Mental Toughness

mentalIt’s important but sometimes we don’t spend as much time working on it as we do the physical.  I’m talking about the mental, the things we tell ourselves, the part that keeps us going when all we want to do is quit.

Yesterday my mental toughness was tested and quite frankly I almost failed (Yippee I didn’t but I was on the edge).  As a part of my training it was one of my last long runs (the last one is next weekend) and this was supposed to be good.  Well in my mind it was gonna be good.  I had the nervous stomach (like a race), I had the restless legs that were aching to get out there, the route was planned out, my pit crew (Dave) was gonna ride along and entertain me as well as fuel me as I went.  I also had the doubt that I could actually run 22 miles because it would be my longest distance since last year’s marathon.  Sounds like it’s gonna be a rockstar kind of day! mental1

So off we went to the local rail trail.  Dave dropped me off to go run a few errands and we were gonna meet up about an hour into the run, which would be perfect because quite frankly biking along side someone is probably hard because I’m not going all that fast!  5 minutes after he left my mental toughness was tested.  What I couldn’t see up ahead and around the corner was the fact the rail trail was still iced over.  I was thinking “great, now what, I have run or do something for the next hour because although it is 50 degrees, I’m in shorts and Dave won’t be back for a while.”  So I did what every crazy runner would do, I kept running, running and hoping that the ice would go away.

Well it went away for about a total of a mile but then it was patchy, slushy, and just overwhelmingly disheartening.  I wanted to quit.  In my mind when I saw the first two miles on my garmin in the 9’s I started beating myself up.  “oh this is great, why are we doing this, is this really gonna help you train?”  That is when it hit me, it’s gonna train you mentally!  If you can get through this than you can get through the marathon because this is the area you need to work on right now.  I’ve spent the last 8 months working on the physical and now as the date gets closer I really need to concentrate on the mental.  The mental is what is going to get me across that finish line because physically I’m ready.  So I reframed it and thought, okay hips and legs, let’s get the feeling for running for a long time!  Guess what, it worked.  Especially when I was ice skating for miles 5 and 6 and finally turned around knowing that biking this would be no fun for Dave.

mental3I had to rethink how to get those miles 11 – 22 instead of a somewhat flat run I had to change my mentality to where I had been training on the hilly area that I could keep running to from the rail trail.  So back to Devens I went!  Nothing like taking on lots of hills after you have taken on the obstacle course of ice.  I kept thinking, “you will be stronger for this.”

I’m proud to say that I pushed through the hills and the garmin times that didn’t get much better, but I did it.  Physically it was a challenge, but mentally it was a moment of conquering something huge.  I wanted to stop about 1000 times and could’ve with some great excuses, but I didn’t.  Now I look at my times and I think, if I made it through those obstacles, how nice will be it be to be on a course where really the only obstacles will be other runners and maybe the weather.  Because now I’m mentally stronger and I have this run to prove that I can overcome.

This mental toughness is something that can translate into our lives.  My work is all mental, teaching others to change their thoughts into more optimistic future oriented thoughts, to strengthen and discover what they are made of and make the most of it.  Build up their mental toughness!   Mine is on track how about yours?  How do you build your toughness?  Do you need to or do you have a story of how yours was built?

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I struggle…

StruggleDo you ever have those moments when you want to help but you don’t know how?  I have them a lot.  I would say daily.  I think that is part of my job.  But sometimes the struggle is not just finding the words to help comfort, it’s actually in listening to the story.  It’s not that I don’t want to listen to the story of my 60+ clients, it is more that the story is so real I can feel it in the room and when they are done telling the story I want to have the right words.  The words that say,”it’s gonna be alright”.  Sometimes those are the exact words I actually say because I know no others except “Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me, for letting me in.”  But yet it doesn’t feel like enough… so I struggle.

I know that just the action of talking about things, letting it out, putting it out there in the universe, it becomes healing.  It is healthy and some of my clients have never had that experience.

So I struggle… I think do they want more?  Do they expect more?  Do they want me to have the answers?  I think the last one is the only one that is true.  They want me to have the answers because they can’t seem to figure it out.  But I have noticed that as long as I am honest with them and tell them, “I don’t have them but we can search together for them” it is only then that they begin to give therapy a chance.  To let down those walls.  I see it happen on a regular basis.  I’m shocked when it occurs, probably as much as they are.  I am transformed when it happens and they begin to feel it too because you can see the spark in their eyes that they have begun to finally trust someone again.  I feel honored, yet I struggle….

I struggle with the blessing that has been bestowed on me to process their life with them.  The honor of being one of the few they trust enough to become vulnerable with.

I struggle… yet I am honored.  Because through them I learn the strength of another human.  I get to be a part of their path, their resilience, their journey to a new creation.  I struggle to understand how I can be so blessed with such wonderful souls and how I can be a part of their guidance and I am honored!

Mysteries or crazy things that happen…

mysteryHave you ever noticed the things mysteriously happen?  I was thinking this evening I have some mysterious things happening in my life or maybe they are just crazy things that happen.

For instance….

Yesterday, within about an hour I had a huge gash in my right thumb (okay not huge but it was a cut) and three paper cuts on the same hand.  Ouch… how did that happen?  I didn’t feel it happen but now my hand hurts constantly and even better when I forget and use some of that alcohol based antiseptic that sits on my desk.  I am quickly reminded!!!

How about this… today I went to get my monthly allergy shots (it’s a booster which I have to do for the next year).  I was sitting there reading my book because you have to wait 30 minutes after you get the shot so they can watch your reaction, and that’s when it happened.  About 15 minutes in my palms started feeling itchy and I started to feel a little off.  I thought it was because I was tired, after all I’d been up since 5:45am.  So when they called my name to look at the shots reaction, they asked me how I was feeling.  I told them about my palms and by that point my eyelids had started to swell and turn red and get itchy.  I was having my first allergic reaction.  This may not seem weird to others but I have been through a year of shots with most of them happening twice in one week and I have only had reactions on in the shot area.  I was immediately taken into a room, vitals taken, body examined for hives or welts and given prednisone and an antihistamine.  It seemed to work after a little while and I was monitored by a nurse physically watching me for a whole hour (talk about awkward!).  Anyway, it was a mystery as to why it happened, they couldn’t explain it.

I had another medical issue which may not be a mystery it might be stress but for this we will call it a mystery.  The week before my national exam I woke up with my right eye swollen as well as the whole right side of my face.  I went to my doctor in the afternoon  (the swelling had gone down) and she immediately sent me to the eye doctor because it was so strange.  He said it was the beginnings of  a sty which really wasn’t that big of a deal.  I treated it for a few days but not real well and continued to spend my evenings studying but it disappeared even as the stress increased it went away.  Wouldn’t my body keep it around while I’m stressed because believe me that did not decrease until right after the exam.  It’s a mystery to me….

Then there is the running mysteries of how come one day the first three miles of a long run make me want to give up with pain and stiffness but I push through and make it 18 miles and then I can run a 5K the next day and almost get a PR.  Explain that one…. I can’t.

How come I could run a fast 17 miles in the snow and now I find myself struggling to finish my 18 milers in much nicer weather? mystery1

And then of course the everyday mysteries…Who has ever figured out the mystery of how you can finish the laundry and look down and see a huge pile which is just like cleaning the house and how it only lasts about 5 mins or less if you have animals or kids!

When clients come into my office and express things they can’t understand I try and help to establish some reasoning behind occurrences, try to explain what seems unexplainable.  But at times I say things like “I have no idea why that happened but is there something you learned from it that can help you grow and maybe prevent it from happening again?”

So is there something I learned from the mysteries of the week….

I think I need to wear gloves to prevent paper cuts.

Take an antihistamine before my allergy shot (even though I am taking allergy shots because I don’t want to take any meds)

I wear my stress in my face and maybe utilizing better stress/anxiety control earlier on will prevent me from looking like I went a few rounds with Rocky Balboa.

If I just keep pushing through my runs, I can tackle just about anything

And of course the biggest mystery of all, the daily mysteries of cleaning, the answer is… I have no idea why this happens but if I made more money it could be a cleaning person’s problem and not mine and the mystery would be solved.

What about you, ever had mysteries or things you couldn’t explain?  What did you do?  

Something fun too, just wanted to let you know that I am working on completing this challenge 100happydays through my instagram.  Come follow along if you want!

Moments of Clarity

clarityI had one of those moments today, one of those moments of clarity that come along every once in a while when you really feel like you need it because you have been feeling off.  Not really sure when it even started except I was driving home after a pretty successful day at work (which basically entails getting all the clinical progress notes written up the way you wanted and submitted by the end of the day and feel like you really listened to the person sitting in front of you.)

So anyway, back to the moment of clarity.  I was driving along with the sun beaming in the car (yeah sun because it was only in the 20’s today) and it hit me.  “I can do a marathon and the training will pay off”.  I know, I know, I’ve been talking about it for a while but really this is the part in the training for something big that the self-doubt is the ruler at the table, the one who dictates your run (or at least my run) and when things go bad it takes quite a few days to get back on track.  Well, hey you self-doubter marathon dictator, “I’m gonna beat you!”  I might be tired due to the 21 miles I ran this weekend and quite frankly a little delusional from legs that feel like rubber bands (thank goodness today was rest day/tap dancing day) but I’m getting my mind directed on the right path.  Yippee.  clarity2

It kind of reminds me of when your favorite sports team is getting ready to enter the playoffs and they are ramping up their efforts and you are excited.  Excited that they might actually pull off a big win and take it all and you feel confident.  You can clearly see their path.  That’s how I feel (not that I can win it all because I am not truly psychotic) but that I’m feeling inspired.  A moment of clarity that it will all pay off in the end.  A moment that all I have worked for is finally coming true.

I guess it really helps that I am loving what I am doing.  I’m loving that I wake up each day to a great job and work with wonderful people.  I’m loving that my family is around and we get to spend lots of time together.  I’m loving that I am able to go the gym when it is just way to cold!  I’m loving that I’m able to make my legs and body do things I never thought I was capable of.  I’m loving that I get to spend some time with some of my oldest friends (24 years of friendship) in about a month and it inspires me to work harder.

A moment of clarity doesn’t just find you.  I think you have to make a moment of clarity happen.  You have to be putting the work and energy out there and be receptive to what is coming back.  You have to be aware.  You have to take it all in and live in the present moment.  Well, here I am, awareness available, happiness and gratitude right at the forefront and ready to go along for the ride.

Have you ever had a moment of clarity?  A moment that it all seemed to come together.  What makes it work for you?  Are you practicing awareness?  Living in the moment?clarity1

Passing the test….

test1Scary title isn’t it.  Where am I going with this?  Am I giving you a test at the end of reading this?  Don’t stop reading because the answer is no.  No test!  Or maybe you just passed the test by still reading along.

I don’t know about you but taking a test is scary and inside my head just the thought of it creates anxiety.  I even go so far as watching for signs that I ‘m gonna fail.  Like last weekend when I could barely complete my long run which was 18 miles but I wanted it to be 20 miles.  In my mind, I failed, I failed the test.  When really I should have been saying, “Yippee you just went 18 miles!”  And it even went further than that…  I have been studying to take my National Exam for my Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and when I failed my run by 2 miles last weekend it also made me start to doubt my ability to pass the test.  I know weird right!  How do those two even go together?  But somehow in my mind my self-doubt crept in and said “if you can’t even make it the distance in the run how are you going to make it through the exam and pass?”  Nice, right! test

So instead of letting my mind take over, I tried to take over.  I went home and started studying even harder, about 6 hours on Sunday and then 3 hours a night for Monday and Tuesday.  Then it was test day.  I woke up in a great mood and each time doubt crept in I would just say to myself “You know what you are gonna know and it is enough.  You have completed a marathon, you can do this” (not sure how this related but it worked).  I kept myself calm and just decided it was going to be what it was going to be.  As I sat in the exam, I just kept taking deep breaths and let my mind use the information I had crammed in to it to make the choices and guess what?  They were the right choices (okay they were mostly right) and I passed.  Yippee!!  I never have to take that test again and now I’m one step closer to that LMHC, just have to wait until May now, but that’s it.

When the weather was somewhat nice today (in the high 40’s or low 50’s) I thought this run will be great.  It was another long run, hoping to go 20 miles.  But again I was tested!  Why?????  I don’t know but it was bad.  The first 3 miles I just wanted to turn around and say forget this.  But I didn’t.  I kept going.  I stopped for a little bit and stretched hoping my calf pain would go away.  Pushing on and on and mentally saying to myself, just keep going (I kind of felt like Nemo, “Just keep swimming”).  I got settled in finally and did pretty well for most of the run until around 15 when the wind gusts became harder and it started to rain and with that it cooled off.  Really starting to think that forces are against me!

test2I just kept pushing and was able to complete 18 miles, still not the 20 but it’s done.  I have some time before the marathon and hopefully this is just a phase.  I’m really hoping that through all these tests I will have success, which I am sure I will.  It may just be a completion of the race which in the end is really what I want, I just have some huge expectations each time I tackle something.  I want to do my best.  Maybe that is why taking and passing a test is so huge for me.

What would I tell a client who is having the same struggles as me?  Well probably the same thing that I am finally telling myself.  It’s 100% preparation and 1000% mental thoughts.  I know that doesn’t add up.  But if you prepare to the best of your ability and your mind takes over, it make it impossible to finish and reach your goal.  Mental work is needed too.  A mantra is great or something you can say to yourself when your doubt creeps in (because it will).  I’m going with “trust your training”, “one foot in front of the other” and “you’ve done this before”!  I think with all this and the time I have put in training, I will pass this test too.

Do you have a mantra?  Have you been tested and made it through?  Tell me about it, I would love to hear it.

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Something Ironic!

In training for my marathon, I run past this place!

Federal Bureau of Prisons Medical Facility

Federal Bureau of Prisons Medical Facility

This is the place where the accused Boston Marathon Bomber resides.  How ironic that I run past it, usually multiple times during my long run, while training for a marathon?!  Sometimes I just want to make a not so nice gesture while most of the time I think, “Please look at me!  I am stronger because you attacked my people, my city, my running family! ”  Talk about getting some motivation!