To train or not to train….that seems to be the question these days.
Just when it seemed like things might be getting back to normal, another wave of COVID19 numbers spike – and while many of us may have differing views on whether to return to training or continue avoiding the gym, I think we can all agree we miss what used to be.
Over these past few months, I’ve had times where I’ve chosen to stay home and times I’ve chosen to head to the gym and continue training. Regardless of choosing to train or not, one thing I’ve been reminded of is just how important it is to get back to the basics – both on and off the mats. If you’re struggling to stay sane, here are a few strategies to help you focus on taking care of your body, mind, and soul while you grapple with maintaining your sanity.
Whether you’re back to a gym or not, it’s important to honor your body and keep moving. This will look different for everyone. Perhaps it’s subscribing to a monthly online fitness program, putting together your own workouts, gathering a few gym buddies for a group Zoom workout – the type of exercise doesn’t matter as much as actually getting it done. What do you enjoy? If you’re unable to train, consider the parts of training you miss the most. Is it seeing your teammates? Challenging yourself? Finishing a class drenched in sweat?
When you can pinpoint the parts of training you miss the most, then you can identify other activities that achieve the same outcome. If it’s your teammates you miss, then is there a group challenge you can coordinate, or host weekly group workouts on Zoom. It may take a little creativity, but when it comes down to it the most important kind of exercise isn’t necessarily Jiu Jitsu…it’s the one you do.
In addition to staying active, nourishing your body with healthy foods is even more important during times of stress. Foods high in sugar and other processed foods increase inflammation in the body. When you’re stressed, your body also releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Reducing inflammation and cortisol levels can help you sleep better, clear your mind, and overall makes your body feel better – which will have a direct effect on your mood and motivation. Ditch the processed comfort foods that only make you feel better in the moment, because in reality they’re causing you to feel sluggish, unmotivated, and irritable.
Sleep is when our bodies and minds get to reset, heal, and prepare for a new day. When you lack adequate sleep, your body and mind miss this chance to recover properly. Looking at your nightly routine can be a good indicator of the quality of sleep you will have. What do the 2 – 3 hours before bedtime look like for you? Are you turning off the screens and staying away from social media? Allow your mind to disconnect and relax. Incorporating gentle stretching and meditation are also great ways to ease your body into sleep mode and increase your quality of sleep.
Physical activity has direct effects on your mental health, which is why it’s so important to move regularly. Staying active isn’t just for physical appearance! The chemicals released in the brain after as little as 10 minutes of exercise will improve your mood, decrease negative thoughts, decrease anxiety, and increase motivation. Along with consistent exercise, practicing gratitude daily also helps to break negative thinking patterns thereby improving your mood.
When it comes to positive thinking, it isn’t about “fake it til you make it.” False positivity doesn’t help in the long run. Instead, the critical piece of practicing gratitude is to look for things in your life that you are truly grateful for. Focus on little (and big) wins. Celebrate them. Often our negative feelings are simply fueled by subconscious beliefs that our world should be a certain way. Ask yourself if this particular belief is serving you, and if it isn’t then I invite you to release it and create a new one. Are the rules of your life easy to win? Or is your measure of “winning” so narrow that it’s causing you stress to constantly live up to that standard? How can you make the rules of your life easy to win? When you can release yourself of your own internal pressures, you can live in and enjoy the present moment.
As human beings, our soul needs connection with others, connection with ourselves, connection with our inner purpose, and connection with a Higher Power. Maintaining, supporting, and nurturing these connections are all crucial to staying sane both on and off the mats.
As you look at your inner circle of friends, examine how you connect with them. Do you contribute to the well-being of others in your life? Do others contribute to your well-being? Who can you reach out to this week to strengthen these connections? Are you receiving as well as giving? Many times it feels easier to give than to receive, but we reach a deeper level of connection when we allow ourselves to be seen and receive love and compassion in addition to offering it to others.
Not only do we need to connect with others, it is equally important to connect with ourselves. Do you know what your own soul needs to feel nourished, refreshed, and filled up? Do you know your purpose, and are you actively living it out everyday? You must make time to connect with yourself. Sometimes it can feel selfish to take time out of your already busy day for you, especially when other people depend on you! The truth is, however, you will be able to care for others and show up as a better and truer version of yourself when you take care of your own soul regularly.
You simply can’t pour from an empty cup, and in order to stay sane you must find time to refill your cup in ways that are meaningful to you. Lastly, connecting to a Higher Power – whatever that means for you – grounds your spirit and reminds you that you are a part of something bigger than yourself. Go inward through spiritual practices like yoga, meditation, prayer, stillness, or any other practice that helps you feel aligned. Connecting with a Higher Power is outside the realm of religion; it reminds us that we are spiritual beings, and our highest calling is simply learning to BE our truest selves in every present moment.
In many ways, I’ve experienced each of these on the mats through Jiu Jitsu – which is one of the many reasons why it’s been challenging to stay sane. Yet, what I’ve also realized is there are ways to take the lessons on the mat and apply them off the mat, too. Finding ways to take care of our body, mind, and soul – with or without Jiu Jitsu – is definitely possible. Even if it takes a little creativity in times of uncertainty.
Katie is a blue belt training at Elite Team Visalia in California under Professor Tom Knox. When not training, she works as a Life Fulfillment Coach helping people discover their purpose and reach their full potential, facilitates trainings to improve team dynamics, and co-hosts a podcast called Life Off the Mat with fellow teammates. You can connect with her on social media @legitkatiewilliamson and learn more about becoming your best self at www.katiewilliamsoncoaching.com