My B if this makes you uncomfortable

Today is Memorial Day. A day to remember and mourn those who have died in service of the United States. Today is also the last day of Mental Health Awareness month.

Not only do most of us honor those who lost their lives while serving in the military, but also those who served and passed later on in life. Both of my grandfathers were US Veterans and the patriarchs of our families. On a normal year, I would be finding my way to Chicago to lay flags where my Grandpa Chuck is buried. But this hasn’t been a normal year for anyone.

When I think about those who have served and are serving in the military, like many people, an awful lot comes up. I think about how I could never do it. I think about what I can do for the individuals in the military whom I work with now and will work with in the future. I think about how no matter how many conversations I have with those who have served, I still can’t wrap my head around some of the things these individuals experience. I try to think of ways to be better at my job. This usually leads me into a worm hole, thinking about our poor history in America of not doing what is necessary to take care of our veterans once they return home to battle their own mental health. Which leads me to today, the last day of Mental Health Awareness month.

This is just one small (doesn’t actually feel small) example of how seriously mental health impacts our communities. The reason I describe this example as “small” is because the impact that mental health awareness (or a lack of) has had on our world is so huge there’s no way to measure it. Google “history of mental illness treatment” and you’ll see words like trephination, bloodletting and purging, isolation and asylums, insulin coma therapy, Metrazol therapy, and lobotomy. The latter of which was only discontinued less than 70 years ago.

In 2021, things are definitely better. There are well researched therapeutic modalities and real, genuine, caring helping professionals who put their hearts and their minds out there day in and day out to serve, support, and advocate for their communities. But the truth is that we are only just breaching the surface of mental health awareness. The fact that I have been working in mental health for 5 years and not once has my health insurance offered any sort of coverage for counseling or therapy (outside of a measly 6 sessions provided by a company-wide employee assistance program) is sad. Scientifically, we know that stress ALONE (don’t even get me started on trauma) can negatively impact our physical health. And we ALL experience stress to some degree. How does stress manifest in the body? Low energy, headaches, upset stomach, aches and pains, chest pain, rapid heart beat, insomnia, frequent colds and infections, clenched jaw and grinding teeth. Cardiovascular disease – high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, stroke. Sexual dysfunction (my B if this makes you uncomfortable, but sex and reproduction are essential pieces of human life). Menstrual problems. Gastrointestinal problems. The list goes on.

Not only can stress cause this laundry list of terrible stuff, but can also increase the likelihood of developing other more serious mental health issues. I bring this up only to shine any shred of tiny light on how much more work we need to do in mental health and for our mental health.

I have been tossing around the idea of posting a vlog or blog over the last month sharing my own mental health journey and experiences. But the truth is, it’s REALLY hard. Some of these experiences I have shared in bits and pieces through previous blogs. But some pieces aren’t as easy to share on such an “out loud” platform. What I can tell you is that everyone and their dog needs a therapist. Whether you are wading through serious trauma and abuse or having a hard time deciding what color to paint your driveway – we all need someone whose only job for 50 minutes straight is to help you sort through your crap and listen to you.

This stuff isn’t easy. Talking about mental health is not easy. But it is necessary. No matter your profession, you can do your part to support the people around you. Get familiar with the resources in your community so you can point friends and family in the right direction when they need help. Instead of judging someone for sharing something difficult with you, sit with it. Listen to them. Try to understand from their perspective but also understand that everyone experiences everything differently. It’s not about having all the answers or giving the best advice. Mental health awareness is about acceptance and love; kindness and listening. It’s an end to the stigma.

If you or someone you know if in need of support and is not sure what resources are available to them, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you’re in need of immediate support, the link below provides some of the top helpline resources in mental health.

https://www.nami.org/Support-Education/NAMI-HelpLine/Top-HelpLine-Resources

Photo by Christine Groening, U.S. Air Force / Military.com.

Why you should clean more than just your house this spring

First of all, let’s address the fact that it’s already May. What? Could swear we just celebrated the New Year with our fingers crossed that 2021 wouldn’t be as trash as 2020.

Weird.

So as we sit here in the dead of spring, I wonder, anybody else love spring cleaning as much as I do? Anybody else feel like they would rather celebrate the first day over 60 degrees more than the turn of the New Year? As previously mentioned in a blog before this, I moved at the beginning of April. Spring cleaning for me looked like “THROW IT AWAY. THROW IT ALL AWAY.” And finding anything and everything to organize…. Or any reason at all to take a trip to the Container Store.

Spring has a knack for making us feel a little bit better, right? The sun shines a little brighter and a little longer. Our skin feels a bit warmer. We start to thaw out from the cold, somber winter.

I don’t know about you guys, but it’s been hard to stay on track in the gym through this past winter. It’s been hard to keep up with a lot of things. After living in our reformed COVID world for the last year and trying to navigate “post viral fatigue syndrome” for the last 6 months (love my life, thanks COVID) it would be an understatement to say that I am tired.

But there is something about the spring that wakes something up inside of you, whispering, “Hang on just a little longer, summer is coming.”

The tradition of spring cleaning is not  just about cleaning out your closet, your garage or under your bed. This is a tradition of renewal. That good old fashion “mind, body, and soul” type of renewal.

Last spring was less than ideal, and I think we focused a lot more on disinfecting every 3 seconds to survive than cleaning just because it feels good. Perhaps we should take advantage of the positive changes we are seeing alongside the change of the seasons this spring and take it a step or two beyond cleaning your house. Think about ways you could build more healthy habits into your life (or back into your life) to make you feel refreshed every day, not just when the sun is shining.

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

27 year old “what if” story

You ever hear about somebody’s story, or maybe listen to them tell their story first hand, and think to yourself… like what if just one person intervened? What if ONE single positive adult stepped in and said, “Hey, you’ve been through a lot. I can feel that. I can see it’s affecting you still today. Let’s figure out how to process this and deal with this together.”

The story of Reuben Foster is one of many that give me that feeling.

If you haven’t checked out FlemLo Raps on youtube yet, you should probably do that before you do anything else today. Or tonight. Whatever time you’re reading this. You can start by watching this video…. ’cause we ’bout to talk about it. (Please read that last part to yourself in my Chicago accent.)

I think when most people think of sport psychology, they probably think of imagery skills or self talk or performance anxiety – all valid because yes, we address those things. However, we forget about the pieces of sport psychology that incorporate overall health and well-being, positive character development, navigating life outside of sport, coping with loss, and processing trauma.

Maybe you are asking yourself, what does any of that have to do with sport?

My answer to you would be that it has everything to do with sport.

Our lives outside of sport IMPACT our performance. Whether we want to believe that or not. It’s not enough to just nurture the physical aspect of sport. It’s not enough to only focus on the development of mental skills for performance enhancement.

I feel pretty fortunate in that I have a fairly diverse background of work experience in mental and behavioral health outside of my work in sport psychology. I’ve had the opportunity to work with kids coming from situations that don’t seem fathomable to most of us. Although I could talk for hours about these experiences – the main take away is that trauma impacts all of us. And it impacts us at VERY early ages.

It can be pretty easy to look at someone’s situation from the surface and see countless opportunities thrown away, poor choices, toxic behavior cycles and it’s FRUSTRATING to see that. But how often do we look at someone in that situation and say, “Man, they are really going through a lot. I wonder if there is some way we could get them connected with some resources to get help.”

Can you image a world in which trauma-informed care was the norm? A world in which we looked at others who are struggling and ask “What’s happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”

What if somebody asked Reuben that question when he was in elementary school? Middle school? Even high school? Would things be different for him today?

Hearing about Reuben’s story served as another gentle reminder to me that sport psychology has the potential to make a massive positive impact for athletes far beyond what we see on the surface of a performance.

If you’re in a position to recognize an at-risk kid and put them in the way of an opportunity for success… do it. If you work with athletes in any capacity – coaches, athletic trainers, doctors, chiropractors, teachers, instructors, professors, parents – check in with your athletes and provide resources for support even if it isn’t asked for. We certainly can never have enough of it.

The problem with planning

There’s this really awesome quote by this guy named Joseph Campbell that I have been hung up on for years. Google would tell you that Campbell’s work as an author and a professor at Sarah Lawrence College covers the “aspects of human experience” – feel free to dig a little deeper into that one on your own.

The quote I am referring to, however, reads as follows:

“We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

So powerful I would legit tattoo that somewhere everyone could see everyday, just probably not my forehead.

I find myself coming back to this quote often, and at many phases of my life. I don’t remember when I first stumbled upon it, but I would guess I was probably a freshman or sophomore in college. As a student athlete I remember running face first into many obstacles, as do most of us. But I was one of those kids who siphoned through the undergraduate catalog before I even got to campus, writing out my 4 year plan (literally semester by semester, course by course) and setting goals targeted towards graduate school when I hadn’t even turned 18 yet. Then there were the goals I set for my track and field career, in addition to that.

A lot of us realize as we are wading the storm that is freshman year that it’s a year that may not turn out as planned. We all go in with high expectations and many times get hit with a reality check like “Hey, just a heads up, turns out you are still a teenager and you are now competing with 23-24 year old grown adults. It’s gonna take a second for you to finish growing, adjust to your training, and adjust to being on your own for the first time, too. Oh yeah, and try not to fail any classes in the process or you’re gonna make this a lot harder on yourself.”

“Oh yeah, try not to get injured, either.”

“Oh yeah, you also might not get into the graduate school you planned on.”

“Oh yeah, you also might not land the job you thought you would the second you graduate.”

“Oh yeah, your car also might stop working and you’ll have to walk everywhere or bum rides.”

“Oh yeah, there’s also gonna be some unexpected and unplanned life stuff that has nothing to do with school or sports or your job that you’ll have to figure out how to manage, too.”

If you’re like me, you might be using a lot of white out in your planner, drawing a lot of arrows to figure things out later, or going into your saved word doc of your 4 year plan to make edits on a regular basis.

SIDE NOTE: If anyone out there legit (yes this is the second use of that word in one blog, back off) still has their 4 year plan, is currently writing one because they are just now entering college, or BETTER YET has a 10 (or 20?) year plan, I would love to see it. Send it!

The reality is that we NEED plans. We need to have an idea of where it is we want to go so we can start trying to get there. Otherwise we stay complacent or confused or out of touch with our own selves and our passions. However, we need to make those plans and get after them while also keeping ourselves open and our frequencies high so that we are mindful and aware of other opportunities or pathways that present themselves for us to take.

It requires a bit of radical acceptance to trust the Universe when we get seriously derailed or thrown off of our course. You can either sit there and dwell on it, or you can say “okay” and get back on track; or find a new track; or make a new track.

Sometimes the Universe (or whatever/whoever you would like to refer to your higher power as) has other plans for us. Until we accept that and keep moving forward, you might feel like you’re up against a wall for a while. But the choice is yours, as always.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Let’s talk about transitions

I recently moved. Like last weekend actually. Moving as a fully functioning adult with your significant other/ life partner/ favorite human and dog-child is a little different than moving at the end of every semester in college or even the couple years after. Your friends are all spread out all over the country (or world… shoutout to my girl 🇮🇪 Fiona 🍀) and you can’t as easily just round up the troops and bribe them with pizza to help you move all your crap and drive the U-Haul around. Or borrow their giant Suburban (passed down through their family to graciously land in their possession for your convenience) to avoid even paying for, or learning to drive, a U-Haul in the first place.

Each move is different than the last; hopefully you’re getting better and better at packing and organizing so that the unpacking process is easier. Or maybe you’re like my sister and you just close your eyes and throw everything into a box and tell yourself you’ll “sort through it later”…… and 15 years “later” you’re finding unmatching earrings, faded pink headbands and a barely functioning Game Boy Color from 1998 in a dusty, yellowed, plastic drawer somewhere.

We thrive off of habits and routines, especially when we figure out what works well for us. That’s not to say we don’t need a change of pace or a new environment sometimes (like after living between Troost and Paseo near the 39th block of KCMO and walking to your apartment complex door under the street lamps with your key strategically sticking through your knuckles for a year and a half) – but generally speaking we get comfortable in our habits (good or bad) and change can be a challenge.

Remember how scared you were to “graduate” from 8th grade and start your freshman year of high school? Woof.

How about that feeling of starting your senior year of high school, reflecting back on your twirpy 8th grade self, pretending that Drake actually wrote “Started from the Bottom” specifically to target that momentous day of your teenage life? Positive transition? Or… maybe not if you’re one of those folks who thought high school was the TIME OF YOUR LIFE 🌚

What about that transition from graduating high school to your first year of college away from home? Learning how to function as a human without a parent or guardian breathing down your neck while simultaneously attempting to make it to each class, workout, practice, and so on and so forth without missing your 11am futon nap?

If you break it down, we are constantly in transition. One year to the next, one week to the next, one day to the next, one moment to the next. Transition from the bed to the bathroom in the morning, from brushing your teeth to cooking breakfast, from walking down the stairs to driving to work or to school, always transitioning from one task to the next. We are champions of transition – yet we definitely get uncomfortable when we are experiencing a transition that doesn’t feel so familiar.

I think sometimes when we are constantly caught in transition, especially from one stressful experience to the next (cue definition of toxic stress) it can be easy to lose ourselves and lose sight of the ground. You ever trip down a hill and you’re just rolling and rolling over and over and you have no idea what direction is up or down or sideways? Transitions can feel like that, too.

It’s so important for us to connect to our values in these moments. Lean into the transition with all of the feelings and emotions it brings, and look for places to dig your roots in. Leave room to grow in your new pot and start thinking about how you’d like to be replanted when your rootball grows too big and you are craving fresh soil and a bigger pot. 

Think about what values make you who you are, or about a time you felt like you lived your values in a super big way. Whether you’re in sport, retired from sport, or have never competed in a sport in your entire life – this applies to all of us. Who are the people in your life that bring out the best in you? What actions can you take that make you feel more connected to your values?

Connecting to your “why” can sound super cheesy sometimes, but connecting to your “why” and being intentional with that is the “how” to finding yourself when you’ve been finding yourself lost in transition for a while.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Are you limiting your own happiness?

You know that feeling when you have been working towards a goal for months or years, and then you finally get there… and… nothing?

Maybe you’re excited and relieved because you finally made it; you finally made it happen. Or maybe you are a little frustrated because you made it but you feel like you could have done better. Or maybe you didn’t actually reach your goal and now you feel like it was all for nothing.

Think about deciding to train for a marathon for the first time in your life. You dedicate yourself to the training, you never miss a run or a workout. Maybe for 6 months or a year. Then finally race day comes, you finish your first ever marathon. And then what? You’re not sure, and you’re exhausted, so you take a break to figure it out. Then all of the sudden it is been months since you have gone for a run. When you do go for a run, it’s whenever the weather is nice or you get some extra time. The running habit that you had once developed that appeared so strong has suddenly vanished.

I’ve had my wheels turning the last few weeks after I started reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. Early on in the book he talks about how when we focus on outcomes we may limit our own happiness. We forget about all of the remarkable progress we make day in, and day out while we are working towards our goal. Then we get to the end, and rather than appreciating all of the growth and positive habits you have made for yourself along the way, all we are looking at is the end result. A few different things can happen here.

  1. You reach your goal and immediately set the next one, spending no time feeling happy or proud of what you have achieved. Maybe you do achieve an incredible amount of success – but you are never happy or even content.
  2. You reach your goal and then stop… all of your healthy habits fade away into an infinite abyss of things we didn’t keep on track. You feel lost and unsure of what to do next.
  3. You didn’t reach your goal, and all you can think about it the fact that you failed. You pay no mind to the progress you have made along the way.

When we think about goals in this rigid format, we are unable to be mindful of what we experience along the way. We literally rely on achievement of goals for permission to be happy. We forget that progress is not linear; that there are ups and downs and backwards and forwards and sideways and even stationary movements. It is easy to get sucked into the mindset of “first or last”…”pass or fail”….”win or lose.” Meanwhile, the only thing we really failed at is the ability to realize and hold onto the powerful habits that we have built along our path.

What habits do you have that contribute to your success? What habits are hurting you? Do you hit the snooze button every time your alarm goes off? Or do you hop out of bed and start your morning routine no matter how tired you are? When you eat a bag of chips, do you poor a bowl and make a mindful decision to stop when it is empty or to fill it back up? Or do you eat out of the bag and pay no attention to how hungry you may or may not actually be?

James argues that we could reach the same levels of success by focusing solely on the habits that would lead us there, even if we throw the outcome goals out the window. This feels like a HUGE shift in what we know about goal setting. But if we shift our mindset, it really isn’t.

This doesn’t mean that we should never set the bar high for ourselves or that we should stop caring about or setting goals. But this DOES mean that what we do day in and day out matters. Shift your focus from finding joy in achieving the outcome goal to finding joy in the process. Reward yourself for building a powerful system of habits and executing those habits daily. Success will follow.

My dad use to say the same thing to me every day at track practice when I wanted to measure how far the shot or disc went on a good throw, or when I was frustrated with myself because I knew it wasn’t far enough.

“Focus on the technique and the numbers will come.”

Little did I know he was setting me up for this small epiphany the whole time.

Image by Tyke Jones from Pixabay.

One big gigantic process

This phrase has been running through my head often lately, both for myself and for many of the athletes I’ve been working with. I have certainly written on this topic before, but it’s worth talking about again… and probably again after that… and again some more. (That kinda rhymes, you’re welcome.)

“Everything happens for a reason” doesn’t feel good to hear or say when terrible things happen, when you’ve perceived failure, or you just plain don’t understand anything that’s going on.

“Trust the process” might not sound much better, but it always hits me a little harder.

I’ve been listening to this phrase from my dad, my coaches, my teammates, and even some of my friends for years and years. Life is full of weird twists and turns and sometimes you expect them and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes in sport you can predict what is going to happen… and sometimes you can’t.

This always rings true when we’re talking about injury. Sometimes you can predict an ACL tear if there was a lack of training, lack of recovery, weak hamstrings, or less than ideal genetics. But sometimes you get smashed in the knee while it is in the perfect position for a tear despite all other odds being in your favor and that, unfortunately, just happens sometimes.

For some athletes (….most) injury is a part of the process. We can look at this as a roadblock that slows your progress and ruins opportunities. We can let it defeat us or deter us from our goals. Or we can look at it as an opportunity for growth, to slow down and focus on your strength, your technique, your mindset; to dial it in and become more resilient, making the next obstacle coming for you more able to withstand.

Failure, too, is a part of this process. And a big one, at that. It’s not failing if we learn, right? That’s sure to grind your gears if it’s your senior year and you just missed the potentially game winning shot at the state championship basketball game. But as much as it is uncomfortable to hear, experiences like that are part of the process too.

I remember when I started throwing in college and I swear “trust the process” was every one of our track coach’s favorite things to say. As you are learning and growing and soaking it all in your freshman year, you start to wonder how long it will take for your body to adjust to the new training, new schedule, new techniques, new classes, new life. You get frustrated when things don’t click.

Trusting the process isn’t just a skill we develop to enhance our athletic performance. It’s a skill we develop for life. This is all one big gigantic process and if we lean into that and trust that the Universe knows a little better than we do, that’s quite the weight we can lift from our shoulders.

If we spent a little more time being mindful of our transitions, being compassionate with ourselves, and being open to receiving what the world has to offer us  – it gets a little easier to start trusting the process. The harder we push and resist change, the more stuck we feel. We can choose to be open to receiving, learning, and growing (even from the hard stuff.) Or we can choose to be bitter, angry, frustrated, and stay stuck.

Think about a time in your life when you failed big time.

Maybe you said something to yourself that sounded a little like this:

“I can’t believe I spent so much time preparing for this and screwed everything up. I let everyone down. I am so far away from my goals right now it’s not even funny.”

But imagine what it would feel like to say something to yourself like this:

“Okay, that’s not what I wanted. But I’m just going to trust the process here. I’m going to lean into this and keep working at it.”

It might take some work getting to a place where you really are believing what you’re saying to yourself, but the pros outweigh the cons on this one. It’s worth a shot. The reality is that there is always going to be a bigger picture, you just have to open your eyes wide enough to see it.

Finding a new “normal”

Well, friends. I received the first round of the COVID-19 vaccination a few weeks ago. (In addition to actually having COVID at the beginning of November – double antibodies then? My lungs are doing weird stuff but at least my smell came back…mostly.) But seriously, it took me by surprise how quickly this happened. I had already accepted the fact that it would be at least 2 years before we had a vaccine, if that. I know things could still get much worse before they get better, but it got the wheels turning for me a little bit.

I started to imagine what it would feel like for life to turn back to normal. I thought about what I was doing before COVID and how often I would see my friends and make weekend plans and go out to brunch and travel to see family and go to the gym with no real risks other than to my own joints.

The problem is that it felt weird, even just imagining it. We talk a lot in sport psychology about utilizing “imagery” to see yourself complete skills and be successful, but you don’t need to be an athlete to utilize this skill. You could have never competed or performed at anything in your entire life and still be able to sit there and see your very favorite meal sitting on a plate in front of you, or be able to imagine the smell of fresh cut grass or rotten eggs (you’re welcome).

Try using it to imagine your life going back to the way it was – back to “normal.” Is that even a thing anymore? Do you feel cringey seeing yourself at a  movie theater or a big sporting event or seeing live music in person? How about getting on an airplane or going to the DMV with the line all curled up inside the building instead of around the outside of the building?

Individuals with social anxiety may experience irrational anxiety, fear, self-consciousness and even embarrassment during every day social interactions. Social anxiety most definitely affected people before COVID-19, but it would be wild to think that what we have experienced during this pandemic did not provoke some additional anxiety around groups of people larger than, oh I don’t know, 10?

This is difficult for anyone to deal with, at any level. Given that most athletes, even in many individual sports, train in groups or teams – any new onset or worsened social anxiety may be difficult to navigate. If this is something you’re experiencing and it is affecting your day to day life, it might be helpful to talk with someone who can help you develop coping skills to manage this anxiety. In the meantime, here are a few tools you can try right away.

*NOTE* By “right away”, I mean like after you’ve had both doses of your vaccine and are safe to start easing into groups of other humans.

Breathing techniques! Seems simple, I know. But anxiety isn’t just in our thoughts, it can also cause changes in our bodies that lead to increased heart rate and shallow breathing. Sit with your back straight in a chair or against a wall, hold one hand on your stomach, and think about inflating your stomach like a balloon with each inhale, fully emptying it out with each exhale. There’s a number of breathing techniques you could try (if you’re really into this, look for a mindfulness app on your phone or mindful meditations on youtube, use the google machine to check out a wide variety of breathing techniques and see what works for you).

Exercise like jogging or yoga (perhaps in the morning or a few hours before your social/ team engagement). Tons of research supports this as an effective way to reduce anxiety. However, if your anxiety is coupled with depression this might be a bit more challenging to utilize and that’s okay.

Start small and work your way up. You don’t have to go straight from complete social isolation to a professional football game or a Drake concert. One step at a time, my friends. Maybe start with a few friends over at the house, and then a few friends or family members eating out at a restaurant, gradually increasing to bigger activities as you get more comfortable. Implement breathing techniques throughout this process.

Allow yourself to be in the moment. Shift your attention off of yourself and onto what is happening around you. (AKA “mindfulness”). If meditating isn’t your thing, not a problem. You don’t have to meditate to be mindful. You can start just by noting what is around you, anything that you can utilize your senses for. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Taste? What can you touch and what does that feel like? Think about yourself as an observer and shift into that headspace. Be present and listen to what is going on around you.

Tell your negative thoughts what’s up. I could write an entire book on this process. But in the simplest form, you can write out all of your thoughts and worries about a situation, pick one, and reframe it. Flip a negative thought into a neutral or positive one. Pick another one, do the same thing. And so on and so forth until your hand is tired. There are certainly more technical ways to do this, but just getting started with this will help you develop more awareness about what thoughts are factual and what you can dismiss and reframe.

As the world slowly makes its way back to us, it’s okay to feel a little weird (really it’s always okay to feel a little weird). Pay attention to yourself, be kind to yourself, and take your time adjusting. Reach out if you need support. Rescue a dog for some extra love and affection and a reason to keep going outside (that’s what I did). And don’t stop washing your hands just because you got vaccinated. 🙃

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

Where do I find the reset button?

Halfway into January.

Uh what?

Oh, you couldn’t find it either?

Wait, let me check…

Nope. Not there… And also not there.

Also, no, you’re not alone. I’m here with you. Can’t seem to find it anywhere.

The new year always comes so jam packed full of high expectations and resolutions and goals. A plethora of gyms, fitness clubs and any other genre of mental and physical health and wellness business ventures pushing out information and marketing about taking advantage of the new year. Like everything changes the moment we can throw our 2020 planners in the trash can and start over fresh on January 1.

“New Year New You”

To top it all off, everyone and their dog was so done with 2020 that our expectations for 2021 were a whole lot bigger than setting some new fitness goals.

*Cue riot on Capitol Hill*

So far things are going incredibly well this year 👍🏽 🗣

Realistically, 2021 feels like a bad sequel that just didn’t live up to the hype.

But hey, you know what? It doesn’t have to stay that way. You don’t have to be ready to set new goals on January 1. Turns out that the perception of time is totally on us. Tomorrow is tomorrow whether it is January 1 or August 14 (my birthday, in case you were wondering). So if you woke up on January 1, 2021 feeling exactly the same as you did on December 31, 2020…. it’s okay. You can set new goals WHENEVER THE HELL YOU WANT.

The new year isn’t  about “resetting” and pretending 2020 didn’t happen. It’s not about starting over. It’s about learning, growing, changing, and adapting. It’s about becoming more resilient.

Sometimes that process looks like sharing space with someone and trusting that it’s okay not to feel okay. This has been a hard year. Absolutely yes it’s so important to set goals, re-evaluate, and re-goal when you need to. Yes, we need to learn and utilize skills to stay focused despite the resistance.

But an even bigger yes is to be compassionate with yourself. Check in with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Sometimes we have to take a breath and sit with the fact that we have been through some real ish this year and take a moment to collect ourselves and feel our feelings.

It’s hard to think about setting your new year resolutions when you just spent the last year isolating from your friends and family and making sure you have an extra mask in your pocket and enough money in your account to pay rent. In addition to that, I’m not even sure how to phrase the social and political state of our country with words.

Everything that is happening and has happened around you, affects you. Your biological needs for safety and security, love and connection – these have to be met before we can thrive as happy, healthy, goal-oriented, self-esteem positive, self-actualizing humans.

So if you weren’t in a place to completely reset on January 1, just know that you are not alone. You will get through this and be stronger and more resilient for having overcome this in the long run. Be kind to yourself; be kind to others. And remember that we are better together (even if it’s over a zoom call).

Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash

Unprecedented women in unprecedented times

2020 has been a doozy. Am I right, my friends? The science tells us that we have a tendency to remember more bad stuff than good stuff. And if we are being real about 2020, the significant overuse of the word “unprecedented” is on the end of a very long list of obstacles we faced in the last year.

So before it’s too late, let us flood our memories with a few INCREDIBLE accomplishments that women have made in sport this year and take a moment to bask in the glory of our gender.

February 2, 2020: Katie Sowers – current full-time assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers; previous player in the Women’s Football Alliance and a member of the United States Women’s National American Football Team, winning the IFAF Women’s World Championship in 2013 – became the first openly gay and first female coach in Super Bowl history.

September 5, 2020: Emily Zaler – current assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Broncos; previously worked with the New York Nicks and University of California San Diego – became the first full-time female coach under contract with the Broncos.

September 27, 2020: Washington vs. Browns game. First NFL game in history to see a female coach on each sideline and a female official. Jennifer King – first full-season African American female coach in the NFL and first for Washington; 7-time All American quarterback and wide receiver for the Women’s Football Alliance. Callie Brownson – currently coaches for the Browns; previously coached at Dartmouth and played in the Women’s Football Alliance. Sarah Thomas – first female NFL official and first woman to officiate an NFL game.

September 30, 2020: Doris Burke – current NBA sports announcer, analyst, and Basketball Hall of Famer; previous WNBA analyst and DI NCAA basketball player – became the first woman to call NBA conference finals and NBA Finals games on the radio.

October 6, 2020: Sue Bird – current professional basketball player for the Seattle Storm of the WNBA – won her fourth WNBA Championship title. In addition to four Olympic gold medals, two NCAA Championships and four FIBA World Cups, this made Bird one of only 11 women to ever attain all four of these accolades.

October 11, 2020: Jeanie Buss – controlling owner and president of the LA Lakers – became the first female controlling owner to win an NBA championship.

October 20, 2020: Jessica Mendoza – current sports broadcaster for ESPN; former collegiate 4-time First Team All-American, 2-time Olympic medal winner; retired pro All-Star softball outfielder – became the first female analyst in World Series history.

November 11, 2020: Emily Engel-Natzke – current video coach for the Hershy Bears of the American Hockey League; previously part of the World Champion staff for the U18 team in Russia (2018) and the Senior Women’s League in Finland – became the first female assistant coach in the Washington Capitals organization.

November 13, 2020: Kim Ng – current general manager of the Miami Marlins; youngest person and first female to present and win a salary arbitration case in the major leagues (White Sox), youngest assistant GM in the major leagues (Yankees) and only one of four women to ever hold the position; previous softball player and MVP infielder for the University of Chicago – became the first woman to serve as a GM of a team in the Big Four leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) in North America and the first person of East Asian descent to serve as GM of an MLB team.

November 16, 2020: Teresa Weatherspoon – current NBA coach and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer; former WNBA player, voted in the Top 15 players in WNBA history – was promoted to assistant coach for the New Orleans Pelicans and became the eighth full-time female assistant coach in the NBA.

November 28, 2020: Sarah Fuller – recent graduate transfer to North Texas for soccer; previous football placekicker and soccer goalkeeper for Vanderbilt – became the first woman to play for a Power Five conference team in the Vanderbilt vs. Missouri game.

December 12, 2020: Sarah Fuller became the first woman to score points in a Power Five college football game during Vanderbilt vs. Tennessee.

December 30, 2020: Becky Hammon – current NBA coach; former WNBA player, 3-time All-American NCAA DI player, 2-time Olympic Games player and 1-time Olympic medal winner – became the first female acting head coach in NBA history.

These incredible women, among so many others, are absolutely shattering the glass ceiling that has been hovering over women and minorities in sport since the dawn of competition. Sitting down and taking time to compile this list and read about what these women have experienced and how they have attained such miraculous achievements in a male-dominated sport culture made me feel so proud and filled me with hope.

Powerful moments like these are where we should focus our energy and our memory of this last year. Reflecting, learning, and growing from the pain many of us experienced while having gratitude and pride for what we have still managed to accomplish through challenging times.

Cheers to 2021, my friends. And to unprecedented women doing unprecedented things in unprecedented places for as long as we all shall live.

Image by Browns Twitter/ http://www.twitter.com.