Many of you are aware that I recently made a large change in my career, switching to full time at Wimberly Training as a Health Coach and Personal Trainer. For the last year, I was working two jobs (putting in 50-60 hours per week) and finishing my book in all my extra “spare time.” The publishing of my book made it so I could make the full transition, and with the book completed and down to one job, I suddenly have a lot more time on my hands. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely fantastic. But it has reminded me of the challenges that come with going from the buzz of extreme business to having down time to relax. It’s the same feeling I had when I finished basketball and graduated college.
As a student athlete, you are constantly on the go – from the time you are young through college, it’s always something. Practice, school, homework, tournaments, travel, studying, and for many of us also a job and a couple other clubs and extracurriculars… oh and then maybe some time for friends and family. I remember in college, my teammates and I would daydream what it would be like to only worry about schoolwork.
Then there comes the time to transition out. For college athletes, it’s a huge change because everything pretty much concludes at once – athletics, school, etc. And it’s usually a huge push at the end to get everything in line for senior requirements and graduation. Then what?
In many cases nowadays, students don’t have a job they automatically transition into, so there is some lag time in between. It’s difficult for many, because we have pushed so hard for so many years, and then it all comes to a halt. What do you do with yourself all day? This is the same feeling I’m struggling with right now. With every minute of extra time, I feel like I should be doing something constructive. I just can’t get myself to relax!
Another struggle I’m having is around food. I have been very used to eating whenever I had the chance, because there weren’t many chances in the day. 5 minutes? Stuff a protein bar in my mouth. 15 minutes somewhere between 11:00-3:00 pm? Better take lunch and chomp down some salad. I realized that I was used to shoveling food in my mouth at every spare minute. All the sudden I have a lot more spare minutes, and I keep going back to the kitchen for more snacks – hungry or not.
I reflected on this this past weekend, and concluded that it takes some time to adjust to a new schedule, and I will eventually get used to it. However, there are some practices that I’ve been using, and that others can use to manage anxiety and these poor eating habits.
Managing Anxiety or Stress – Getting Into Relaxation Mode:
- Breath: Take 10 deep breaths. Bonus: Place your hands on your belly, thumbs at the navel and fingertips below. Envision an ocean wave – expand on the inhale, release on the exhale. You should feel the movement in your belly (this is called soft belly breathing). This type of breathing reduces tension in the neck and shoulders, massages the heart, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system (our relaxed state).
- Yoga: If you have done a lot of yoga, try moving through your favorite version of sun salutations. If you aren’t familiar, perhaps join a class for some instruction, or try following this beginner YouTube video. Sun salutations stretch every major muscle group in the body, relax the mind, and help you to deepen your breath. I go through my favorite several times for between 12-15 minutes.
- Self check in: are you really hungry? Ask yourself this question every time you find yourself in the kitchen or reaching for a snack. This is the tool I’m currently using to get myself back to recognizing when I’m hungry, rather than just eating whenever I have the time. A good way to tell is the vegetable test – are you hungry enough to munch on raw vegetables? If not, then you aren’t really hungry.
- Keep unhealthy grab-and-go snacks out of reach. If you have tempting, easy-to-grab treats around your house or with you, it will be easier to grab something fast. If you only keep food that will take you a bit of time to prepare, you will be less likely to aimlessly eat. Bonus: Chop up a bunch of vegetables ahead of time to have some easy grab healthy snacks. No one ever gained weight eating too much broccoli!
- Take your time. This is the hardest for me. I’ve always been a fast eater – done with my plate before everyone else. It also doesn’t help to have a rushed schedule. This typically leads to overeating, since it takes 15 minutes for your gut to notify your brain that it is full. So, sit down to eat lunch with the idea in mind that you will take at least 15 minutes to eat, if not longer. Savor every bite. Try chewing each bite at least 20 times before swallowing. Put your fork down in between bites. Eat with a buddy so you can have some conversation between bites. Note when you are no longer feeling hungry, and stop there. You may be surprised at your leftovers!
So there we are, some tools I’m using on myself right now to help go from 100 MPH to 50 MPH (and really for anyone else dealing with stress or auto-eating). It’s a difficult transition, but one for which I’m very grateful. Now go relax!