Portrait of a young woman sitting in yoga pose at the beach

The Mental Edge: Athletic Applications of Mindfulness Part 1

Athletic Applications of Mindfulness Part 1

My therapist has been attempting to get me to practice mindfulness for about a year now. Being such a fan of hypnosis and active visualization, you would think I would be motivated by the thought of sitting for 10 minutes doing nothing. “It will make you a better athlete.” He says alluringly. Hmmm, I raise my eyebrows, really? Now you have got me interested. “How exactly is mindfulness going to make me a better athlete?” I queried. I don’t remember his exact words, but it was something along the lines of “Well, you will just have to try it and see for yourself.” Yep, he’s a sports psychologist. Now I am starting to get motivated. “Mindfulness has been shown to reduce cortisol as well.” He adds. He shrugs his shoulders as if to suggest “But whatever.”

So off to sit for ten minutes doing nothing I go. I have about three months of inconsistent practice. Once in a while he checks in “Have you been doing mindfulness?” Grrrrrr. Stop asking me, but don’t stop asking me, is what I am thinking. I know it is beneficial, and I also know I am super resistant, but frankly I have no idea why it is so difficult to sit and do nothing. Well, the idea as he suggested was to sit and pay attention to my breath. But breathing is so boring. I don’t want to pay attention to my breath. I want to do other stuff. I want to stretch and wiggle around and do the splits and put my body into fun positions. That’s just what I do when I sit still, I don’t.

Tell me to eat chicken and fish and broccoli all day, no problem. Tell me to do cardio at 6:00 in the morning, no problem. But tell me to sit and do nothing? Big problem! What exactly is the difference? For me, the difference is that when I would sit and focus on my breath it felt like I was being forced to focus on something that I was not naturally focusing on. It is like stopping a car that is moving 100 miles an hour. It is quite shocking to the system of the car. The slamming on the breaks, the jolting of the entire vehicle, the stress to the transmission. That is how it felt sitting and doing nothing.

So here is what I did. Instead of going right to my breath, I focused for a minute on what I wanted to focus on. I did the stretching I wanted to do. I looked around the room; I listened to sounds; I felt sensations in my body, and then, when I was satisfied, I focused on my breath.

What is so important about mindfulness? He never did answer the question, but here is the benefit as I see it. First, checking in with myself in the morning feels great. I love just being with myself and connecting with my body and mind before the day begins. The benefits I have noticed is that I respond to life more from my core, more from my authentic self. If that were the only benefit, quite frankly, I would be happy. But there is more, ten minutes of quiet mindfulness in the morning focusing on my breath allows me to be more in control of my moods, emotions, and responses to life. It allows me to change my focus on a dime if I want to. And it makes sense when we go to the research also.

According to Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson (2012) the purpose of practicing mindfulness is not to help one relax, rather the purpose is to increase one’s ability to attend to present moment experience, to be able to shift, and control our focus whenever we like. If that is not an athletes dream come true, then I don’t know what is.

If you are already practicing mindfulness, then I am preaching to the choir. But for those of you who are stubborn like me, I will leave you with this much for now, and I will elaborate next more on mindfulness. It is such an important subject; I want to give it a bit more attention.

So here is your assignment for the month, if you choose to. Start to get in the habit of just 10 minutes of sitting and focusing on your breathing. Do a lead in at the beginning. I spend from 5 to 15 minutes allowing myself to stretch, look around, listen to sounds and feel my body, then I set my timer for 10 minutes and simply sit. Start off twice a week, then three times a week, then five times a week. Work up to sitting for ten minutes a day on most days. Whatever time you like is fine. Personally, I like to do it in the morning after my morning cardio.

Next month I will have some more specifics on the benefits of mindfulness for athletes as well as some more official practices. For now, just start to warm up to the idea of the utility of mindfulness. Trust me; I know it can be a challenge.

Until next month,

Nancy

Reference: Hayes, S., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. (2012) Acceptance and commitment therapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Many white balloons and celebration concept against the blue sky and clouds

Grand Opening: New Sacramento Office

office2I am very excited about the grand opening of my new office in Sacramento. I am thrilled to offer Mental Coaching, Food Psychology Coaching, Peak Performance Coaching, NLP Coaching, Hypnotherapy, and of course, Fitness and Figure Competition Coaching, on season and off season, all now one on one, live and in the comfort of my new office.
In honor of my new office I am offering 5 sessions for the price of 4. This is for my in person coaching as well as my phone and Skype coaching options.
If you have been stalled in the progress of living up to your standards, I invite you to take advantage of this opportunity. I would be honored to help you on your journey to achieve excellence as you define it.
Come see me in my comfy plush office with plenty of pillows in Sacramento. Or, if you just don’t feel like getting dressed, we can do all our sessions over the phone.
If you are ready to pump up your mental game, I am ready to help you excel and take it to the next level.
Offer expires Wednesday April 20th.
CLICK TO ENROLL:
http://tinyurl.com/zhxxznh
core values word cloud on a vintage slate blackboard

The Mental Edge: Aligning Values for Peak Performance

People often ask me how I make the process of sticking to a regimented nutrition and training program so easy. The short answer has always been that I make it fun. I like to say, if it is not fun, I am not doing it. And that’s the truth. I competed for 20 years and it was always fun. The only show that was not fun was my last one. That’s how I knew it was time to pursue other endeavors.

But is prepping food every morning for an hour really fun? Is eating practically the same food every day really fun. Is waking up before the sun does to do cardio really fun? This has been difficult for me to articulate to people how exactly I make the process fun. The key to having a successful and enjoyable journey toward any fitness endeavor is to act from a place of values rather than emotions.

Our emotions can be so strong. Sometimes they come at us with reckless abandon encouraging us to lay on the couch because we deserve to relax. Our emotions tell us to have some popcorn with our family because it feels so good to snuggle in and laugh with a big family size bowl of buttered yumminess. According to Hayes, Strosahl, and Wilson (2012) the co-creators of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, when we are able to act from our values instead of our emotions, we can have and honor our feelings and at the same time act from a place of integrity with what is really important.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself the next time you are feeling emotional and are ready to act from a place of emotion rather than from your values.

  1. What is really important to me here?
  2. What do I want my (fitness journey, contest prep, weight loss, etc.) to be about?
  3. What is this emotion letting me know is important to me?
  4. What is the big picture of what I am creating in my life?
  5. What are my top ten values and how does my goal help me live those values day to day?

When we live from a place of values, we get to live with purpose in the moment. We are not waiting for some time in the future when we can have x, y or z. When we live from our values, we get to feel good about honoring what is important at a deeper level and not just what will make us feel good in that moment.

It is also a great idea to frequently update big picture values such as honesty, personal development, integrity, passion, authenticity. This helps us to consider what is overall most important so that we can leave from a deeper place without being reactive to our day to day feelings.

Getting back to the example of getting up early to do cardio and making food, when we come from a place of values it is easy to take action that moves us in the direction of our goals. I think about my WHY. Why am I doing this? That helps me to be motivated and also to enjoy the process.

I hope this has been helpful if you have been struggling with making the journey fun. Think about your values, and I promise you will be saying it is easy too.

Until next month,

Nancy

Reference:
Hayes, S., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. (2012) Acceptance and commitment therapy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

 

Young woman practicing morning meditation in nature at the beach

The Mental Edge: Mindset For Peak Performance

My apologies for not getting a newsletter out for January and February. 2016 has already been an extremely busy year. I am just putting the finishing touches on my gorgeous office in Sacramento. I will have more info on this in my newsletter next month. I am very excited about offering Sports Performance Coaching in person, where you can get live hands-on coaching and hypnotherapy for peak performance. I am hoping to do a video newsletter next month from my office.

This month I want to focus on peak performance. The trend of spring is for many athletes to start getting ready for competition. But how do you focus on mental excellence when there seems to be so many distractions that are pulling for your attention? For those of you mentally getting focused, this newsletter is for you.

Mindset For Peak Performance

Deciding to commit to the mental side of being an athlete is not for everyone. It means no more excuses, no more blaming others, and no more waiting for someone to give you a pep talk to motivate you to work out. It means doing what needs to be done regardless of whether you want to or not. But as many people know, I am not one for suffering. I aspire to commit to excellence AND enjoy the process completely. I have a few secrets for success. They are simple in principle, but not so easy to master. Here they are, just in time to boost your level of excellence above and beyond what you thought was possible.

  1. Commit to Excellence: Just words on a page, commit to excellence. But what does that really mean? It means going to the gym when you are tired, prepping your food when you are busy, getting your sleep when you want to watch a movie, saying no to activities that go against your goals. Sometimes committing to excellence can be lonely. It’s that little voice in your head that says: “You can relax and take a break, no-one will know.” It is ignoring that voice and doing the work anyway. It is doing what needs to be done without needing accolades from others that you made your meals for a day, or got through one workout. Committing to excellence is an internal state of mind and no external high fives will offer peace of mind. The only peace of mind is laying your head on your pillow at night, knowing in your heart, you did what you could to achieve your goal.
  2. Make peace with the process: When I am dieting I am in love with the process. I love prepping my food, organizing my supplements, and preparing myself for the day. I make peace with getting a little less sleep so I can do my morning cardio. I make peace with the several hours a day it takes to make my food. I make peace with the late night workouts. The process becomes my friend. Embrace the process and your journey will become magical.
  3. PMA – Positive Mental Attitude: I learned about PMA when I was on the high school swim team and we beat a team that had been undefeated for over 20 years. Our coach instilled a belief in us that we could do it. Believe in yourself and have a positive attitude. Your journey will be more enjoyable and more successful. It’s ok to not believe you can do it, keep on doing the work anyway and allow your mind to develop into the belief that you will accomplish your goal. One step at a time and you will go from being not sure if you can, to thinking you can, to knowing you can. Hey, that sounds a bit like The Little Engine That Could. 
  4. Talk it out: When in doubt, talk it out. Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. We need a safe place to go to feel supported and listened to. Find the people that support you and be sure to reach out when you are in need of a little understanding. It is no secret that I see a sports psychologist, and have for almost a year now. This support has meant the world to me. To be able to talk about my goals and dreams and frustrations along the way has been priceless.
  5. Have fun: If it is not fun, I am not doing it. Sometimes if we are really pushing up against a brick wall, w need to take a step back and really check in and ask ourselves, how can we have fun with this process? Can we have fun? What needs to change in my attitude? How can I enjoy myself while striving for peak performance?

I hope you have found my top 5 mindset tricks helpful. Let me know if any of them resonated with you, or if you have one of your own that you would like to share. I would love to hear from you. Until next month,

Nancy

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Mental Edge: How To Make The Most Out of Interpersonal Relationships

The holidays are here. It is time for parties, family gatherings, and social engagements galore! I know many people don’t look forward to the amount of socializing that goes on around this time of year. For one thing, we socialize with people that we only see a few times a year, and getting conversations going can be a bit awkward. On top of that, we have gatherings that are more business in nature, and we are meeting people for the first time. Getting those conversations going, can also sometimes seem challenging.

And then there is that Aunt, who is stuck in the past that every year reminds the entire family of all the embarrassing things they did when they were ten years old. I feel you. It can make one want to sneak away and hide in a bottle and go numb to it all.

But I have a proposal, a challenge if you will. Live each event to the fullest. Be the life of the party, engage enthusiastically, strike up conversations that are stimulating to other people, and leave people feeling good for having interacted with you. Whether that is your sister, step cousin, or that random stranger that one of your family members invited so that they too have a place to go for the holidays.

What if we challenged ourselves in a new way, to live each event as if it were the only thing important in life? What if we gave an overhaul to our social skills and our family etiquette? If you are up for the challenge, here are a few ideas to get things going.

1. Accept others for who they are. It is my opinion that one of the most important ways we can have meaningful interactions is to accept that others are different from us. Some are VERY different. It’s all good, right? We don’t want little clones of ourselves do we; that agree with everything we say no matter what and never challenge us? I don’t think that would be interesting at all. So next party, clear your mind of all that you believe about people and just come in as a blank slate, open to some interesting and engaging conversations.

2. Get interested in their unique story. Once we come in as a blank slate and accept others as they are, it is much easier to become curious about people. When someone is different, be curious rather than judgmental. Think of it as an amazing opportunity to try on someone else’s life for the fun of it and then giving it back at the end of the conversation. Ask engaging questions that will get them excited. Play a game to see how much better of a mood you can leave them in than when they started talking to you.

3. Be the happy person in the room. I don’t recall where this advice came from, maybe it is an old Taoist saying, but people remember you based on how you made them feel. That to me is so wild. Here we are thinking we need to impress people with our fancy dress and perfect makeup, and it turns out, when they feel good after interacting with us, they also feel more positively toward us. It is a win win deal as far as I can tell. You feel good for allowing yourself to be in such a good mood and interact with positivity, and they feel good for the positive interaction. And based on my experience, that positivity will become contagious real quick.

4. Balance family time with alone time. Our schedules are usually tighter than normal over the holidays, be sure to find time for yourself. Even if you have to scale it back from your usual hour a day to 30 minutes a day, at least you are doing something to turn inward and connect with yourself and check in with how you feel and recharge your mind and body.

5. Realize that the only moment that ever matters in life is this moment right now. Or is it this moment now? Or this one? Or maybe this one? Well, you get the point. The past is done and over with, and the future will never arrive. Spend this holiday season in the present, enjoying each moment as it comes.

Make a personal challenge to yourself, to improve your interpersonal relationships. Get to know someone on a deeper level, or maybe several people. Any bit that you do to stay engaged, positive and present will make each holiday event and gather that much more full of spirit and joy. And I think that is what the season is all about, joy.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday full of love and connection,

Nancy

hammock

Mental Edge: If You Don’t Take Care of Yourself, Who Will?

5 Keys To Improve Self-Care

Is there ever a good time to slow down? Do we appreciate people telling us to relax and not worry so much when there is so much to get done? I know I don’t. It’s like someone telling you to smile when you were perfectly pleased with the face you had on. However, stress creeps in little by little and before you know it, our time is not our own anymore. It is not until we tell ourselves to slow down that we usually listen.

Rather than offering some suggestions for slowing down, I thought it would be more beneficial to focus on what to do, rather than what not to do. Here are my top five ways of improving self-care. You may or may not chose to slow down the pace, but ultimately what matters is our peace of mind along with positive mental and emotional well being.


1. Learn how to get your needs met:
Getting our needs met is relatively easy. Most people close to us will have no problem meeting our needs; that is if we can articulate them. One simple way of getting our needs met is to ask ourselves the simple question: “What do I need right now.” Simple, yes, easy to implement, not so much. It requires a cognitive process that we become aware that we are compensating our behavior in some way to meet a need that is a substitute for the real need. I think we can all relate to the desire for deep, meaningful connection, only to find ourselves in the bottom of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s thinking, where is it? It does require effort, but effort well worth the investment. When our real needs are met, we make less substitutions like overeating, over working, drinking, overspending, gossiping, watching too much TV or spending too much time on the internet, just to name a few of my favorites.

2. Know when to say no: We may think that every opportunity that comes our way is an important magnum opus to take on. Truth be told if we connect with our true values, what is important easily outshines the less important opportunities that end up being energy draining in the long run. Personally, I have a list of my top ten values in mind at all times to make sure my decisions and actions are values based.

3. Scale back rather than eliminate: This is my favorite method as it relates to exercise and proper nutrition. Many people when stress or crisis starts to come toward them at an accelerated pace, end up neglecting exercise because it is not reasonable to do it as often. The same holds true for proper nutrition. Sometimes we need to travel or go to several parties in a row, but that doesn’t mean we need to stop completely. I like to scale workouts back to an amount that I will feel successful doing. Maybe that is two or three times a week, that is fine, it is better than zero times.

4. Be content with close enough: This is a hard one to implement in a society that force feeds us that we need to persist with our goals with passion and not settling for less. But let’s face it, there is a point where we can say we are simply close enough. We don’t need to be so anal retentive and strive for perfection. I remember when I first started college I would squabble about getting a 95% on a paper or a test, and then I realized, it is still an A, close enough. It is not like I need to get to 100%. I can focus my energy somewhere else.

5. Establish your sacred time: I love my sacred time. There is very little that interferes with my one hour weekly sessions with my sports psychologist and my active release specialist. These are two people that I trust to help me stay connected and grounded with who I am, what I am about, and where I am going. It is like a weekly tune up for my mind and body. Find something sacred for you, maybe it is yoga, meditation, a weekly cup of coffee with your favorite friend, or an extra-long nap every Sunday afternoon. Finding sacred time is very important in my opinion. It sends your unconscious mind the message that you are important and worth investing in, whatever way you do that.

I was starting to feel a little of the neurotic holiday energy, so I decided to re-group and gather my resources for self-care. I hope you also find the timing right for you. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. It is my favorite holiday, spending time with people I love eating delicious food. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Until next time,

Nancy

brainnov

November 2015: What is Mental Fitness? Connecting, Receving and Transforming Our Emotions

If you followed my pre-contest diet without a contest video series, you are aware that I have recently intentionally put myself through a mental transformation. Having been a fitness and figure competitor for 20 years, it was pretty easy for me to dial in a diet and let go of the security blanket of hiding my emotions through food. It was quite a transformative process. And even though many people were very curious about what I was eating and how much weight I was losing (naturally), I was more interested in the transformation that was happing inside my mind.

I think part of why we all love to do physical transformations is that we get to see the fruits of our labor visually. We see the number on a scale go down, we see needing smaller pants, we get the accolades from others that we are looking good. But what happens when we go through a mental transformation? We don’t get social feedback about that very often. “Wow Janet, it is so nice to see that you are taking a nicer tone with your internal dialog.” Or “I am so glad to feel you not hating on me today.” Although we can often feel when our energy is closed off to someone else, and we can also feel when someone’s energy is closed off to us, we can’t quite quantify it as easily as we can with the stuff that makes up or physical transformation. It is not ubiquitous, and, therefore, I think we tend to overlook the importance of feeling great and settle for just looking great. But I have never worked with a client that a physical transformation alone was enough to help make a mental transformation. They always had an intent to make the journey both physical as well as mental.

With competition season closing shop, for the most part, and many people hiding under their baggy sweaters and sweatshirts, I think winter is the perfect time to incorporate both a physical as well as mental transformation. No, your friends probably won’t comment on your emotional well-being, but hey, not every life changing event is for show and tell.

So how do we even begin to quantify an emotional transformation? What specifically do we work on improving? How do we know when we have arrived? Or do we arrive? What goals do we set? How do we monitor if we are making progress? Seems a bit overwhelming doesn’t it? I hope to simplify the process right now.

Setting goals in your emotional world is very similar to setting goals in your physical world. A good starting point is as easy as asking: What do I want? You can compartmentalizes, for example, what do I want in my relationships, my work, my health and wellness, my spirituality, etc. Or you can think of a general direction of your goals of what you want. Next ask yourself, what emotions are getting in my way of me getting what I want? Write down your limiting beliefs, thoughts, and emotions that seem to get in the way. Third, set the tone for allowing yourself to experience these emotions. This is the not so easy part, and this is precisely the point where we go into distraction mode with food, internet, TV or some other activity that will distract us from how we feel. But, if we can take a moment to allow it to be present and to appreciate these emotions.

My philosophy is that all emotions that feel bad serve a purpose. There is a message behind the emotions. If we allow ourselves to feel the emotion, then we can do the final step that is where the transformation takes place, and that is receiving the message from the negative emotion. I will simply have a conversation with myself and say: “What message does this emotion have for me?” When I ask the question, I then sit into the emotion and let it express whatever wants to happen. That is not to say I won’t have this emotion again, but at least now, I have a transformative understanding of the message of the emotion, and now I have befriended my so called negative emotion rather than rejecting it. Here is a quick outline for reference:

  1. What do I want? Create goals in any area of your life. They can be relationship goals, career goals, health and wellness goals, or any goals that are a priority in your life right now.
  2. What emotions are in my way of me getting what I want? Write down limiting beliefs, negative thoughts and self-critical internal dialog.
  3. Allow the “negative” emotion to come up without distracting yourself from it.
  4. Receive the message from the emotion. You can ask: “What message does this emotion have for me?”

With a better understanding of the meaning of our emotions, we can have good ones and bad ones and feel a sense of connectedness to our inner experience without being judgmental and critical of thoughts and feelings that don’t feel good. Emotions that feel bad serve a purpose; they have a message for us. The trick is to allow ourselves to me in a receptive state to receive the message and let in our highest desire.

Until Next Month,

Nancy
www.nancygeorges.com

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Concluding Video: Pre-contest Diet Without a Contest

The Power of Choice!
Pre-contest dieting -vs- Lifestyle Dieting

I guess it is true that all good things must come to an end. I have enjoyed the discipline and dedication that doing a pre-contest diet has offered me. I really do miss competing. I had to transition into lifestyle, and I will speak a little bit about that in my concluding video.

Lifestyle eating is the phase that I have transitioned to now. I tell my clients that this is a good phase to be in when your focus shifts to other areas. I like to be cognizant of what I am doing, whether it is pre-contest dieting, lifestyle dieting, or the all-out eat what I want plan. (Yes, I have done this). My point being, making a conscious decision about your eating plan really puts you at choice. It gives you the power and clarity of what you have decided to do. This philosophy has kept me relatively free from drama as it relates to food. I always know what phase I am in at any given moment and that makes eating easy to plan and easy to think about.
Here is my concluding video of my pre-contest diet without a contest:
week7

Week 7: Pre-contest diet without a contest

How Can We Treat Our Bodies with Integrity and Respect?

I am 7 weeks in to my pre-contest diet without a contest. I didn’t do a week 5 or week 6 video, and I explain why in the week 7 video.

This week the focus is on being in our bodies with integrity and respect. We are more than just an outer shell to be working toward sculpting external perfection. Respecting our bodies in every way is on my mind this week.

Also, I know I sent an invitation out there a few weeks ago to explore emotions, and this week I talk about the window of tolerance and how to have a healthy experience with exploring emotions.

Here is week 7:

I love your feedback. Please let me know what comes up for you after watching week 7. Also, I am committed for 12 weeks, so please feel free to message me what you would like for me to talk about next week.

Nancy

hoodie

Week 4: Pre-contest diet without a contest

Are We Healing Emotional Wounds by Achieving Physical Transformations?

This week I talk about the importance of emotional transformation. I put out the question: Are we healing emotional wounds by achieving physical transformations? The answer: We can be, if that is what we are interested in. The emotional transformation is equally as valid as the physical one. Just because you are working on your exterior does not mean you are ignoring the interior. Also find out if I think bodybuilding is a selfish sport.

Here is week 4: