In the current circumstances, some people might think the lockdown is going to be over in a few weeks anyway, therefore they don’t think what they’re doing now, or what they’re not doing, is going to have too much effect since everything will be back to normal soon, what harm is an extra takeaway as they will be back training in no time, right?
At the time of writing, the UK have just extended the lockdown for a further 3 weeks. We are not in a position to be able to judge accurately when the lockdown will officially be lifted, and this is precisely what I want to focus on in this blog. Some of you might have heard the phrase “don’t try to control the uncontrollable” before, I feel this is more appropriate than ever.
In sport or in life in general, when you try to think about things you cannot control, it can affect your emotions and behaviour. For example, what happens when you ask yourself whether this person you just went on a date with likes you or the impression you made when meeting new people? Did they like me? Did they think I was weird? You end up second guess yourself constantly, sometimes causing nervous feelings, and the worst part of it all is there is no way of knowing what the real answer is unless/until they tell you what they thought of you. Similarly in sport, when you dwell on how your opponent is going to perform or what’s going to happen if you lose this point, you waste too much time and attention on something you cannot control or predict, causing you to overthink about something that ultimately cannot be answered until it’s actually happened. That doesn’t make any sense, right? As you could be concentrating on something more productive and effective like your game plan or strategy.
In this case, the end of lockdown is not something we can control, and trying to predict it can lead to overthinking, causing you to create bad habits and put off doing productive things. For that reason, I want to suggest a small mindset shift. The first part is the easy part- don’t put a date on the end of lockdown, as no one knows when that’s going to be. The reason for this is simple, when you attach an end date, everything you do will be done with that date in mind. When that date is not set in stone, it can create a few problems. What if it lasts longer than you thought? What are you going to do then? Therefore, the better thing to do is to expect the lockdown to last a while longer yet. This allows you to plan for the longer term, start creating routines rather than being stuck in limbo.
It is important to note that routines can be flexible. When you have created a routine, don’t think it’s set in stone. It can be tweaked if something didn’t work, or simply because you have more time than you thought and would like to add to it. Create a specific weekly routine at the start of each week, this can include types and duration of exercises, work, meal plans, relaxation time etc. You can make changes mid-routine if you feel the need to, evaluate how it went at the end of the week and make the progressive changes you want to and create the next weekly routine. These weekly routines should ultimately be built up toward a final target (i.e. where you want to be when things finally get back to normal, what skill do you want to have developed etc).
When done effectively, this can improve key areas of your mental skills. The frequency at which routines can be completed successfully and progress is made helps build confidence and motivation. Improvement in creating effective routines also enables better time management, which is a useful skill to have in your locker at any time. This allows you to be more in control, leading to a more fulfilling and happier lifestyle.
Putting it into practice
A client of mine was struggling to deal with the demands of her work and rugby schedule, which was affecting her performance in both areas and gave her added pressure. After learning to create effective routines tailored to her own needs, she was able to dedicate the time she needed to different areas of her life, which took some of the pressure off, made her happier and subsequently better performances followed. She was even able to spend more time with her family and friends, which was an added bonus.
So, if you are struggling to stick to your plans at the moment, or if you just want to add to your arsenal of mental skills, try shifting your lockdown mindset now and start creating flexible and progressive weekly routines and see how you can benefit from them.
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Stay home and stay safe!
HCPC registered and Chartered Sport Psychologist based in the North-East of England.