Sports Psychology emphasizes mindfulness in sport and exercise which is a great concept to apply to everyday life. In this article, Sports Psychologist Dr. Andrew Lewis explains how to bring the benefits of full mental awareness into your everyday life.
Sport is a metaphor for life. What we learn and experience on the bike can be transferred to our lives. Whether you are a weekend warrior or pro, the mental skills that you’ve learned can certainly be applied to your family life and career. Successfully navigating a high-pressure situation at home or in the office requires a cool head and a few mental strategies. Here’s what to do:
Before going out for a training ride or lining up for a race you’ll always ensure that you are mentally, technically and physically prepared. Similarly, it is important that in your everyday life you ensure that you are just as well prepared, be it going to work, shopping, giving a presentation or interacting with your friends and colleagues. Whether it is work, a family gathering or spending time with your friends, you should be rested, fueled and have the correct technical equipment for your day. For example, when preparing for your day at work, thinking through your workday ahead of time can help prepare you for the day. It is similar to the process of mental imagery where you create a picture in your mind of the process and possible scenarios you’ll face at a race. Remember, we can’t predict everything that might happen but having some planning and preparation for it can help the day run smoother.
Having goals will motivate you to be the best rider that you can be. Those goals should include short, medium and long-term targets that are realistic, flexible and fluid. In everyday life you should also set and strive to achieve goals. They could be based around self-development, striving for a promotion, achieving a better work-life balance and enjoying meaningful relationships. As an example, even a simple task like going to the shop requires that you set and achieve a specific goal in order to purchase a certain item. If you don’t have a motivating action, for example a shopping list, then you’ll flounder around in the shop, wasting time, which becomes frustrating.
There is naturally a little stress and anxiety involved with competitive riding. Sometimes you won’t be able to finish a race, you might pick up an injury or have some sort of a challenging situation to deal with. All of these situations need to be managed. Life is also full of stressors that generate anxiety. Applying the lessons learned on the bike will allow you to embrace these life challenges and stay on top of them. It could be a stiff neck that you experience just before a presentation, the nauseating feeling in your stomach when you have to share some bad news with someone close to you or ‘freezing up’ when you have to make a quick decision. These are all the same symptoms you might experience on the bike. The answer could entail taking a few deep breaths, walking away from a stressful situation to give it some thought, talking to a friend or colleague or simply taking a break in order to get a better perspective on things.
Being aware that there is a link between your sport and everyday life can be a liberating notion. It broadens your view, gives you perspective and allows you to use your on-bike mental strategies in your everyday lives. It will help you to manage your emotions and actions which in turn means you’ll waste less time and energy deliberating the challenge. Try it, you’ll find it is a liberating experience.
About Dr. Andrew Lewis | Andrew Lewis is a Health Professions Council of South Africa (SA) and Health and Care Professions Council (UK) registered and practicing Educational Psychologist. Having a post-graduate qualification in Sport Psychology, he works with individual athletes and teams who compete at all levels―national and international; and those who compete for pleasure. Andrew also collaborates with institutions and schools and publishes Sport Psychology- and Educational Psychology-related articles in peer-reviewed academic journals, newspapers and popular magazines. He also presents Sport Psychology workshops to other health professionals and athletes; as well as presenting scientific papers at international and national conferences. Andrew also has an extensive sporting background and understands the demands and pressures of competitive sport―himself competing in the Ironman triathlon. Andrew was a senior lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, Stellenbosch University and the University of South Africa for 23 years where he trained Educational Psychologists, Counsellors and teachers; lectured students and conducted research. He also taught at two primary schools for 5 years and worked in the UK as an Educational Psychologist. Currently he has rooms in Stellenbosch where he consults with athletes of all sporting disciplines.