Updated: Feb 27, 2021
I'm convinced that, if studied, The Third Week Slump may be a real-world phenomenon. Have you ever started a new job, new semester, or in my case, a new clinical and felt the surge of energy evaporate come Monday morning of week 3. Whatever the new thing is, through week one and two you're acclimating to a new routine, meeting new people and putting your best foot forward. You might even be waking up earlier than you typically do (is it excitement, is it anxiety?) and despite it, feeling more refreshed than ever. By week 3, the fresh setting becomes a little more familiar, responsibilities grow, and you're hoping you've achieved your flow. But, have you?! Things feel a little off kilter, you're not certain you know everyone's name and you shouldn't have to ask where the bathroom is but you just forgot to ask where the bathroom is the first two weeks and now you're regretting it and wandering down the hallway trying to look busy but really just where the heck is the bathroom.
Ok so maybe you don't relate to all of those examples, but if you're anything like me - you've hit this wall at some point during a new job/clinical/semester. I can think of several instances of this happening in my life. Once, when I was a cheer camp counselor: For two weeks in a row I was high energy 24/7. I had the best time meeting my campers, coaching throughout the day and taking care of my girls at night. The first two weeks, our cabin was spotless and we always had a good time. By the third week, I WAS EXHAUSTED. I legitimately felt like I was running on an empty tank, still smiling and trying my best to be the fun and happy counselor I had been in the past. Back then, it was hard for me to recognize what I know now. I was running on an empty tank. I wasn't filling my cup. I know it might sound a tad dramatic...it's just camp, Kaylee! But now I find myself entering the fifth week of my clinical wondering how I still haven't learned how to avoid my third week slump.
This time it's been a little different than being a camp counselor. I, like many of my SPT peers, place a huge value on our clinical rotations. While the didactic work is our foundation, clinical rotations give us the opportunity to hone our entry level skills and become the best #FreshPT we can be. So, it's no surprise that I entered into week one of this sixteen week clinical with my best foot forward, full speed ahead, sprinting the first mile of the marathon. For two weeks I felt on my game. I felt like I was progressing quickly, I was staying late to prepare for the next day and going home to study, read and plan. Over the weekend, I continued to study and didn't prioritize my self care the way I usually do. I wasn't quite acclimated to my new town/room/house/schedule, or meal prepping and doing yoga for stress relief. I was hyper-focused on my performance throughout the day, especially the parts that I wasn't exactly proud of. I guess the crash was imminent, but for some reason I didn't see it coming. And, to call it a crash is over-dramatic, it was more like very large speed bumps that are uncomfortable but not painful and, really, just annoying because the last 2 miles had been such smooth sailing.
So, did I beat it?
The short answer is yes/no. Both my CI and I recognized I was having difficulty, and he suggested I fill out the Professional Behaviors Assessment to identify areas of strength and weakness, with goals and strategies to improve them. He's been supportive and understanding, and the assessment was an asset to directly identifying key components of my troubles. Being able to communicate the ways in which I felt I am/was struggling helped me feel more comfortable, and the professional behaviors assessment was the perfect jumping off point for further discussion.
Within the assessment, I could reflect and realized that the past 3 weeks I had not been taking time for myself and was running out of fuel. I was struggling with time management, feeling confident and being myself. So that weekend I set out to do the the important things: eat delicious food, get outside, spend time with friends/family, and relax. It was amazing how the weekend of reflection and relaxation impacted the fourth week of clinical. Though the week wasn't perfect and I faltered, I was devoted to my goals and took time to go to yoga and get on the phone with my friends. Of course, taking time to get upside down gave me a fresh perspective.
As I continue to progress through my clinical, I hope I can remember the strategies that help me remain level headed and improve those professional behaviors to entry level. The marathon continues.
If you've ever experienced the third week slump, how did you overcome it? What do you think caused it? And is there a way to prevent it?
This stock image photo would make a fabulous meme, just sayin'.