How to Stop Drifting & Get Back on Track
By Rick Ashworth – MSc Applied Sports Science
The last couple of posts have been about how to plan a future path, from a relatively short 3-month period up to and beyond a year and, hopefully, you have at least begun to write up a plan and working conscientiously towards those identified goals. However, sometimes, it can be hard to continue unerringly on course day-in and day-out. Forgetting to scribble down your goals for the day and it’s just possible to end up drifting slightly off course and spending the day chasing around after something that doesn’t have anything to do with your priorities.
So what if this happens? How do you do to get yourself back on the up if you feel a little disappointed with your progress? There are two best options in my opinion but there are others that can help to:
- The first is having someone who you can talk to, confide your fears and bounce your more outrageous ideas off without worry that you’ll be laughed at or ridiculed. Someone allows you to get a better perspective that helps cast everything back into that bright light again, the one that had you feeling all positive and fired-up in the first place.
- The next, for me, is to go for a run but a stiff walk will do too. If I haven’t done this for a while then it always surprises me what a difference it makes to my mind set. Running (or any cardiovascular exercise) has the benefit of being able to shift your emotional state not just by removing you physically from any stressful situation but from the release of endorphins as you push yourself along the streets or, better still, a peaceful woodland trail. It’s quiet and just you (I never take my mobile phone with me), your time to relax and unwind without the opportunity to be distracted or pulled back into the anxiety that the run is designed to escape you from.
It has been well researched that simple things such as sitting up straight, taking a phone call on your feet, having a moment to draw a long, deep breath can all help you re-focus and get out of the drift that slouching in your seat or even just frowning can lead to. Think about the remarks you (might) receive: ‘you look tired’ compared to: ‘you look great.’ One leads you into a state of drift the other can lift your day and push you onto better things, regardless of your mental state beforehand.
But let’s say you’re friends are busy and there’s no chance you can get out for a run or even a brisk walk, here are a few other ideas that can help put you back on the right track:
- Music Put on some upbeat music or some music that rekindles happy memories. If these memories are those of you and your friends, partner, kids laughing and smiling then there’s every chance you’ll follow suit as well. Put a short playlist on Spotify or a CD and listen to it during your commute (just don’t start identifying the music to the car driving an inch off your rear bumper!). Better yet, for those of you who have a baby or grandchild and you have a video of them giggling away then I defy you to watch it without smiling, it’s simply impossible not to.
- Meditate It’s something that I used to think of as a little ‘hokey’ but taking a moment to be appreciative of all the good in your life, whilst taking the time to just breath slow and deep and to feel the stress pushing out of you as you do is a great way to just feel settled in a short space of time. Take several seconds to breathe deeply, trying to fill your whole torso with air, and then take a similar time during the exhalation.
- Get Up If your body is beginning to mimic your thoughts there’s every chance you’re slouching and your shoulders are hunching and you’re doing your posture no good either. Just stand up, take a few paces and throw your shoulders back. Stretch to the ceiling and down to the floor, even jump up and down and shake yourself loose. There’s a reason that stand-up hot-desks have become more common in the workplace. Movement is good for you.
- Enjoy Do something you like to do. For whatever reasons we all have certain actions (or addictions) that make us happy. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee (yes, that’s what I meant), looking at the pictures of your children or thinking about what’s coming up at the weekend? Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Just stop for a moment and remember that the next hour at work will pay for the petrol to allow you to drive away for the weekend, this week’s salary will pay for that new curved-screen TV. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy work (that’s exactly what you eat to be doing) but it’s nice to focus on the other aspects of life during that time too.
- Be Positive This is a bit of a rehash of the other points but it’s a reminder that it’s you that has the power to change your thought processes. I know well that it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there’s nothing you can do when a few things seem to conspire against you in quick succession but you can choose to dwell on that or focus on how to get back on track. Don’t drift, make your plan and continue to work towards it, just one thing each day will keep your direction. If you’re struggling to lose the anxiety then set the alarm for five minutes time and worry and worry and worry until the alarm goes off and then stop! You’ve given yourself time, now move on. A good way of doing this is to have a ‘worry chair’ or a place where you are free to worry as much as you like but you don’t do so anywhere else.
You can choose to use these ideas everyday or just dip into them when the time calls but try not to be beholden to your emotional state, it is very powerful but you now have the tools to alter it for your betterment.