible. She put her head under water multiple times. To say that her swim coach and I were ecstatic – is simply an understatement. We were over the moon, one hundred times and more.
But an unexpected thing happened. The next week during her lesson, she refused to put her head under water, and she was frightened of almost everything. And she cried and cried. Her swim coach said she felt like my little girl had regressed to 3 to 4 swim lessons before.
We were perplexed. Her father had wise words to explain, and they were true. He likened the operation of putting her head under water to a complex operation like flying a plane. If you have not been doing it regularly enough, you would have to review the concrete steps one by one again. Each time you need to fly the plane. And so, her swim coach returned to putting her through the fun and playful exercises of dipping her head partially into water, such as retrieving little torpedo-shaped weights from the shallow area, and letting her do her favourite kicking in the water.
It came a point that she had to miss one lesson because she fell sick. I wondered if that would break the momentum of the exercises. Her father again said – well, maybe disruptions are good. And he was right again. I realised that my little girl was psyching herself up to do the impossible again during the break – through her doll play. One night, she took her Paddington Bear and said he was swimiming, with his head under water, and it was fun. That took me by surprise. A few days later, we had an impromptu swim at a friend’s place, and she asked me to support her in swimming because she….wanted to “put my head under water”! Wow. At the end of that practice, she squealed in elation, saying “Good job! Good job!”. In fact, she kept saying, “it is not scary at all you know!”.
I hope the story of my little girl encourages you, if you have been trying to achieve tasks that are difficult because of your mental state. You could be really anxious about failing, but you know a particular endeavour would be beneficial for you. You could have lost touch with something you used to do really well, but you know reconnecting with it will really do you good.
- Restart with the familiar, small steps you took to try to reach your goal. Remember, what used to be something easy for you to do in the past, may not be so easy to do again when you are mentally down. Your threshold for stress might have reduced, and so you must adjust your behaviour to suit it.
- See disruptions as opportunities instead of obstacles. That opportunity is a chance to work at your goal differently, because you never know what a different environment or space might spark off in you.
- Rehearse mentally during your free time, the small steps you will take to reach your goal. I can’t pry open my little girl’s mind to see what she is reviewing in her mind. But through her doll play and casual remarks, I could tell she was rehearsing the process of putting her head under water. And she did it 🙂