Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Find a Happy Place

I really enjoyed watching the women's gymnastics in the Olympics. The older and feebler I get, the more utterly incredible it seems to me that people can bend and flip and fly like that. What kills me is all the competitors who are totally amazing who don't even get a medal because they wobbled on the beam or didn't land their dismount. The pressure they are under must be immense and surely causes many a brilliant gymnast to fumble.

Many times, the camera zoomed in on Nastia or Yilin or whoever as they were preparing to perform a routine. Their eyes were closed and I had to wonder what they were thinking about.
All those international news cameras in your face and you're about to have your one shot at what you've planned and dreamed and worked for your whole life-- what's going through your head? Are they going through their routines mentally or thinking about all the events that led to them being there or chanting "Gold! Gold! Gold!" to themselves?

If it were me, I think I would just be trying to relax.

I wonder if some of the great relaxation techniques I learned for childbirth would be helpful for athletes. I bet they would.

There's one relaxation technique I learned before I had Bean that I still use all the time. It's designed to move you from a left-brain mode to a right-brain mode. I need this every night when I lay down to go to sleep and my brain is chattering away like this:

Are there enough leftover beans for us to have burritos for dinner tomorrow night? I need to ask Fish why he put his soccer cleats under his dad's pillow. Did I remember to pay the water bill? I need to take that red crayon out of my jeans pocket before I put them in the wash. Are frozen strawberries cheaper at Aldi or Sam's Club? Let's see... at Aldi a two pound bag is $2.99 so that's a dollar fifty a pound but I can't remember how many pounds those big Sam's Club bags weigh....

And that's just a normal day's mental dialogue. It's noisier and a lot harder to turn off if I have anything big and unusual going on in my life, such as travel or some large creative project.

So I do this:

Imagine yourself in a room. This is your left brain room. Then imagine yourself leaving that room and traveling down a hallway to another room, symbolic of traveling across your brain to the right side. Each time you do this exercise imagine the rooms and the hallway looking the same way. It can be any way you want, but it needs to be the same way every time.

When I imagine the room I start in, it is cluttered with everything that's going on in my life. There are baskets of laundry, piles of toys, and stacks of bills. I picture myself setting all these things down and walking out the door. That turns off my mental chatter pretty well most of the time. Then I go down the hallway, which is beautiful, to my other room. This room is my personal haven. There is an overstuffed chair there, as well as a fireplace and a bookshelf. I look out the windows at a really beautiful view and each time I do this exercise I change the season, weather, and time of day based on my mood. I sit down with a cup of something and a snuggly blanket and I am relaxed.

In my current reality, I almost never get to go away to a quiet, beautiful place by myself and just comfortably chill for awhile. But that's okay because I go there every night in my head. Well, some nights anyway. I've gotten to the point where this mental exercise works so well that I am usually asleep before I reach the other end of the hallway.

If I'm ever in the Olympics, I will run through this exercise right before my event when all the cameras are on me and my stomach is in knots as I wonder if I will be able to win the Gold in Olympic Laundry Folding for the United States of America.

I'll let you know if it works.


Abby said...

you might need to learn a new relaxation technique for your Olympic competition as you might end up falling asleep in front of all the international news cameras.

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The Hills said...

It's called - forget about everything else and just breathe. If you can make it through the next minute and twenty seconds (or however long it is) you can get through anything.