========= Did anyone else catch the Packers vs. Lions game over the weekend?
How about that moment when the Green Bay Packers rookie linebacker Quay Walker pushed the Lion’s medical staff, resulting in being disqualified for the rest of the game? Yeah… ouch.
Walker turned to Twitter afterward to make a public apology for his actions.
“I reacted off of my emotions again and take full responsibility of making another stupid decision. Since then I’ve questioned myself on why did I do what I did when the trainer was doing his job!! I was wrong!”
-Quay Walker, Twitter Post
If you watched the game, you also may have seen when the cameras turned to a frustrated Walker who was visibly in tears as he walked off-field.
Ooooofff… I know that feeling too well.
You know the one.
Where you reacted on emotion or from a misread situation instead of responding.
We have all been there. We all have allowed our emotions to get the best of us for at least a time or two. Some of us may have had worse outcomes than others. Some, like Walker, are being filmed for the entire world to witness
The world of sports runs high on emotion. The difference between winning and losing seems like everything. It is easy to forget right from wrong and become tunnel-visioned by your end goal, which may be to win, and the pressure can be all-consuming.
Walker felt that pressure. That burning desire and need to win. Most athletes feel it. It comes at you from all angles. From yourself, your coach, teammates, fans, family, friends, etc. It can be a lot to handle. No wonder it gets the best of some people at times. The pressure becomes a lot to manage.
The thing is though, you CAN manage it.
How? With emotion regulation.
Emotion Regulation, as defined by Psychology Today, is the ability to exert control over one’s emotional state.
Did Walker have control over his emotions when he chose to push the Detroit Lion’s medical staff? Absolutely not. That is why he was remorseful over it. The lack of control got the best of him.
Respond rather than react. It seems simple in theory; but more challenging in practice. It requires leaning on tools and strategies to regulate the strong emotions we may be feeling.
We need to find that space. The pause between the situation or emotion we are feeling and what we choose to do next. If there is no pause or time to reflect, we react. If we pause and think about it, we will respond and make a better choice that is less likely to negatively impact our performance and relationships.
So the next time you feel yourself running high on emotions, check yourself. Take a deep breath, meaning inhaling fully through the nose, pausing for a second or two, and then exhaling audibly through the mouth completely. This quick breathing exercise, which I refer to as a Lion’s breath (no pun intended), will ground you in the moment to focus on answering the next series of questions to regulate your emotions.
Once grounded, I recommend going through a quick exercise called The Three Q’s.
– What am I feeling? – Why am I feeling this way? – Do I want to feel this way?
Taking the time to answer these, especially after engaging in the deep breathing exercise, will redirect your focus and energy to find the pause and space to reflect before you react. If the feeling you are experiencing is not serving you, ask yourself what you want to do about it. Posing this question will help you respond more effectively and shift your emotions to something more productive that will protect your relationships and enhance your performance.
We also do not want to walk this path of emotional regulation alone. Having support will strengthen your ability to put these tools and strategies into practice. If you are a coach, use your coaching staff as accountability partners to keep your behavior in check. Teach these skills and techniques to your team and practice them regularly so they can use them when they need them most. Teachers, teach these to your class because they will also benefit from these techniques. If you are a parent, use these skills with your children, especially when they are experiencing big emotions. I use the Lion’s breath technique with my 2.5-year-old, and we started it when he was 1. These are not sports skills; emotional regulation is a life skill.
Here is to hoping that next time emotions run high, Walker can find the space to respond rather than react, and YOU can too. We live, we learn, and we improve.
The ones you see racing by with their babes in their strollers. They make it look effortless as they maintain strong form and a steady pace while striding out pumping a single arm while the other one is pushing a stroller with a baby intact; otherwise known as “supermoms”.
Or at least, I’m trying to become one…
I ran my first 5k Stoller race over the weekend so I’m starting somewhere.
I definitely did not train beforehand as I originally had hoped to when I signed up for this race several months back. I did finish though AND I finished in a decent time of 24:58.8. This time apparently was fast enough to win my age group and earn a plaque.
Although I did not prepare and train well going into this race, I did have a motto.
“Keep your expectations low and your standards high.”
My 4 standards for this race were to:
1. Show up and compete.
I did not know what “racing” and “competing” would actually look like while pushing a stroller, but I knew that I didn’t want to go into this race with the mindset that it was for leisure. If I had that mindset I would easily fold and throw in the towel when it got tough. I wanted to make sure I ran the whole thing and ran it well. I wanted to push my limit and make sure that I got a grueling workout afterward instead of a leisurely stroller walk. I was able to do just that to the point where I had a pounding headache probably from lack of proper hydration and thought I was going to hurl my breakfast afterward. I forgot what the pain of running hard felt like, especially when you also don’t fuel properly beforehand.
2. Stay in the present.
I knew this was going to take constant work. Throughout my run, my mind raced between the past such as dwelling on my lack of preparation and training, and towards the future such as waiting for my son Calvin to throw a fit or in anticipation of the pain that would come with the next mile. Each time I caught myself thinking about these things I brought it back to the present moment. I refocused on the color of the shirt the person in front of me was wearing or staring at the person’s stride up ahead to match theirs and then try to go a bit faster. My mind still continued to wander, but each time I was able to notice it and reel it back into the present.
3. Let go of comparisons.
It would be a lie if I said this one was easy. This is my fourth year racing in this 5k and I have competed in several other road races in between. Although this was my first stroller race, I often compared my current self to the kind of runner I was pre-baby. I knew I could run faster and harder before I birthed my babe and didn’t need to push a stroller. It still was a challenge to let go of this comparison. With continuous practice and reminders of focusing on what I can control, I was able to let go of the comparison and continue to put one foot in front of the other.
4. Use the mental skills you preach.
I’m a certified mental performance consultant. It’s my niche and my passion to work with performers who reach their highest potential and use their minds as an asset to help rather than hurt them. I know the tips and tricks, but I am guilty of not always using them in my own daily life. When things would get hard I wanted to make sure I had a plan for what mental skills I would turn to. I need to continue to practice what I preach. I know the power of mental skills and how they help, so I needed to make sure I used them to my advantage as well.
During my run, I used mantras such as, “I’m strong, I’m a competitor, I”m a mom.” When I felt the pain of running hard emerge I noticed the negative thoughts arise and reconstructed them to remind myself of the pain I felt while giving birth.
“I survived labor, I can survive this,” I reminded myself.
Reframing these thoughts gave me the extra push I needed. I also used my son Calvin as my supporter when I needed that extra boost of energy. I encouraged him to talk to me or say silly things to keep myself focused on my goals instead of getting distracted by my negative thoughts. As I mentioned earlier, I also utilized mindfulness techniques such as focusing on colors that I noticed up ahead, counting my steps, or zoning in on the pace that the people up ahead were maintaining.
These 4 standards I set for myself provided me the strength, focus, and courage I needed to continue putting one step in front of the other to get to that finish line.
Did I have a time goal? No.
Did I have a place that I was striving for? No.
I just wanted to go out and run the best that I could.
Meeting these standards helped me get the results that I did not plan for or expect. I finished with a decent time, averaging just above an 8-minute mile pace. For not training much, I’ll take it. I also ended up finishing first in my age division and 8th female overall.
Again, not what I planned or hoped for, but I’ll take it!
Oftentimes when we focus on raising the standards for ourselves the end results will follow. Many times, we may even end up with a result we didn’t even dream of because we never put the pressure of expecting it onto ourselves.
Keep your expectations low and your standards high.
Plus, I think my kiddo Calvin enjoys the fast-paced stroller rides from running rather than walking.
What started as almost a 1-minute jog turned into a strong 2 miler. What changed the outcome? Being able to master my mindset.
When I first hit the pavement the Midwest winter chill hit me full force. My lungs and nostrils were burning and it hurt to breathe. My hands felt as if they were slowly dying. The negative thoughts started coming in hot.
“What are you doing?”
“Just turn around now.”
“You’re not going to last long.”
“It’s too cold to run.”
“You need more layers.”
“Try again another day.”
These thoughts almost convinced me to turn around. They almost won.
I chose to talk back to them instead.
“It’s cold right now, but maybe after a while, I’ll get used to it.”
“I’m sure I’ll warm up throughout the run.”
“You can do this.”
“You can do hard things.”
“Push a little bit more.”
“Hang in there just a moment longer.”
“It’ll get better.”
“You may not get another sitter to go for a run in the next few days.”
I continued to play a game with myself and convince myself to run “just a bit further,” to see if the run improved.
I challenged myself to run to the upcoming traffic sign. Once I got there I told myself that I could at least make it a few more blocks. Once there I convinced myself that I could keep running until the grocery store up ahead.
“Then you can turn back,” I kept telling myself, although secretly I knew I planned to keep pushing myself further.
Before I knew it I was a mile in.
My body warmed up, my breathing regulated, and I felt strong and capable.
As I turned around and made my way back I thought about how I was able to overcome those negative thoughts and how thankful I was because my run ended up feeling so great. Those thoughts almost won though. I was so close to turning around barely a minute into the run.
Starting really is the hardest part.
No matter what you’re starting, remember that. Challenge yourself to keep going and to stick with it just a bit longer to see if it eases up. Most of the time it does and you’ll be thankful you persevered.
I stepped out of the shower and there it was, staring back at me in the mirror.
My first reaction was denial, “That’s just part of my linea nigra,” I thought.
But it didn’t make sense that it would veer off to the right around my outstretched belly button and grow wider in width.
At the time I’m writing this I am less than two weeks out from my estimated due date. I really thought since I was so close to my due date that I dodged the pregnancy stretch mark bullet, but I was wrong.
At first, I contacted my two sisters to let them know about this new discovery of mine.
Here were their responses:
My younger sister, “Really?!?!?! That’s exciting!!”
Exciting? Not the word I would have used to describe the finding… but then she made a good point, “It’s part of pregnancy though,” she reminded me.
Then my older sister’s response really hit home, “Think about how many women would love to have a stretch mark from pregnancy.”
Wow. So true.
There are many women who have not been able to experience pregnancy that wish they could and would love to have a stretch mark from being able to experience carrying and birthing a baby.
This really got me thinking that many of the things that we may be complaining about or dislike about our bodies are the same characteristics or aspects that another person dreams about having.
Now I wasn’t making a huge deal about the stretch mark, I was just hoping to not have to have them. It’s part of pregnancy though like my sister said. When you really think about it – it’s amazing when women go through pregnancy without having a stretch mark when you consider how much the skin stretches throughout the process. I mean you’re body is adapting to grow another human!
This moment made me check my mindset regarding my body throughout my pregnancy journey. Whether you are pregnant, trying to lose weight, trying to bulk up, or stick to a workout regimen learning to love and accept our bodies is HARD.
We live in a society where we are constantly told we aren’t good enough, skinny enough, good looking enough, and that we need/should look a certain way or fit into a certain size to fit society’s “norm.” If you scroll through social media it’s easy to focus on all of the celebrities and models posting their half-naked perfect bodies everywhere – it’s a challenge to not compare ourselves!
Although it may be easy to fall into this comparison trap, we don’t have to accept this. We can choose to make a commitment to love ourselves and our bodies despite what society and social media are telling us or showing us.
I’ve been using these exercises and strategies throughout my pregnancy because there are A LOT of changes happening with my body and I know that after this babe is born my body will not be how it was pre-baby. They have helped me and I hope they also help you along your journey to self-acceptance.
Here are the 5 strategies I used to change my mindset to love, honor, and accept my changing body.
1) Reframe your self-talk.
We are often our own worst critic. The self-talk that we use towards ourselves and our own bodies are things we would NEVER say to someone else. Learn to be your own best friend by being aware of what you are saying inside your own head. If what is being said is harmful and detrimental to yourself and your path along accepting your body then change it and reframe it to be helpful instead.
If you find yourself looking in the mirror and think, “My thighs are huge.”
Recognize that this is hurtful to accepting yourself and change it to something more effective such as, “My thighs are strong and powerful.”
This simple reframing technique changes your perception of what you are seeing in the mirror.
Try it out for yourself with a common hurtful phrase you say to yourself in the mirror. How can you change that statement and reframe it to benefit you? Notice the difference in how it makes you feel after you say it.
2) Be grateful for what your body does.
We easily criticize ourselves and our bodies for what we see or would like to see in the mirror. Instead, focus on what your body DOES for you and to be grateful for that instead of tearing it down.
To start, print off a photo of a silhouette, like the one shown on the left, and spend time focusing on each body part.
What are you grateful for regrading each body part? Spend time really considering what each body part actually does for you and what you appreciate about it instead of criticizing it.
This activity was brought to my attention by a former co-worker of mine named Brittany. She has a variety of awesome body-positive activities.
3) Do what feels good for you.
We are constantly bombarded with headlines and social media with certain workouts to try or exercise regimens to follow. However, what works for one person does not work for another.
Instead of doing what you think you “should” do, be in-tune with your body and do what feels good it. There are many different varieties and types of exercises so try them out and find what works best for you. Instead of signing up for a membership to that gym or that class that you feel like you should do, find what exercises and activities actually bring you joy and make you feel less like you’re working out, but more like you’re having fun! Your body is a powerful vessel, so use that to your advantage instead of torturing it by doing something you dread.
It doesn’t matter what the exercise is – it could be kickboxing, yoga, Zumba, water aerobics, CrossFit, running, or group training exercises. As long as you are enjoying what you are doing and it feels good to you mentally, emotionally, and physically stick with it. If you enjoy the exercise that you are doing, you will be more motivated to stick to it!
If you are able to change your mindset and workout to feel good about yourself, rather than to decrease the number on the scale or to fit into a certain size, you will notice that you are more motivated to work out and it will become more of a habit rather than feel like a chore.
One thing I really noticed throughout my pregnancy is that working out benefits me on many other levels. While pregnant my goal while working out is definitely not to decrease the number on the scale. I’ve worked out every day just about throughout my pregnancy journey and as I decrease my intensity, increase modifications, and see my weight go up each week at my doctor’s appointment, I still am able to feel good about myself after each workout because I’m doing it for myself – not to reach a certain number in weight, size in clothes, or for other people.
4) Use food as fuel.
Similar to finding a workout regimen that works for you and feels good for you, food should be used as a way to fuel your body in a way that feels good to you instead of something to restrict yourself from. There’s so much research out there that shows that “fad diets” are not sustainable. You may see some short-term changes, but they will not last long-term.
Many people become frustrated after committing to a diet and seeing results to only have them become reversed soon afterward. I know for myself if I avoid certain foods or tell myself that certain foods are “not allowed,” I want them even more. The cravings intensify and I may end up indulging in these foods at an even greater rate than I would if I simply allowed myself to enjoy it in the first place.
Moderation is the keyword in food consumption here. Instead of counting calories – focus on the amount of food you’re eating instead. Let your portions do the talking instead of the calorie labels. Besides, we are humans who are designed to consume food, not just calories.
Tempted to eat that cheesecake at the potluck? Do it. You can allow yourself a piece instead of avoiding it like the plague and being tempted to consume the entire cake later on. Just remember to eat what feels good for you and your body and use it to correctly fuel your body like gasoline in a car. Your body is your vessel so nourish it properly.
Food is not the enemy, it’s our perception about food and our relationship with it that’s harmful.
5) Talk to others for support.
We often may feel alone about our body insecurities. We are alike more than we are different though! Everyone experiences negative self-talk and body image issues. The difference is that some people have been able to work through this and have learned to love themselves and their bodies. They have built strategies to ignore that negative voice in their heads and tell themselves more positive messages.
Instead of feeling like we have to endure our negative self-talk and negative body image by ourselves we should open up and talk about it. This will not only help you but also help others to realize that they are not the only ones either!
Most of the time the people we think “have it all together,” with no problems are the ones who may be struggling the most. Honesty is the best policy and connecting with others for support is the best way to overcome our challenges. We can connect with others by showing our vulnerability and being open and honest about our struggles. There’s strength in numbers.
Again the 5 strategies/exercises to overcome our negative self-talk about our bodies and learn to accept and embrace ourselves are:
Reframe your self-talk
Be grateful for what your body does
Do what feels good for you
Use food as fuel
Talk to others for support
I hope you can take away one tip to use on your journey towards self-acceptance because we only get one body in this life so let’s treat it with the love and respect it deserves.
We are all living in uncertain and stressful times right now. Although these times may be hard, it also is what makes us stronger. If we can get through the tough and difficult things, we will come out on the other side fostering resiliency, courage, and strength.
“Your strength comes from embracing the challenges in life.”
When we feel we are experiencing stress it first appears as physical symptoms. We may feel our heart race, our breath quicken, our palms become sweaty, mind racing, and other symptoms that send a signal to our brain that something is not ok. Our brain takes these signals to be something dangerous and sends them to our “lizard brain,” otherwise known as the amygdala, where the flight, flight, or freeze response kicks in. This is a defense mechanism to protect us when our body and brain believes that we are in danger.
However, what if we aren’t in danger? The world we live in is no longer like it was back in the caveman days. We can leave our homes without the worry of being mulled by a tiger or lion. We can use our phones to check what the weather will be before we go on a trip without being swept away by a tropical storm. Yes, there still are dangers in our world, but it’s much less than it used to be.
Although we may physically live in a safer world, our psychological makeup is still wired to see the danger in places where danger might not be present. Often when we feel pressure or experience something stressful, such as tryouts in our sport, a big game, an interview, or an important test, our bodies react the same way as we would if we encounter a tiger. These two do not compare though in actual danger. The danger we are experiencing is perceived danger, not actual danger. We may not be able to change our physical response to these experiences, but we can recognize when this stress response is occurring and change how we perceive it so that we can use it to our advantage before our lizard brain kicks in.
New studies have discovered that stress may actually be good for us. If perceived in a productive way, stress actually strengthens us. It enhances our focus as well in a time where it’s needed most. If we can learn to embrace the stress and pressure in a situation, like a high stakes performance, we will come out on the other side on top.
Let me tell you a story about butterflies…
When a butterfly first begins to emerge from its cocoon, it must struggle in order to strengthen its wings. If someone frees the butterfly from its cocoon before it’s ready, the butterfly will not be able to fly. This is because the butterfly’s crucial tempering stage will not have occurred and they will not be strong enough. Essentially, the butterfly finds it’s strength through the struggle.
What does this mean? It means that we are like butterflies! We NEED to struggle in order to find ways to overcome, adapt, and rise from the stress we are enduring so that we can come out stronger. If we are “saved,” then we will not learn the valuable lessons that come from the struggle.
This is why helicopter or lawnmower parents are actually damaging their children’s grit. They are interfering with their child’s experience to embrace the struggle, to persist, and to come through it, in the end, stronger than before. These are valuable life skills for kids to learn that will propel them forward in their future. Life is not easy. We will suffer and we willl fail. We will endure challenging and stressful times. However, the sooner we experience this the sooner we develop the tools to get through these situations in a way that strengthens us instead of destroying us.
The same goes for athletics. In the world of sports there is a lot of stress that coaches, teams, and athletes experience physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Your athletic career may be full of ups and downs, highs and lows, and goods and bad times. Remind yourself during those lulls in your career that this is preparing you. It’s strengthening you to become even better than you were before. We need challenges to rise. No athlete, team, or coach had a perfect career. They all experienced struggle. They all experienced stress. They all experienced pressure and have failed. It’s all about how you view it and how you push through it.
View your struggles and challenges as being in your own cocoon. It will become the very thing that will strengthen your wings, in the end, to allow us to fly forward. Just like a caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly due to the stress and struggle it encounters – we must learn to become our own butterfly by finding the beauty in the struggle.
Stress isn’t inherently bad. It only becomes harmful when we perceive it as a negative thing. If we can change our perception and see it as a productive thing – we get stronger and we build from it.
“If we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.”