Mental Health Matters

Instead of writing this post, I should be working on the final changes on my slides for my presentation later this week. The changes are not that many, yet I find myself here undeniably stuck, uninspired. Sad without a reason to be sad. There isn’t anything out of the ordinary bothering me, my health is good. My family’s health is good, yet for about a month now, I have been unable to shake this feeling off my spirit. A feeling of indifference, a numbness that I can’t quite put my finger on.

I try to make an effort to tend to my mental health but since the start of the year it is something that I have neglected. The meditation and daily Bible reading that kept me as mentally healthy as I could possibly be, gradually got replaced by deadlines and more deadlines. My physical and mental fatigue is at an all-time high. I do believe that some of this is due to not having taken a break from work during the festive season in order to stay on top of deadlines. Now, it would seem that my mind & body are close to reaching their deadline. I am functioning but I know I could do better. The manifestation of this mental imbalance has led to me experiencing greater anxiety. I’ve felt this on a larger scale at work where I’ve been doubting myself an unhealthy amount and performing for approval. I am the most junior in my office and at times it has led to me feeling inadequate, underqualified and pretty much like a fish out of water. It has led to me reading too much into comments made by my boss and in some ways has been a hindrance to my improvement.

Now that I’ve noticed this, it’s time to get back into a routine where I prioritise my mental and spiritual health. I am in the process of drawing up a routine to ensure that every hour of the day is maximised and used as best as it can be. I downloaded a weekly planner from Savvy Spreadsheets, laminated it and will be writing down the things I will be doing on a daily basis.

  • I have gone back to journaling as I find that this was the best way for me to express my emotions and release them without fear of judgement. My favourite place to get stationary is Typo, they have the cutest items that you didn’t know you needed.
  • Reading. During my time, working as a product & brand trainer at LUSH South Africa, my then trainer Georgie Hopkins gave me a book by Patsy Rodenberg called ‘Presence’. I was a nervous ball of energy when I first met Georgie, one was because watching her train LUSH staff, you could not help but be captivated. She is a ridiculously good trainer. This coupled with the fact that being a trainer kind of thrusts you in a position of leadership, the introvert that I was, could not handle that. I learnt a lot from this book and I’ve realised that it is by reading that I learn the most about myself and how to maximise my personality to get what I want from life in a healthy way. I am going back to this book to rebuild some of the confidence I have lost.
  • I will be meditating for 15 minutes everyday. My favourite meditation app is 10% Happier. I find it to be fuss-free, practical and very applicable and easy to follow. I like to call it the meditation app for intellectuals. No chanting or ohm-ing, just connecting with your thoughts and learning how to manage your emotions and not the other way round.
  • Bin the negative self-talk. This one is probably the hardest to do. For every negative thought that comes in, replace it with a positive thought on something I can do well.
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Yesterday I saw a friend of mine filming her friend up in a coconut tree chopping down coconuts. He was also sawing off a few dead palms and he said something that really got me thinking. – The dead palms draw a ton of resources from deep within the roots in an effort to stay alive. In fact, it can starve the rest of the branches and eventually compromise the whole tree. – But if you prune the dying palms, then the ones still alive and the rest of the tree will flourish. – Our consciousness operates in much of the same way. – If we use up our valuable resources to feed unproductive thoughts that don't get us to our goals, we are wasting valuable energy. – And if those runaway doubts, fears, insecurities, and grievances keep being fed, they suck up all our energy and life force eventually leading to the demise of our dreams and goals. – But just like pruning the trees of the coconut tree, we can lop off the thoughts and feelings that no longer serve us and redirect our vital resources to feeding the thoughts and feelings that put us in direct line with our dreams and goals. – And when we do that long enough with consistent action it bears fruit. – When we've invested literally tens of thousands of hours in patterns of thought and behavior it can be almost impossible to unwind that on our own. – That's why I just opened up a handful of one month laser focused one-to-one coaching spots to help you do just that. It's designed to help you identify whats holding you back, get to the root of your current challenge, and set and attain 3 crystal clear soul goals this month. – If that resonates with you, just DM me and we'll set aside some time to chat. It's priced so those who are committed can easily afford it. – Chat soon 💜🔥🤙🏽

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The next few months will be challenging and I know that the only way I’m going to survive is by prioritising my mental health. My current state of mind has reminded me that we never finish working on our mental health, healing is not linear. It should be something we work on as consistently and frequently as physical exercise…it is probably more important than physical exercise. I refuse to live according to the cycle the world has created of working to the point of burnout, that is not living. I love this post by Kristina of the wildly popular blog ‘Fully Raw Kristina’. Growth happens in waves and maybe that’s just what I’m going through right now.

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Sometimes God breaks your heart to save your soul. 🦋 We all go through tough times, and sometimes it feels completely debilitating and devastating. The truth is: without rain there can be no rainbows. Difficult experiences allow us to truly appreciate what we do have and how far we’ve come. These times build character, integrity, wisdom, and strength. I know it’s not always easy to see the positive when you’re in the core of it, but trust that you are protected and loved. It’s through the notion of learning to pick ourselves back up that we gain not only self-respect, but also compassion, forgiveness, and self-love. Also keep in mind, sometimes the things we want most are not the best for us…or are not meant for us. Perhaps there is BETTER that is yet to come. Growth happens in waves—I say this from personal experience. Faith. Time. Some things haven’t worked out, but still may turn out better than we could have possibly imagined. 🙏🏽💕✨ I send you love today for all the good things coming. I love you. 🦁🐞🐛🦋🐬🍉✨ ✨ 📸 @cashgotwings ✨ ✨ #inspiration #motivation #waimeacanyon #waimea #vegansofig #vegansofinstagram #hawaii #girls #life #health #healthy #vegetarian #confidence #positivevibes #womenempowerment #positivity #happy #rawvegan #mountains #canyon #travelphotography #travelphotography #travel #traveler #sunset #fullyraw #vegan

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I came across the featured image for this post on Pinterest, I hope it helps, I will definitely be using it!

Mindfulness, what’s it all about?

In my efforts to be the best athlete I can be, I have explored different things that can help in legally enhancing your mental and physical capacities during a wod, and especially for the competitive athletes, during a competition, one of these things or techniques, is mindfulness. Due to a back injury, 2017 was a year that I had to rule out competing. When I started my rehab,  in the back of my head, I had the memory of what had happened when I last competed in 2016. It was at Last Man Standing, a 2 day CrossFit competition, and that year the wods favoured what I excelled in, or at least what I thought I excelled in : short quick wods with heavier weights. My training was consistent, however (isn’t it horrible that there is always a ‘however,’)  coupled with an erratic work schedule…hmmm that’s probably why I resigned (that’s a post for another day!) I fell sick with the worst flu virus that took me until the day of the competition to shake off. I suffered with feelings of nausea throughout the day but I chalked some of it up to nerves. The highlight of that weekend was throwing up on someones car, I’m sorry whoever you are. During that weekend, one of the wods we had involved pulling a sled with a rope, and an odd object overhead carry.  I was ahead with the sled pull until my rope got tangled on the sled and the very temperamental CrossFit diva that I was at that time, threw the towel in. I remember crying after that wod, hating CrossFit for about a minute and then having that mood trickle into all the other wods that weekend.

A couple of months later while taking inventory of the things that I could have changed prior, during and after the competition, I came across a post on social media where Ben Bergeron, owner of CrossFit New England, and coach of 2X Fittest Woman on Earth, Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir,  wrote about the technique of mindfulness that he uses with his athletes to keep them focussed during wods/competions on giving their very best effort, focusing on the things that they have control over and not variables that are subject to change. On that fateful day in September, I had no control on my rope getting tangled on the sled, but I could have controlled the trajectory of my thoughts, instead using that experience to fuel me to push harder and pace myself in a smarter way in the following wods, as opposed to having thrown a hissy fit, shedding a few tears, thereby  sabotaging myself for that weekend.

Mindfulness can best be described as the art of being present in the moment, it’s a training and disciplining of your thoughts so as to not allow them to wander off into thoughts of past efforts or future efforts. Mindfulness is focussing on the here and now. Being present, mind, body and soul, in the activity that you are partaking in. Mindfulness is an awareness of everything that is going on in your body. It’s a shift from doing things in response to what others are doing, and instead doing things in response to what will work out best for you. I’ve found that as I practice mindfulness, I care less about measuring myself up to other people victories and instead, I’m focussed on my path, my victories and my effort/s.

‘Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally.’  Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is not only learning how to perform anything and everything with purpose and joy, but the idea behind it is to cultivate attention on the body and mind as it is, moment to moment, and so help with pain or moments of discomfort, both physical and emotional.  In those moments you are, (as you can probably guess,) mindful and acutely aware of everything that is going on around you, but most importantly in you. Mindfulness can be helpful in positively changing the perception you have of the world and yourself. In these moments of self-evaluation, you are able to pay attention to your why and (hopefully,) find the good, no matter how small it is, in whatever you’re doing.

Genetically, I consider myself exceptionally lucky to be able to build strength as easily as I do. Squats, deadlifts and donuts, that’s all that makes me happy. However (ooh there’s that word again,) ask me to do a wod that has running AND strength, and my mind immediately runs to the worst case scenario, where I’m left completely destroyed by Helen…that’s the wod that fills me with fear haha! In an effort to have and sustain the joy and gratitude that exists whenever I have a bar, kettlebell or dumbbells in my hands, I began to explore mindfulness as a means of learning how to transfer these happy emotions to any wod that has running.

Mindfulness & CrossFit, match made in heaven?

CrossFit is great for developing attributes such as endurance, strength and metabolic fitness, but in order to become a great athlete, when you’re taking stock of your progress (which we should all be doing,) you’ll discover that it is important to pay some attention to the external factors that can impact your training and therefore your performance on the comp floor. We’ve often heard it before that your mind is the most powerful weapon you have. Mindfulness is a way to make this muscle stronger. I’m a firm believer that an empty mind, very easily becomes the devils playground. An empty mind is easier to fill with junk. These junky thoughts start off with negative thoughts that you believe about yourself, and then eventually they become thoughts that you believe about other people. This highlights how important it is to be aware of what you’re choosing to focus on and giving your energy to. Mindfulness can form part of ones meditation practice in that for an extended period of time, using techniques such as journaling or deep breathing, you are aware of what’s going on with yourself. This technique of mindfulness is one that sports psychologists have studied and confirmed as a contributing factor to excelling in your training and competitive performances. In honing in your thoughts you become someone who will constantly show up at the box to be first. The definition of what it means to be first is that you’re an athlete who shows up to give their all. An athlete who as frustrated as they are at their rope getting tangled on the sled, is able to push those feelings of frustration aside because she realises that right now giving into that particular feeling will sabotage and not fuel her efforts when not harness correctly.

Ready to get mindful about what’s in your head?

Next time you’re headed to the box, aim to get there five minutes earlier. Pick a spot, put the timer on for five minutes, alternatively you can use a meditation app, I’ve listed my favourites at the end of this article. As you lay on the floor, allow your eyes to gently close, taking a few deep inhalations and exhalations, hands on your stomach, focussing on the movement of your stomach up and down with each breath. Your ribcage taking in that precious oxygen that is going to fuel you during that wod that you’re going to crush, think of a positive event that happened during the course of the day. It doesn’t have to anything grand, although if it is, that’s great! It can even be the fact that you woke up this morning. Focus on the emotions that you experienced when that event happened, reliving that moment in your mind, allowing it to vividly remember every aspect of that moment. At the end of your five minutes,  focus on holding on to those positive emotion through every movement that your wod will consist of.

A different way of practicing mindfulness is through something that I’ve learnt from Katrin Davidsdottir, she wears a white rubber band on her right wrist that she has to move to her left wrist anytime she has a negative thought or complains about a movement or wod. The goal is to keep it on the same wrist; it’s a lot harder than anyone would think!  This practice will create in you an increased awareness of the words that come out of your mouth and forces you to focus on the conversation going on in your head. The interesting thing is that even though I sought out mindfulness to improve my sports performance, eventually it trickled into my everyday life where I have been able to remove myself from people and surroundings that were adding to the strain that I was under mentally.

Favourite meditation apps:

Simple Habit

Zensong

Rain Rain

A few good reads to hone in your thoughts:

 The Champions Mind by Jim Afremo

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel