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The Seals Are Having the Time of Their Lives

You know how things come in waves? Many of my supervision sessions and conversations with colleagues the past few weeks have touched on career re-starts, hibernation, regrowth, and wondering if anything is happening below the surface.

One of these conversations transpired via email. Sharing a past experience with a colleague friend helped her feel less alone. She gave me permission to share her question and my response with you in the hopes that it will benefit someone else.

“I feel like I need to find my mojo again and get inspired but also like I need to hibernate the rest of this winter. As a friend, have you overcome this feeling before in your life and or practice?”

I feel this way often. Sometimes it lasts a whole day and is lifted by the next. And occasionally it lasts for what seems like a very long time but is probably a week or a few weeks. It is a very uncomfortable feeling because a) it is two feelings that conflict and b) as my friend Kara says, “when you’re in a good mood you don’t worry it’ll last forever, but when you’re in a bad mood you do.”

I’m a big believer in timing, and that our bodies and brains go through cycles that we don’t consciously understand. It’s why I can procrastinate something for 3 months and then finish it in a day. What I have learned to do is to think of procrastinating as that hibernation or germination time where things are happening under the surface and instead of sitting in front of the computer or phone getting not very much accomplished, I instead go get nothing accomplished, but consciously, i.e. sleeping or watching a movie on tv. Or I go garden or paint – something that isn’t work-related, so that at the end of the day I can say “I relaxed today” instead of “I worked all day and got nothing accomplished.”

One big step in learning this lesson was after I got laid off in Dec 2016 from what I believed was my dream job – the one you leave your private practice for because it is such a good fit for your skills and pays you more than you ever made in your practice. Being unexpectedly unemployed I was at loose ends both with my time and my emotions. One day I just said fuck it I’m not sitting in front of this computer any more doing who knows what, and I went out and gardened. At around 5 I went in and checked my email and voila, there was this email from a person who had contacted me months before and I had totally forgotten about, saying that she got the go-ahead from the higher ups for me to do an online training for her team that paid multiple thousands of dollars. It was like a sign from heaven saying “There is so much you can’t control. All you can do is plant the seeds and then walk away. Hovering over it doesn’t make things happen faster.” Maybe I wouldn’t have heard it in that way if I hadn’t been gardening all day, but it seemed crystal clear to me at the time.

There was one other thing that I recall from that period that was possibly the longest “hibernation while feeling like I should be doing more” period of my adult life – I watched a free webinar on finding consulting gigs. The main message was if you want to get ahead you have to be a shark, contacting 20 people per day on Linkedin that you don’t know. If you don’t, you are a lazy seal, laying on the beach. They literally showed a photo of seals relaxing. The whole thing was so stressful/exhausting that I went to bed at 4pm. When Greg came home he was alarmed and I told him the whole thing.

His response was that a) no one likes sharks and everyone likes seals and b) maybe those seals are having the time of their lives laying on the beach!

It was such a different point of view that I would never have thought of. And the seals don’t do that all day – but when they re doing it, they’re not thinking “I should be finding food right now.” So the lesson of the day changed to “If you’re in a hibernation cycle, so be it. Don’t ruin it by telling yourself you’re lazy or messing up. Hibernate with joy until you feel like doing the next thing.”

Since then I’ve gotten through the feeling by not fighting it, and like all feelings, it gently, eventually flows away. It sounds like you have already found some bright spots that feel promising, and there may be more coming, some that you didn’t expect. The good news is that your skills don’t expire. Although sometimes it feels like we’re in a race, the only person with expectations we’re not meeting is ourselves. I have DEFINITELY been where you are, and then when I wasn’t expecting it, my next great idea popped up that excited me and I got moving again.

I have been having multiple versions of this conversation lately, so I can confirm that if you’re feeling like you’re in hibernation, confusion, shifting gears, reconsidering your career path, or recovering from a dramatic shake up in your workplace, you are in GOOD company!

If you happen to be in a solid, stable, contented place in your career, take the time to enjoy it, celebrate it, and soak it in. Those calm periods have so much value and help build endurance for the times that are not as nice. When I’m in a rocky period, knowing that I appreciated those enjoyable times when they occurred gives me hope that I might one day return to that kind of peace.

Every career of any length has had ups and downs, but we rarely talk about the downs. I will be covering all of the above in my March 4th presentation kicking off the Nutrition Entrepreneurs Spring Summit – How I Turned Being My Authentic Self Into My Dream Career.

There are tons of other amazing events coming up this spring. I’ve divided them into two groups – paid trainings from dietitians I admire, and free online continuing education. See links below.

Eating Disorders Boot Camp is still the ultimate eating disorder training for dietitians. Comment from a recent participant: “Before Boot Camp I was scared of eating disorders. Now I understand what I need to do.” If you’re short on CEUs for your 5-year cycle ending in May, you can’t beat Eating Disorders Boot Camp for efficiency and value. In addition to the fact that confidence and competence in patient care is priceless, 34 CEUs for $480 comes out to $14 per CEU. More information and ordering details at

Upcoming trainings:

Fiona Sutherland and Lisa Pearl – Dietitians who Supervise – how to provide reflective supervision to others in a safe, ethical and productive manner.

Shawna Melbourn – Emotion-Focused Family Therapy for Dietitians – skills for family coaching when you’re providing nutrition counseling for eating disorders

Molly Kellogg and Diana Richards – Introduction to IFS for Nutrition Professionals  – apply Internal Family Systems when providing nutrition counseling

Fiona Sutherland, Sarah Egan & Amanda Bolton – Safer Socials – practical tools for teaching clients to protect their recovery by engaging differently with social media


Free online:

2/15 Weed, Games, Phones, and Porn: Strategies for treating modern co-occuring addictions amongst Millenials and Gen Z

2/27 This is My Brave – 21 Individuals sharing their eating disorder experiences through song, dance, poem and spoken word

2/28 Webinar Panel Discussion: Ask the Experts: Getting Eating Disorder Care as a BIPOC Individual

2/27 Managing Dysregulation in the Virtual Treatment Space

2/28 Understanding Body Trust and Diet Culture

Available any time: What to Say: Discussing Weight and Food in Pediatric Settings***

*** Since it is approved for 2 CME credits it’s automatically approved for dietitians, too

Please note I’m not affiliated with any of these, so check with the organizers if you have questions. And if you’re hosting a free event, I’ll be happy to include it if you let me know at [email protected].


Posted in Jessica Setnick

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