The Psychology Of It All
In the world of Covid-19, social connections and education has turned completely virtual. This is a challenging change with athletes having to train with their coaches over a computer and in/around their homes, but it has also opened up more opportunities.
Pre-Covid life involved people running from the gym, to school, to the rink, and then home to do homework and go to sleep. Somewhere in there, they have to eat and connect with their social peers. The people we saw and connected with were a small bubble of school peers, rink peers, and family.
Originally during this time, we believed that our bubbles were going to get smaller. But with the amazing world of technology, we’ve opened up a life of the virtual connection. We are connecting with people all over the world!
This being said, I have been teaching different camps and seminars in Newfoundland in a program called, Off the Rock. It was a series of camps that showed me skaters that were dedicated and enthusiastic about the sport of figure skating. From those skaters, I was going to choose two skaters to travel with me to Edmonton to work in the high-level training atmosphere of the Ice Palace FSC.
A few weeks before my final camp, the world shut down and we were locked in. Changes had to happen. Zoom sessions began.
Zoom has opened up so much possibility. It has created something that I never imagined possible before this. Two times a week, I sit and talk with the skaters from my camp for a variety of sessions. From Q&A sessions, workouts, stretch, nutrition, sports psychology, and so much more. The best part, technology is borderless, so we can connect with coaches and specialists from all over.
Whenever I speak to the skaters, the question of what scares them comes up. I’ve noticed in Q&A sessions, they often ask if they ever get nervous or what scared them or what was most challenging. First, it started about how to deal with nerves of competition, or how to get over the fear of a new element. Then it turned into, how long did it take for you to get back from a break? It became obvious that the skaters were getting the competition nerves about returning to the ice whenever we are allowed.
So I brought in Susan to talk to the skaters about overcoming those nerves. A lot of what she said were also strategies to combat the everyday unpredictability of the world we are living in right now.
“Control the Controllable”
So much right now is uncontrollable and that isn’t something anyone is comfortable with. We are used to doing what we want or finding a way to do it. Right now, so much of our control is taken away from us. But there are still things we can control.
Examples: Body health - keeping our fitness up. Taking online classes, walking, running. Just 30 minutes of activity to keep us alive. You can do more if you feel great.
Mental health - talking to a professional if you have that option. But there are cheaper options for keeping your mental health strong. Like talking to your friends over a technical platform. Getting out in the sun and fresh air. Getting a schedule or routine going so that you get a feeling of accomplishment. Find one thing that you want to do that day - as simple as petting your dog, cleaning your floor, or cooking dinner - the trick is actually noticing it, feeling it, and appreciating it.
We can also control our motivation. If you are anything like me, I have been seriously lacking in motivation. I don’t always have enough to fill my day, so I lay in bed for hours after waking up just to waste time. So my day isn’t so long. Because of that my body embraces that relaxed feeling and the motivation to move, cook, or get outside completely vanishes.
Some days it is okay to embrace that laziness, other days we need to feel motivated to feel alive. We need to move forward and look ahead so that we don’t feel stuck. It is a full circle of sleep = energy = motivation.
Susan reminded us all of the three S’s we need to survive:
Sleep - On average for teenagers, they need 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep.
Sunlight - We need Vitamin D for our brain to produce the chemicals needed to feel awake.
Substance - fuelling our bodies with food and hydration that is healthy and beneficial for our bodies.
“When we are nervous, our brains tells our bodies to get ready.”
Right now, we are all feeling at least a little bit nervous. The unknown is always terrifying. It is why athletes get so nervous about competition… we work so hard, but truly anything can happen. We can’t control the outcome, only the work put in.
When our brain detects something that is scary, our human nature takes over.
Fight, Flight, or Freeze.
When our brains go into that mode, our blood begins pooling in our core, which can lead to our extremities to feel too cold or too warm. Our hands can get clammy or numb. Our bodies want to feel lighter, so we can often get queasy, or constantly feel like we need to go to the bathroom. Our eyes often widen, searching for danger. Our heart rate increases, ready for the potential threat.
These are all NORMAL!
The minute we normalize these feelings, accept them as our bodies' emotions realize we don’t have to fight, our bodies slowly begin to relax.
Some techniques to aid your body into realizing there is no danger include:
-Breathing: Regularizing your breathing tells the body to relax. Try 6 breaths a minute.
-Yawning: Increases oxygen in the brain. Cools down the brain. It also just relaxes our jaws.
-Rocking body side to side: Just like rocking a baby, it soothes our central nervous system.
For added focus, sway hips in a figure 8 pattern and ensure bending knees and ankles.
“Be Brave… I am worried, but I’ll do it anyway.”
Stand tall. Eyes up; take the focus off the ground. Shoulders back. Chin up. Ready!
These actions convince our bodies that there is nothing we can’t handle. It might be hard, it might be scary, but we trust that we are strong enough.
In competition, I had to mentally say that I was ready, that I had done this all before. There was nothing to be scared of because the competition and the outcome were always ahead of me. Sitting on the bus on the way to the competition was when I was most nervous, and there was nothing of the competition that I could control there. I was scared of the future.
Always remember the moment we live in. Breath and experience. Take a moment when the world gets too overwhelming.
We can control, we can be nervous, but we are all brave enough to do it.