Get the Funk Out!
There will be those days. Those days were nothing seems to go right. Everything is sideways or one reason or another. The entire day is a sh*tshow from start to finish. There is good argument that 2020 is one of those years! Time is relative as they say. Sometimes we feel this same way on the mat or in the ring…can’t seem to do anything right, everyone is catching me.
If you’ve had one of those day, you’re not alone. That feeling of being stuck, not progressing, not figuring out a particular technique, or not being able to stop a teammate constantly besting you in practice. It is particularly frustrating when this happens on the heals of period of rapid, consistent growth and success. Everything seems to be going right then all of the suddenly you hit a wall.
First, let us understand this is very much a part of growth within anything, not soley martial arts and other athletic endeavors. In sports, athletes often call it a slump. The average person may describe as being in a funk. A period characterized by a huge drop in performance seemingly out of nowhere for no reason. The reasons for the slump or funk could be any number of things but the root cause is generally always the same…our head!
Bad showing at a competition, pressures outside of the dojo (work and family), unrealistic expectations, ego, injuries, trying too hard, and many more experiences can be a catalyst for a slump. Regardless the event that may have triggered the slump, its staying power is always self-maintained; assuming a lack of physical injury or technical deficiencies.
Self talk, what we say to ourselves before, during and after doing something. When we tell ourselves something is going to be hard it generally is. Once we are convinced a task will be a piece of cake it’s usually perceived as easy. If you tell yourself Bob is going to tap me out today, well Bob is probably going to tap you out. These internal discussions conjure similar images. Together they practically predetermine your performance outcome.
Self confidence diminishes, personal expectations are lowered, concentration and focus softens. All together creating a self-fulfilling cycle of underachieving…a slump. If we are not careful a selective distortion sets in during which we begin hold on to memories of failure and quickly discard images of success; focusing only on the negative while ignoring accomplishments.
So how do we break free of a slump?
First, determine your issue isn’t something physical like a legit injury or the mechanics of your movement. Have a coach look at your technique. This solution may be a simple tweak in your execution or understanding the timing of when you are attempting it.
Next, start with some positive dialogue with yourself. Take a moment to visualize your sticking point. See yourself conquering it, doing everything correctly. More importantly, remind yourself to have fun with what you are doing. Failures inside the dojo make us stronger for challenges outside of it. Remember your teammates are there to help make you better. Plus, nobody gets a medal for winning practice anyway!
Talk to yourself during the activity as well. When you sense feelings of despair literally talk yourself through it. Vocalize what is happening and what you need to do to conquer the situation. Studies have shown that self-talk during a scary situation lessens emotional impact and brings down anxiety levels.
Enter each practice focused on one thing at a time rather than trying to solve the entire puzzle at once. Regardless of the outcome, find something that went well from the session. No matter how small, dial in on the positive and take that with you. Confidence can be fragile. Take a snowman approach to building it, a little at a time and as you continue to roll it will grow. Small successes build upon one another. What was small soon becomes significant. Your mind will reframe from the negative to the positive.
Take a break. Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from the issue for a bit to regain focus and renewed energy. Use the time to reflect and meditate. It’s like writing a term paper; after a while you stop seeing your own grammatical errors. Go do something else for a bit then come back to it. Rome wasn’t built in a day so don’t try.
Slumps or funks may be in our head but they are real none the less. If you sense you are in one take a step back. Look at all the positive around you and put things into perspective. Tell yourself this is not permanent. Talk yourself up, visualize success and walk away focused on the positives. It may take baby steps but stay with it and you’ll break out sooner than later.