So, I had quite the scare last Monday evening. I was coaching and started to develop a few symptoms that culminated in me rushing to A&E after I shut up shop at the gym.
Almost 20 hours later and being run through a battery of tests, I was allowed to stumble home in a sleep-deprived state, wondering just what the hell happened – not the first time I have been in this state in recent months.
The body has many ways of telling us to slow down – from subtle to severe, and most of the time we don’t listen.
Even though I constantly talk about the dangers of stress and trying to manage it, once again I fell into the trap of ignoring my own advice.
On Monday I saw first hand, how chronic stress can manifest itself in seemingly unrelated ways. Once our recovery is compromised and our immune systems are low, we are asking for trouble – ESPECIALLY if we refuse to take heed of any warning signs and in my case try to remain as busy as possible.
The truth is, I was running from things. I was trying to keep myself distracted but in ways that were unsustainable, especially considering my sleep and diet were so poor and I was trying to go 100mph 24/7, fuelling myself with copious amounts of caffeine.
It is not good enough to buy into the mantra of needing stress to function or needing a deadline to get things done. I thought I was this person but really, no one is. Things will catch up on us eventually if we don’t take time to take stock and regroup occasionally.
Monday was a brutal reminder that I am indeed very much human and just as vulnerable to stress as anyone else (if not more so).
The past few months have been a bit turbulent for me to say the least. My fiancée broke up with me and I have moved home to the house I grew up in – which is something I never imagined my 34 year old self doing. Along with all of that, I also changed Jiu Jitsu teams – which seems extremely irrelevant to people outside of martial arts circles but it is a very tribal thing which has had me ostracised in old circles of friends.
The joys of being self-employed meant I couldn’t just up and leave the country, as badly as I wanted to. But again, I know this is no answer either. I would feel just as lonely or lost in another country – and probably even more so.
I tried to keep things together as much as possible and aimed keep everything else in my life running as normal. In fact, as a counter to the trauma I tried to ramp up the intensity in other areas of my life – in my own training, competing more and working as much as possible – all of which were a great distraction for me. Or so I thought.
At that pace, unsurprisingly, something had to give. And it nearly gave out big time.
I am not trying to paint myself as a martyr – but I am trying to help folks through my own poor judgements and show that it is a good idea to take a step back in tough times and call on your support network of friends and family. Again, do as I say and not as I do! I am not immune to going through tough times or pain and I hope that my personal negligence and disregard for my own health will be a lesson to you guys to take care of yourselves.
I am not going to encourage you all to live each day like it is your last– for most this is impractical and if we gave into our ‘carpe diem’ impulses we would probably wind up in jail. Take small steps – connect with old friends and family, turn off facebook from time to time, learn how to say no to people, make time for yourself, make sure to do things that you like to do and make you happy (obviously not at the expense of other peoples happiness). And make sure you get enough sleep and when you do this – let me know what your secret is.
I am encountering too many people telling me they don’t have time to train, eat well, sleep, etc. because they have stretched themselves too thin.
Ultimately we can only help ourselves. A member reminded me of this yesterday when she texted to say she had a terrible day but felt so much better after training that evening – it was very rewarding and humbling to receive this message.
Finding relief and or peace through training is something I constantly experience and it is something I would love others to experience too.
I remember only a couple of months ago I had to force myself to go training, when the last thing I wanted to do was go outdoors – a couple of times I got as far as the front door of the jiu jitsu gym and when no one saw me I turned around and went home. The following day when I did actually go and train I felt so much better afterwards. Sure, the feeling didn’t last for the rest of the day but I got a few hours out of it and that was a start.
I made the point of stopping and observing how training made me feel and how better I felt for doing it. We need to do this regularly. Slow down and observe.
I feel this is something that some folks are missing out on in the gym. Coming into the gym and brining your work / home troubles with you. Again, I know first hand it is VERY difficult to just switch off but I do know that trying to do so and focusing on your time in the gym makes a big difference.
Even small things, like listening to music that makes you feel good before you train – anything to switch your state of mind. I found out the hard way not to listen to music that brings up old memories – you can control this! All of these little choices can have a big impact.
Come into the gym and immerse yourself in the training for the hour. Focus on each rep, push yourself and stay present. You will be amazed at how good you feel afterwards and the fact you are not just improving yourself physically but giving your mind a chance to de-clutter and focus on the current task at hand.
Make time for yourself and slow down and try to appreciate what you have (there is always something!!) – even if it is in fleeting moments, it is still extremely beneficial for mind and body.
Eliminate as much negativity from your life as possible. I always hear the cliché that we are the average of the five people we surround ourselves with the most. There is a lot of truth behind this and you really owe it to yourself to cut out as many negative influences in your life as possible. Life really is too short. Keep people who energise you close to you – and even more importantly, try to become one of these people!
Hopefully if you are going through a difficult patch, you are able to take a step back and try to formulate a plan to push forward and get to a better place and call on your support network. If you have spent the past while rushing from A to B to Z and not taking time out for yourself – STOP and do so now.
Monday was a scare for me. I guess the take away point from this post is to make time to train / play / laugh and just relax and do nothing – all of these things are vital to our mental and physical health and unfortunately a lot of us have reached a point where we have forgotten how to do any of the above. Even with a potentially life changing event it can quickly be forgotten to look after ourselves but it is something that we should look to try do consistently. I know how much training has helped me in tough times and I always strive to help others experience the same thing when they train at SDSC.