In sports, it seems like people are always going for a PR ( Personal record) or PB ( Personal best). Lift more, run faster, run farther.

What I love about these terms is the P- they’re personal. It’s not about competing with a pro or comparing your time with another athlete’s. It is about comparing your current performance to your past performance. It’s about improving based on your own circumstances and your own abilities. ANYONE can train for a PR.

The other important part of the concept- one that doesn’t get applied to mental health enough, in my opinion- is the training. You can’t just hop off the couch and expect to run a mile faster than you ever have before ( well, maybe you can, but I’m still trying to beat my own presidential physical fitness test results from elementary school…). In terms of athletic pursuits, its just kind of a given that you will need to train. Some train better, faster, or longer than others; some are just naturally talented athletes, but most people realize that if they want to beat themselves, they’re going to have to do something different than they were doing before: log more miles, be more consistent, spend more time time on a skill, etc. Why not apply the same concept to mental health?

Many folks have settings, times of the year, events, or interactions that are incredibly challenging- a crux of sorts.Personally, winter is always a grind. I tend to hit a low point around the shortest day of the year where I just want to give up and crawl into bed forever. I lose productivity, skip workouts, slack off at work, put less effort into relationships, and feel less “me” in the dead of winter. Winter is, without question, my mental health crux. We can talk about SAD another time, right now let’s talk about training for a mental health PR.

I remember my best winter in the past decade: 2011-2012. It was a glorious winter. Basically no snow, few truly cold days, and plenty of comfortable conditions for outdoor adventure. After a few years of over-work and under-activity, I was training for my first half marathon. One could argue that it was the weather, BUT I had spent the past winter in San Diego with no coat, infrequent rain, and daily outdoor time. One could argue that it was the work schedule, BUT I was still working 60-70 hours per week. The major advantage  I discovered that particular winter was consistency. I worked to be consistently social, consistently active, and consistently positive. There were bad days. However,  with an active lifestyle, a healthy diet, and a close-knit circle, I was able to pass the most carefree, optimistic, hopeful winter of my life.

A baseline. I had some tough winters after that, and I lost sight of the things that had made me successful. This year I’m going for a PR. My training plan will include at least 3 days of exercise ( which fits perfectly with my training plan for #cvillemarathon2016- see what I did there?), at least one day a week of socialization with friends, daily writing, and sticking to a healthy diet. If I get off track, I will resort to yoga and my gratitude journal, two lifesavers that have helped me through tough times.

What about you: What is your mental health crux? Think about your personal best- was it intentional, happenstance, did it occur before onset? How could you plan to set a new PR?