Managing Anxiety During the COVID-19 Self Quarantine

“Americans told to hunker down as Coronavirus claims more lives”

“Dow’s Worst Day Ever”

“Coronavirus could hit NYC like the Great Depression”

With constant headlines like these, it’s no wonder everyone’s anxiety threatens to spiral out of control. For those who may have been or are now dealing with job insecurity, layoffs or financial pressure – the threat is compounded. Will I be able to pay my mortgage and utilities? Groceries? What about medication shortages for critical medical conditions?

The resulting symptoms of all this worry affect us in multiple ways:

  • Behavioral: hyper-vigilance, irritability, or restlessness
  • Cognitive: lack of concentration, racing thoughts, or unwanted thoughts, excessive worry, fear, feeling of impending doom
  • Whole-body: fatigue, sweating, palpitations, nausea, insomnia, trembling

We Are All In This Together

The positive in all of this, and it’s not one to minimize, is we are all (as in the ENTIRE WORLD) in this together. While anxiety is never enjoyable – there is some small comfort in knowing we are not alone.

There are things we can do to help. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) here are some ways to manage anxiety and isolation during the Quarantine.

1. Reframe “I am stuck inside” to “I can finally focus on my home and myself”

Try doing one positive thing each day – may be a creative activity you never have time for, or organizing something that will reduce visual stress.

2. Avoid obsessing over endless Coronavirus coverage

While it’s important to stay informed, excessively checking social media and the news ramps up our anxiety. Maybe set a schedule for when you plan to check-in for updates and stick to it.

3. Stay close to your normal routine

Keep as many routines as you can. Follow your normal morning rituals, shower and get dressed, make your bed – this will create a sense of “normalcy” that is calming.

4. A chaotic home can lead to a chaotic mind

Of course, this is more challenging if you are home with small children. But a cluttered home can make you feel uneasy and claustrophobic. Try to clean and organize as you go and keep normal boundaries in place as much as possible.

5. Start a new quarantine ritual

Journal about this experience, set a time to go for a walk every day, connect online or by phone with people in your life that are important to you but you rarely get to catch up, start a new craft.

6. Use Telehealth as an option to talk to a professional about your anxiety

3 Great Ways You Can Be a Even Better Parent to Your Student Athlete

 

Girl Student Athletes

Are You “That” Parent?

Okay parents, now it’s time for me to call you out! Yes, you!

We have all seen the videos of parents fighting during a little league game. Or, see other parents degrade their child after making an error. I’m going to tell you right now, don’t be one of those parents.

Your child puts enough pressure on him/herself as it is. Don’t be the reason they cannot perform well because they’re too busy worrying about what your reaction is after the game.

If you’re wondering why your child has anxiety, you might be the problem.  It’s time to take a serious look in the mirror and ask yourself:

Am I helping my child or am I making it worse?

If it’s worse, here are some sound suggestions for helping your athlete be successful, both on the field and off.

 

Constructive Conversations

Observation: Athletes hate when parents remind them of their errors. First, and most importantly, have a conversation with your child.

And no I don’t mean one where you teach them a lesson or try to tell them what to do. Sit down and have an actual “adult” conversation about what is bothering them.

Do you remember when you were younger and wished your parents wouldn’t talk to you like you a child? That hasn’t changed. Children, especially adolescents, want to be treated as more than just your child. Show them respect and:

  • Listen
  • Be Empathetic
  • Offer Encouragement
  • Check Your Emotional Reaction

According to the TED Ideas Worth Spreading, here are a few more tips for communicating with your teen to build your relationship.

Bottom Line: Before you can help your student-athlete, you have to understand what’s going on through their eyes.

Teen Boy Athletes

Help Your Child Learn It’s Okay to Fail

Observation: Athletes are hardest on themselves. If your child makes a mistake, don’t remind them.

Believe me, we know when we mess up, we don’t need someone to tell us that it was a costly error. Also, their coach has probably already reminded them.

In your child’s mind, they’re probably thinking something worse about themselves than you are.

Bottom Line: We want our children to learn from their mistakes, not be afraid to make them.

  • Try asking them how they felt after making the error
  • Reassure them it’s okay to make mistakes.
  • Help them understand the steps to take after a mistake
  • Talk about what to do to avoid that mistake in the future

Dr. Andrew Cohen, Ph.D. and Lisa Cohen wrote an article published in ActiveKids on this topic – check it out if this applies to you.

 

Your Student-Athlete (Your Child) Wants To Make You Proud

Observation: Athletes constantly feel pressure from numerous sources. Praise your student athlete for their effort, not the outcome.

Far too often we place too much emphasis on the outcome of the sport instead of the effort. You may not believe it, but athletes could think your love is conditional if you place more emphasis on winning.

If a parent says to their child, good job after every win, but you need to pick it up after every loss, that could lead an athlete to think they’re not good enough, or they need to win in order to get your support. If you only place emphasis on the outcome the athlete will burnout by trying too hard to win instead of being motivated to be better and learn. 

Every single athlete wants to win.

I don’t think I’ve ever met an athlete who was opposed to winning. But winning does not always occur and it’s an uncontrollable outcome. Instead, place the emphasis on the athlete’s efforts.

Perfect performance and outcomes will never happen. However, the perfect effort can always be achieved.

Bottom Line: The next time your child loses a game but tried their best, remind them that effort is the most important.

Try This –

Do’s

  • I know you tried your best and that’s what matters
  • What can you work on in practice to make your swing better?
  • I love coming to watch you play
  • I’m proud of your effort, you worked really hard today
  •  

Remove these sentences from your vocabulary –

Don’t

  • You made three errors today
  • If you would have done this you could have won the match
  • What are you doing out there? You looked terrible
  • You should have placed first

 

Parents: It’s Your Turn to Practice

Parents, let’s do a little experiment.

  1. Start using the Do’s statements listed above, modified to your liking
  2. Notice the athletic performance of your child, as well as their attitude

Use these statements for practice, private instruction, games and any other activity your child may be involved in. You may notice your child feeling more relaxed when they play, having more fun, and enjoying the time they get to spend with you after games or practices.

And one final thought. Do you know college coaches are evaluating the parents as well as the athlete? Consider this perspective from USA Today January 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

Techniques to Help Athletes with Anxiety

One Thing Athletes Do NOT Want To Talk About

Anxious, Me? – Never.

“I Don’t Get Anxiety Before Games” – Every Athlete.

Athletes Don’t Experience Anxiety – Right

Oh the dreaded seven letter word: ANXIETY. The one thing we don’t want to talk about as athletes. The thing many of us claim to have never experienced. Well, busted, because if you have never felt anxious or worried, or like you’re going to pass out before a game, then you’re not human. Yes, I said it, you might as well be a robot! All of us athletes have experienced a phenomenon I like to call “Under the Lights Phenomenon.”

Athletes and Anxiety

I use the term Under the Lights Phenomenon because most competitions are played under lights. But there is also this idea athletes are placed under a microscope, constantly being watched by numerous individuals. This can be very anxiety provoking! This phenomenon can occur at any time before a game, whether it’s the night before, in the morning before a game, during warm-ups, five minutes before the start of a game, or at any point for any athlete.

What can you do when you’re experiencing Under the Lights Phenomenon?

Many of you probably already have a pre-game routine which helps you get ready for competition and ease your anxiety. Some of you may

  • listen to music
  • prefer silence
  • play a game on your phone

whatever routine you have it’s important to do that routine before every game. It is also important to have anxiety coping strategies to use during competition when you feel anxious.

For those of you that don’t have a pre-game/competition routine, or maybe your current routine isn’t working, I will lay out some suggestions to add to your routine that may be helpful for anxiety avoidance.

  • Deep Breathing
  • Visualization / Guided imagery
  • Smiling

 

Deep Breathing For Anxiety

Deep breathing does not just literally mean to breathe, we do that all the time. When I say deep breathing I mean put all of your focus is placed on your breathing.

  1. Find a quiet place without distractions
  2. Close your eyes, or keeping them open if you prefer
  3. Consciously focus on your breath

By focusing only on your breath your thoughts of anxiety start to dwindle away and you can focus on being in the present moment. Deep breathing helps athletes relax their muscles prior to competition allowing for more fluid athletic performance.

If you have never done deep breathing exercises before it might take some practice for you to be fully able to solely focus on your breath. When you’re in your deep breathing state, and your mind starts to wander remember, the goal here is to focus on your breath.

 

Visualization Helps With Anxiety

Visualization, also known as guided imagery has been a technique used extensively in the sports psychology field, with numerous studies indicating its effectiveness (Bernier & Fournier, 2010; Cumming & Ramsey, 2009; Cumming & Williams, 2012). Maybe at one point, you’ve heard about it, maybe you haven’t, but nonetheless, visualization can have an extreme impact on athletic performance, especially for those who are rehabbing from an injury.

The goal of visualization is for the athlete to again:

  • find a quiet area with no distractions
  • close your eyes

Imagine yourself pitching the best game of your life – be very specific. I want you to notice the smell of the dirt, the feel of having the ball in your hand, the way your spikes feel on the dirt, the catcher’s mitt as your target, your breath before every pitch. I want you to be able to feel your environment.

Once you have that, focus on the mechanics of each of your pitches as they come off your hand. Feel your body, without actually doing it, going through the motion of a fastball, a curveball, a change-up. Essentially, you want to go through an entire game during visualization.

I recommend this part of your routine either the night before or the morning of. Give yourself time to sit down and visualize an entire game.

I want you to keep something else in mind. Remember, in a game, mistakes will be made and the opposing team will hit your pitches so it’s important to visualize these as well. That way you can visualize yourself making the adjustments you need so you can transfer that into your competition.

 

Smile and Laugh

I know this going to sound simple and maybe even a little stupid, but I recommend you smile and laugh before your game.

Remember the reason you started playing your sport in the first place. Too often as athletes, we get so tense and we feel this need to be perfect and always perform at our best. And when we don’t perform at our best we feel as if we have failed, which then increases our anxiety.

So take the time to actually enjoy the game. Have fun with your teammates and smile. Play for the little boy or girl who fell in love with the game in the first place and you will never lose.

 

I’m planning to do this with all my blogs. I want to end each one with an activity to go along with our discussion about deep breathing.

 

Breathing Exercises For Anxiety

 

  1. I want you to find a quiet place at home, or where ever you feel most comfortable.
  2. Dim the lights a little and make sure you will have no distractions.
  3. You can lay on the floor, or sit down with your legs crossed.
  4. Start by closing your eyes and just breathing. I would like for you to try this for about 3-5 minutes. While you’re breathing I want you to focus on your breath only. Keep everything else out of your mind. As you start to focus on your breathing, start focusing on your body parts, starting with your legs. Feel the way your body reacts with every breath you take.

You might feel your mind start to think about other things, when this happens, recognize it and start focusing on your breath again.

When you are done with this exercise I hope your mind and body is more relaxed. It can be difficult for us to take the time to just breathe when our lives are so busy. However, it’s important to take some time to just relax after a hard day of practice, school, personal issues, family issues, and everything else we may face.

You may not believe it, but stress and anxiety can have a serious toll on our bodies if we don’t take the time to deal with it.

To continue on with our discussion of anxiety, I’m going to talk about the stress parents can place on their children to perform. Yes, parents, it’s now your turn to be placed in the spotlight!

Good luck!

 

Athletes with Mental Illness

WHAT’s happening in the mind of an athlete?

 

 

ask yourself “Have I had these thoughts?”

I’m an Athlete and I’m Not Okay

Athletes are Perfect Human Beings Right?

Can you Spell Athlete without Mental Health?

Athletes and Mental Health, Who Cares?

What’s Really Going on in an Athlete’s Mind?

 

 

inside the athlete mind

There is a belief that has been circling in the world of sports for as long as sports have existed. The belief that individuals who play sports are stronger than other humans (yes, athletes are also human believe it or not), both physically and mentally.

Athletes are assumed to have this unwavering ability to handle anything thrown at them, both literally and figuratively.

What happens when, no matter the amount of practice, an athlete just cannot seem to hit a curve ball? Is it because they haven’t practiced it enough? Is it because they can’t see it? There can be a number of questions raised on the physicality of an athlete when it comes to physical shortcomings.

The number one question which should be asked is:

What is going on in their mind as the ball was approaching the plate?

 

mental health in athletes

Far too often we blame a physical ailment as to why he couldn’t hit that jump shot, or she couldn’t dig that ball. The true focus should be on the athlete’s part of the body that cannot be seen and is not nearly trained enough: their brain.

Studies indicate elite athletes differ from mediocre athletes in one category: mental preparation/toughness. Let’s be clear, athletes, like anyone else, experience mental health issues like anxiety, depression, ADHD and learning disabilities.

It has never been about athletes being perfect or experiencing mental health issues. It is about the way an athlete learns to cope with these mental health difficulties so they can get to their highest achievements.

 

athlete Mental Health Statistics

Studies vary on the percentage of student-athletes with mental health issues, ranging from 10% – 30% of college athletes. There are a couple of reasons why the statistics vary.

First, the sports and mental health field is growing every day and new studies are coming out with their findings. Understanding mental health in athletes is still a relatively new field. It was not until 2013 the NCAA created the Mental Health Task Force to research issues relating to athletes and mental health. It has not been a priority in the past. Although there have been many strides, there is still a long way to go.

Second, I believe these statistics to be on the low end, meaning the percentage of athletes who experience mental health issues are probably higher. Although it is discussed more often today, it does not mean athletes are willing to admit to experiencing mental health issues.

There is still a stigma with mental health and seeking help. Athletes should be tougher than that right?

 

recognize mental health issues

Here is the good news. You’re not alone if you feel:

  • overwhelmed
  • frustrated
  • anxious
  • sad
  • pissed

Many athletes experience all of these emotions and I am here to tell you it’s perfectly normal. In fact, I would be concerned if you didn’t feel any of these emotions!

Often, society says, inaccurately, mental health issues are associated with weakness. Everyone, whether an athlete or not will experience some mental health issue(s) in their lifetime. It’s not so much about what the issue is, or whether someone else is going through something different.

It’s about the help you seek for it and what you can do for yourself to overcome it. There is strength in recognizing mental health issues and even more strength in advocating for a better mental health outcome for yourself.

 

 

Famous Athletes with Mental Health Disorders

Take a minute to read over these quotes spoken by some of the most successful athletes in the world. And take a minute to grasp the fact you are not alone. The teammate sitting next to you, the competitor you face, the coach instructing you, or the athlete on the other side of the world has been in your shoes.

“Everyone is going through something that we can’t see… Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another.” -Kevin Love

“I think as an athlete we’re taught that if we can push through anything we can make it wherever we want to go, and we’re always told to not ask for help.” -Allison Schmitt

Many of the most successful athletes in the world have experienced their own mental boxing match. We all have. We try to fight the big, bad, mental invasion forging in our brains. Thinking we need to do it alone. Thinking the outside world will believe we are weak. Instead of holding all that barrage of emotions, bring everything you’re feeling to light. Because when you bring it to light, you allow yourself to recognize it. And once you recognize it, you give yourself the freedom to overcome it.

 

 

Challenge: Work this Exercise

  1.  Grab a pen and paper, or your computer or whatever device you prefer.
  2.  Try to find a quiet area or room where ever you are reading this.
  3.  Put some music on if you like.
  4.  Have a seat with that pen and paper on the table.
  5.  Write down every emotion you have felt, both on and off the field relating to your sport, your teammates, your coach, school, family, any topic you want to think about.

Take about five minutes, or a little more if necessary.

If you want, do this with a friend and compare notes. This will give you an understanding of the different emotions every athlete has faced.

Keep this list posted somewhere.

We’ll expand on this next week when I talk about anxiety and coping strategies for practice, on the field of play, in school, and at home.

My Child Was Diagnosed with ADHD – What Now?

Where Do I Begin After An ADHD Diagnosis?

 

Your child is newly diagnosed with ADHD.  What now?

Start small.  Begin by identifying your expectations. Learn about your child’s strengths.  This gives you the advantage. You’re ready to help your child and set them up for success.

As parents, we have expectations for our children.

These expectations come from our own experiences, values, and beliefs. Let’s start with basic recommendations found in an article by Dr. Beth Seidel titled “Parent Expectations:  2 Steps to Success”. The first step; allow yourself to mourn.

When our children are given an ADHD diagnosis we can be in shock and we want answers.

  • How come?
  • What is this?
  • Who has this?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Who can help me?

Mourning is about giving yourself permission to grieve, be sad or weep if needed.

 

When Is The Time To Act?

Once you have given yourself the opportunity to absorb the news of the diagnosis, find out as much as you can about ADHD. 

  • How does ADHD affect your child?
  • What are the treatment options for your family?
  • Talk to family members and answer their questions too.
  • Clarify your expectations and move to Dr. Seidel’s second step.

Shifting Expectations

Take time to “redefine or reframe” your expectations based on what you learned about ADHD.  You don’t need to raise or lower your standards or expectations.

It means you will teach, expect and support your child at their level.  Dr. Seidel helps us by giving us three recommendations:

  1. Clarify your expectations based on the child’s developmental stages, as you would with any child
  • Ask yourself where your child’s development is based on the stages of growth. Take into consideration an ADHD child is 33% or 3-5 years behind their peers. How would you respond to a meltdown or tantrum from your 10-year-old compared to your 13-year-old? 

2. Define your expectations based on your child’s neurological abilities

  • ADHD is a neurobiological disorder. It affects our children’s neurological abilities. Gain an understanding of how the neurological abilities and executive functions, such as emotion, self-control, memory, and learning, affect your child.

3.  Establish your expectations based on what’s important to you for your child’s success

  • What’s most important for your child to be successful?  What do you need to let go of? Are you comparing your child to a sibling, relative, or another child? Are you listening to what others say about their child and how good they are doing in school and you know this isn’t the case for your child?  Is it because your child needs help transitioning from one activity to the next? This means you’ll need to monitor the transition process and support your child.  Is your expectation they’ll do their homework with minimal disruption and less support from you?

 

Areas Where You Can Redefine Your Expectations

  • Chores
  • Homework
  • Your emotional response to their behaviors
  • Planning a vacation
  • Your child social interactions with peers

You have lots to consider as a parent of a newly diagnosed child with ADHD. 

Let’s go back to those strengths.  Take a look at the character strengths from VIA.

Classification of Character Strengths

Take time to think of your child and write down all you know they are good at and do.  Use the list to help you in the process.

Knowing their strengths is to your advantage. You can provide feedback. Create strategies to work for them.  You have the power to inspire your child.

The small seed you have planted will grow slowly and helps them be the best person they are set to be.

Be The 8% To Reach Your New Year Goal

Science Says 92% Of Us Will Not Reach Our Goal

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the New Year begins, a lot of us are thinking about our 2017 resolutions. There is something about a fresh calendar and the start of a brand-new year that often gives us a jolt of motivational energy. It’s time to make a change to improve our quality of life. And good for us for thinking positively. Seizing the opportunity to improve ourselves. Unfortunately for most, a couple weeks after the beginning of the New Year our goals and the tools purchased to help us get there, are long forgotten.

 Does This Sound Familiar?

With a new year, brings the perception of a clean slate. A fresh new start with endless possibilities. After finishing up an often, stressful holiday season, many of us begin to search for something to help us feel optimistic about the start of the new year.

“Last year I really ate horribly…I’m going to eat healthier this year”

“Last year I was so tired all the time, I’m going to get more rest this year”

“I’ve spent the last year in a job I hate, this year, I’m going to find something new”

“And the ultimate…. My xyz birthday is this year, I’ve got to xyz before then”     

What Happens To Our Best Intentions?

If we all begin the New Year with the best of intentions…what happens to this positive energy by the 2nd week of the year?

The problem may lie in the incredible amount of pressure we place on ourselves during this time of year. And the astronomical size of the goals we set.

We tend to focus too heavily on the What and not enough on the How.

When we are more concerned with the actual goal and not on the objectives (the steps you will take to get there), yucky, negative feelings roll in.

These negative feelings smother all that positive energy and motivation. Some of us become panicked that the goal will never be met. Some of us become depressed because the goal isn’t being met fast enough. Still others let guilt take over when old habits creep back into daily practice.

Begin With a Couple Key Points in Mind

Start By Being Clear & Concise

Create a hard line in the sand to define what a goal is and what an objective is. A Goal is a BIG picture item – I want to be more organized, I want to be on time to work, I want to lose 20lbs. These are goals. They are major. They are the finish line. If you think of a goal as a balloon, Objectives is the air you’re going to blow into it, one breath at a time until it’s full. I am going to buy a calendar/planner, I am going to write out a morning routine for the work-week, I am going to walk outside for 15 minutes during my lunch break – these are objectives.

Are your goals and objectives reasonable? Are they measurable? Are they big enough to be motivating but small enough to be achievable over time?

Focus On The How

Keep in mind that New Year’s resolutions tend to fall apart when we focus too heavily on the goal itself, and not enough on each one of the steps we need to take along the way. To do this, spend more time working on creating solid objectives. I want more organization? In what ways? How will organization be different at home vs. at work? What tools will you need to help you?

Create a Road Map

It’s helpful to create a roadmap, complete with stops along the way. Your goal is the final destination. This will allow you to break down the goal into consumable bites.

Put Pencil To Paper

Notice I said pencil and not pen. Writing something down increases the chances that you will complete it. Putting words on paper is imperative during this time. Pencil can be erased and re-written an endless number of times, and while your ultimate new year’s resolution may not change over time – I’ll let that the objectives you’ll develop will. Goal work is a living process; it is ever changing.

Consult your goal coach –goals and objectives need to be written down, no doubt about it. When it comes to making changes, you’ll want some guidance and support from your coach. Your coach will help you tease out why an objective isn’t being met, what changes can be made to help improve the chances of achievement.

Create Lifelong Habits

Truly there is no secret to achieving a goal. It will always come back to commitment, motivation, and the proper tools to create long-lasting change. During the new year, the goals many of us have for ourselves involve making lifelong changes that will continue to improve the quality of our life; forming new habits and getting rid of old ones. Allow yourself time to wrap your mind around this concept, it will help guide you in forming long-term goals.

Find a Goal Coach

This is where having a motivating partner, coach or counselor makes the difference between just another New Year’s resolution and an organized, structured, realistic set of New Year’s goals.

Choosing the right person(s) to partner with in the New Year is key. While you may want to include family members and friends on your NEW YEAR NEW ME team, you’ll want one person to be front and center. They will lead the way from start to finish.

Search for a centralizing GOAL COACH who will not only hold you accountable but help you organize your BIG goals into bite-size pieces – made for easier digestion.

Your GOAL COACH needs to be someone you trust. You feel comfortable with, but someone who is able to be equal parts listener, empathizer and kick in the butt jump starter.

Consult your goal coach – it’s human nature to want, what we want NOW! Part of the goal setting (and achieving) process involves creating goals that are sustainable long term. Lean on your goal coach to help you weed out “quick fixes” and short-term thinking.

Overall, good for you for beginning the New Year with a positive outlook on your future. All of us have incredible strengths that come along with areas of challenge where improvements can be made. The decision to allow a goal coach to support you can be the biggest difference between sampling wishing something to be different, and taking the steps necessary for change.

2017 Goal Worksheet