Finding Yourself Again…
Are you doing the 101 things that need to get done every day without enough sleep, the right fuel, and with your head swirling?
All the while, you’re also delicately balancing your family, career, and relationships. No wonder you’re stressed out.
Mind, body, and fuel are so important when it comes to elite athletes. But why do we overlook and undervalue these in our own everyday lives?
I remember feeling just like this.
Let me flashback to a few years ago.
During that time in my life, my goals included:
- Becoming a part-time athlete who glided through marathons like a pro
- Losing weight to fit into my favorite jeans
- Calming my anxious mind while I had a part-time job, studied as a full-time sports psychology student, and was taking care of my family
At the time, I wasn’t the greatest sleeper. Usually, when taking my kids to school, I’d stop for a takeaway cappuccino and a chocolate croissant at the coffee shop. Sure, that gave me a quick jolt of energy, but it never lasted. I’d get in my workout and head back home.
After my workout, I felt tired and virtuous. After all, I was training. Back at home, I’d have a small handful of salt and vinegar crisps (which really meant devouring the whole bag because I’d just exercised, and it was “okay”).
Then, I wouldn’t be hungry for lunch.
I’d pick my kids up from school and make homemade (…redemption!) apple carrot muffins. I snacked on these until my “real” dinner, when I finally got around to eating some vegetables.
I thought I was moving closer to my goals.
Reality begged to differ.
- There wasn’t any “gliding.” My iliotibial (IT) band injury had reared its ugly head again. I was in pain. My body hurt and my knee was swollen. I wanted to get back to running ASAP, but it didn’t seem like it’d be anytime soon.
- There wasn’t any hope for fitting into my jeans. With lattes and squishy, yellow and pink chequerboard Battenberg cake for lunch, this clearly wasn’t working.
- My anxiety was here to stay. I wanted to be and to do so much. As a mature student, I was gratefully diagnosed with dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder, which explained a lot. I wrote essays with a tutor by my side. Generally, I was grumpy.
Was there any hope for me?
Meanwhile, I was always exhausted. Weight training continued, but I wasn’t running. My uni results came back. While they were alright, they weren’t a reflection of my best.
After uni finished, my days felt a little less frantic. That’s when a friend of mine suggested trail running. I was already working with my strength and conditioning coach, so I started working with a running coach, too. Together, we focused on my eating and sleeping habits, how I was feeling physically and mentally, and how I was resting and recovering.
It all started to become more and more clear in my head. Every decision seemed to affect something else. It was all so inter-connected! The more in shape I got, the more I started to feel like myself again.
During that time, I came to really understand how the mind, the body, and your fuel work together. It’s a balancing act, and I find keeping the body, your mind, and your fuel supporting each other is a daily work in progress. Finding your way back to yourself is about progress—not perfection.
Strategies for Success: A Few Ideas for Achieving Your Best
How can you keep your mind, body, and fuel working in tandem to support you for sports and/or everyday living? I have some ideas:
1.) Dig into the mind-body connection.
The mind and body are in constant communication to keep you healthy. Thoughts and feelings can even physically manifest in your body. I’ve understood this relationship for a long time, and it’s a powerful one.
When your mind is overwhelmed, it can’t be in touch with the body as well as it’d like to be. Too many swirling thoughts can create anxiety, which can lead to poor food choices, which leads to less restful sleep, which leads to grumpiness.
2.) Re-set and re-focus.
When you need a re-set, take a few minutes and slow down. Find a quiet stop. Take a seat.
Make a list or draw out a mind map so you can get your thoughts down on paper and free up valuable space in your head. I find that mind maps can be quite colourful and relaxing to make.
Take a deep breath. Prioritise what can get done (and what can wait).
3.) Set a goal.
Small goals pave the way towards achieving even larger ones. It doesn’t matter how much progress you’ve made. Instead, it’s about making progress. Small steps in the right direction mean you’re gaining knowledge, learning the processes, and building confidence. That’s already an achievement.
4.) Do what you love.
When you love what you do, you’ll enjoy getting back to it. I like to dance around the house to my favourite disco or 1970’s funk music pretending to be Diana Ross. It always seems to make me smile or laugh, whether people or watching or not!
The same goes for working out, heading into the office, and what you do in your free time. If you don’t love what you do, it may be time for a change.
5.) Choose foods wisely.
Whilst chocolate croissants and cappuccinos are tasty, they aren’t a substitute for fresh and wholesome food that gives you real energy. Anyone can survive on coffee, cake, and crisps, but you won’t have the energy or the attitude you want.
If you’re too busy to find time to fuel your body well, you might be…too busy.
Focus on essential fatty acids, an array of colourful vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates. Not only will your exercise and confidence improve, you’ll probably lose weight. Plus, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll really feel rested.
6.) Rest and recover.
You know that phrase, “Get a good night’s sleep and you’ll feel better in the morning?” Well, if you’re not getting a good night’s sleep, you won’t feel better in the morning. Rest is crucial for recovery and everyday living.
The mind and body gives you clues when you’re overdoing it. Are you listening to them? It’s okay to take a day off from a workout or take time out when life is too stressful.
When I rest and recover, I like to get back to basics. I search for new recipes online or in magazines, read a book, listen to music, or cook for my friends and family.
Active rest is also useful in recovering. There are many physiological reasons why active rest is useful for athletes, but it’s also important for daily living. Try going for a long bike ride or doing gentle laps in the pool. You might even take a stroll in the park. Exercise isn’t always about pushing your limits. You can calm the mind and help your body recover at the same time. Switch it up. Take a new route. See where you end up.
When you’re ready to feel your best, take a step back and see what state your mind, body, and fuel are in. Are you focused on one and neglecting the other three? Are they all in need of some TLC?
Use these simple strategies and slowly work your way back to feeling like yourself once again!
Other articles you might be interested in:
A Little Behavioural Change and Cookie Baking Scheduling
Lets talk about hormones and how they rule our lives
Why do I feel tired all the time?
Oncology Massage and Mindfulness Meditation References
Lopez, G., Eng, C., Overman, M. et al. A randomized pilot study of oncology massage to treat chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy., Sci Rep 12, 19023 (2022)|https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-23372-w Massage and cancer. Massage therapy, Complementary and Alternative Therapies, Cancer Research UK. (2022, September 6). Retrieved December 18, 2022, from https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-in-general/treatme nt/complementary-alternative-therapies/individual-therapies/massage
Weinberg R, et al. The Relationship of Massage and Exercise to Mood Enhancement, Sports Psychologist, Volume 2 Issue 3, pg202-211, doi: https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/tsp/2/3/article-p202.xml Mao J.J., Et al., Integrating Oncology Massage IntoChemoinfusion Suites: A Program Evaluation, Journal of Oncology Practice 13, no. 3 (March 01, 2017) e207-e216. Published online January 03, 2017.DOI: 10.1200/JOP.2016.015081
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