This post might come across as rambling thoughts… but I hope it helps you.
If I could think of one potential drawback to being a long distance triathlete it would be, that I spend a lot of time in my own head. A lot of time.
Hours upon hours alone, with just me and my thoughts. This can be both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, it allows me to work on mental toughness. On the negative side, if you are a worrier and have anxious tendencies like myself, it can be detrimental.
One thing you might know about me is I have a problem with worrying. I worry about the past, the present, the future – all the time. I worry about what’s next. I worry about what happened years ago. I make up stories in my head. I will spend my time in the pool swimming laps, going through negative spirals in my head, for example. I recognize this isn’t healthy nor is it fun, and I am committed to working on it. All this worrying and anxiety leads me into a tailspin and to be honest, it’s f*cking exhausting.
I realized I wasn’t being present. For example, in daily life it was all about “what’s next.” After work I have to do x, y, z and this and that.. and then it’s bed time aaaand then repeat the next day… and the next day… All of this worrying is not healthy and a lot of it as to do with not being able to “let it go” when it comes to a lot of things in my life. It was to the point where I got used to this way of living…. until I couldn’t take it anymore. Something had to be done.
So, why is it so freaking hard to just be PRESENT? To just let things go……….. to just breathe….
While I don’t have answer for you, as to why it’s so difficult to “live in the moment” … so cliche right? (I feel like so many people say this phrase but aren’t actually living it). I do know what has worked for me thus far, and it has made a difference in this little head of mine:
I have committed to daily meditation and this has been a GAME CHANGER.
At first I thought mediation was something only yogis did. I thought it was kind of weird? I thought I didn’t have time for it, I was too busy. Being an athlete, I have always been determined at everything I do. I am in peak physical shape and proud of it. However, my mental health was starting to crumble and it wasn’t just affecting me, it was affecting those around me. I decided that in order to be happier, I had to work on my mental health too. I am now just as determined to work on my mental health as I am my physical health.
The thing with meditation is, you have to practice it, DAILY for it to actually work. It’s can’t be a half ass thing that you do every once in a while. You have to work at it, you have to commit. The more you meditate, the better you get. It’s that simple. Or is it? Not so fast.
I meditate for 10 minutes a day.
Funny how 10 minutes a day of meditation can seem like a lot of time. I used to think “I don’t have time for this” but it’s 10 minutes. That’s it. If I can run for an hour AND swim after work, I can meditate for 10 minutes a day. What meditation teaches you is, to not shut out the thoughts in your head, but to let them come in, and then just go back to the breath. Anxiety is an emotion, it’s part of life, and shutting it out creates even more resistance. I am working on just letting my thoughts come in, and then letting them go……
What has helped me the most with my meditation practice is the headspace app. It has been life changing. For anyone that is looking to get into meditation, I highly recommend it. It walks you through guided meditation and I have found it to be extremely helpful and the driving force in my mediation journey.
Here’s a good example of how it’s helped with my racing:
At the Raleigh 70.3 a few weeks ago, my anxiety was at an all time low. Before the race start, I sat on a rock by myself, and just breathed. For the first time in a long time, I was not wheezing and having trouble with my asthma during a race… could it be? All of this time thinking it was my “asthma” that was the root of the problem, could it just be that I was really anxious? I think it’s a good possibility. I practically didn’t need my inhaler when i finished. Are you kidding me? This was awesome.
Recently, I have noticed a big shift.
all of a sudden the things that used to bother me, bother me less
I process things differently in my mind
I have learned to just breathe.
The hardest part is “letting go” of certain stuff, but I am working on it. that’s all I can ask of myself.
I used to care about what other people thought about me and place tons of value on it.
I used to care so much about what people thought about my decisions in life, especially those who are close to me, to the point where I wasn’t making decisions I should have been making.
I used to need reassurance for EVERYTHING.
I used to be anxious. all. the time. I’m getting better.
And I’ll leave you with this…