How do we Balance Ourselves in the Summer? | Q&A with Coach Sara

Today’s Topic: How do we Balance Ourselves in the Summer?


About Me

Hello everyone, I’m coach Sara.  I am the newest coach for Complete Performance Coaching, but I am not new to the field of sports psychology, or to working with athletes.  I’ve been doing this work for over 11 years, which is just amazing to me that it’s been that long.  I’m really excited to join coach Rebecca and the other coaches here at Complete Performance Coaching.

Summer Practice

Earlier this week, Coach Rebecca talked about how summer is a really important time to be working on your mental skills.  I agree with that 100%.  Most athletes have their off season in the summer. This is a perfect time to be working on not only your physical skills, but your mental skills.  That’s a big part of what we are here to help you with.

This is also a really great time to be thinking about balance.  Now, for our gymnasts and our figure skaters, maybe even our divers, I’m not talking about the physical sense of balance (that’s obviously very important too), I’m talking about the mental and emotional sense of balance.

Mental Practice

I am going to talk about some strategies to help find balance in the summer months.  Before we do that, let’s talk about why.  Why is it so important to think about balance in the summer?  Even before we do that, what is balance?  Balance is a feeling.  It’s feeling like the pieces and parts of our lives that are important are working together.

Some people have this idea that balance is even and equal, that all of the pieces that are important to us are happening equally, or we’re spending the same amount of time in each of those categories.  That’s not balance.  Well, it’s not realistic balance, especially for our young athletes.

During the school year, they’re in school for a huge chunk of hours.  They’re in training a huge chunk of hours, and then there’s homework.  There’s maybe a little bit of time left for family and friends.  The school year can be a time where feeling off balance is kind of normal.  Though that’s unfortunate, it’s kind of the reality.  I think this is true for parents as well.  During the school year, we kind of feel frantic getting our kids from place to place, and activity to activity.  If you have multiple kids in multiple sports, you’re doing a lot of managing of moving pieces.

Feeling Off Balance

While your child is in school, it’s normal to feel off balance.  You should definitely correct as best you can, but summer is a really good time to try and get rebalanced for your athlete and as a family when you don’t have school.  Some of you might be in year round school, but generally school is not on the calendar during summertime which means you don’t have homework.  Now, maybe your kids are keeping up with their studies in some way, which is great. We don’t want that summer slide where they lose all of that information as they go to into the next school year.

Summer Slide

Summer really is a time to regroup and get back in balance.  Maybe you don’t always get balanced, but you can get closer to it.  I thought it would be helpful today, as we lead into the summer, to talk about five ways to get more balance this summer.  Now, these tips are really more for athletes, but it’s about the families too.

Have a Schedule

The first way that you can get more balance this summer is to actually to plan out your schedule. Now, hear me out, because you probably think, “It’s summer, the time you can fly by the seat of your pants, hang out, and not have to worry about getting people to as many places.”  Yes, that’s true.  You should go with the flow and enjoy not having as much on your plate.

I’m not saying plan out every single moment or minute in the summer, but allow yourself some time to relax.  In order to create more balance, it can be helpful to schedule yourself out a little bit.  Be very aware of what you’re planning and when so that more balance is created in what it is that you’re actually scheduling yourself to do.

Coordinate Your Time

Without some sort of plan, you also risk not making time for things that are actually fun and that allow you to feel more of that balance.  For example, maybe you want to go to the movies, hit up amusement parks, go on hikes.  All of that’s fantastic, but it also requires some level of planning.  Planning to make sure all of your kids are available at that time and if your kids want to go to the movies or see friends they haven’t seen in a while, you have time to coordinate with other people.

Summer should be fun and you should do the activities you want to be doing.  Think about having a bit of a plan and a schedule, otherwise summer can fly by and you didn’t really make the most of it.  You probably won’t have as much fun as you could have had if you did a little bit of organizing, coordinating, and planning.

Get Rest

My next suggestion is sleep/rest.  Again, these tips are for our athletes, but I think this is true for parents too.  Get some rest.  Sleep in if you can, especially if you’re not going to bed early.  I remember back in the summers when I was a kid, I would just stay up late, and then I would sleep in because I was tired.  Well, that doesn’t always work if you have an early morning schedule.  Summer is a fantastic time to catch up on your sleep.

Depending on the age of your athlete, they may be up late with homework, doing projects, they may have late practices – they’re busy.  It’s normal to get low on sleep. However, as we know, sleep is so critical.  When we don’t have enough sleep, we’re not as rested as we could be, and we don’t perform as well as we could have.  This is in every aspect of life.  In the gym, in whatever additional training you might do, you may not be as able to enjoy the activities you’re doing if you’re not well rested.  Rest and sleep are hugely important, and summer is a great time to get caught up on that.

What Good Sleep can do for You

When you do have the appropriate amount of sleep, chances are you feel like things are better; you feel a better sense of balance.  Let’s face it – during the school year, the amount of sleep that our athletes probably dwindles down, especially as they get into those times of finals (if they’re old enough to deal with that).  As season comes around, they may be traveling, dealing with time changes, or other obstacles that interrupt sleep.

Lack of sleep can really lead to feeling discomfort and not being at your best which really influences how balanced we feel.  Again, this is a time we want to take advantage of – time to regroup, get rebalanced, and then go into the school year or competition time feeling a little bit better.

How do we Balance Ourselves in the SummerTry Something You

The third way I suggest finding more balance this summer is to try something new.  Encourage your athletes to try something they haven’t done before.  I’ve worked with a lot of athletes over the years, and we start having conversations of, “I’m feeling burnt out.  I want to quit.  I don’t want to do this anymore.”  A lot of it is because they’re missing out on something.  They don’t always know what that something is, they just know they’re missing out.  They see their friends doing other things they  don’t really get to do.  They’re missing out on “fun”, which we will talk about next.

Talk to Your Athlete

“Do you want to try anything new this summer?”  Obviously you want them to stay safe, but maybe they can try tennis, they can do crafting, or even join a book club.  The summer is a great time to think about what other interests your athlete has and work to nurture those.

We know in the school year there is so much to do – homework, practice, competition, travel.  There’s not really a lot of time to nurture and pursue other interests.  Without that other piece of themselves, things feel really off balance.

Having Your Balance

Even when athletes enjoy their sport, they end up feeling like they don’t enjoy it because they don’t have these other outside pieces to balance them out.  The summer is the perfect opportunity for you to work on further developing their interests.  Maybe it’s, “I get to do more crafting in the summer, and then I don’t feel as sad during the school year when I don’t get to do that.”  Or, “Because I’ve gotten in the habit of doing my crafting or reading, or learning to ride a skateboard, I can make more time for that during school since I have a better sense of balance.”

Head to Youtube

A great resource is YouTube.  There are so many YouTube tutorials for just about anything you want to learn.  This could be super simple, like learning to juggle.  If you watch a video and learn to juggle, that’s something cool and exciting.  This can be a great activity for parents to do with their athletes, something new you can all do together.  If you don’t have as much time, that’s okay.

This is also a  good lesson for parents to help continue to feel balance in our lives and make sure that we’re nurturing all the different parts of ourselves.  You might still be working in the Summer, but hopefully you’re not as busy or overwhelmed because summer is just a little more relaxed.  It’s a good time for everyone to try something new.

Have Fun!

The fourth way to hopefully create more balance for your athlete and for you as a family, is to have fun.  Simple as that.  Have fun.  Do the things that you enjoy as a family, for your athlete.  Think about, “What don’t we have enough time for during the school year, or during the competition season, that we can do now?”

Really make it a point to do those things in the summer.  This is where we get back to number one, which is kind of planning and scheduling.  Again, I know it can go against the “let it flow”mentality in the summer, but sometimes a little bit of scheduling can go a long way.

I don’t know about you, but our life gets really busy, and if we don’t schedule those times, all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh, that day passed and we meant to go ride our bikes to the park.” Or, “We meant to pull out the sprinklers and run through them.”

Fun Can be Big

Even if you don’t know what you’re going to do, set aside pockets of time to do something fun. There can still be spontaneity in it.  You can say, “What are we in the mood for today?  We have Saturday afternoon, what’s going to be our adventure?”  Schedule that time in.

Remember, fun can be big.  It can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.  If your kids are younger, it’s like running through the sprinklers.  If your kids are a little older, drop them off at the mall.  Do things that they find to be fun that, during the school year, there’s just not as much time for.

When we’re helping our athletes create more balance, remember, balance is a feeling.  It’s a feeling in our body – it’s a mental state.  When we feel it, or we’re closer to it, overall we’re better off.  Think about it for yourself.  When you’re feeling more in balance, you’re probably feeling more positive and  able to tackle challenges better.  This is why it’s so important for us to help our athletes figure out what balance is, how to get back to it when they’re feeling a little bit off.  The summer months help them learn how to correct when they’re off balance so that they’re better off and they can do it better in those busier times.

Manage Stress

Now, my fifth way to help develop better balance in the summer is to help your athlete develop or improve their ability to manage stress.  Now, generally summer is not a stressful time, which is great.  Everyone should have decent periods of time where they’re not feeling stress.

Because of that, this is actually a perfect time to be developing skills to better manage our stress. We will all encounter times where we’re over scheduled – we’re busy, we have a test and we don’t know if we’re ready, we have a competition we’re a little nervous for.  We will all encounter things that cause us to feel stress, that cause us to feel nervous, or feel pressure.

Now in the summer when there’s not as much of that stuff going on, this is a really great time to develop your mental skills, specifically, the ability to manage stress because stress tends to be lower in the summer.

Deal with Stress through Breathing

There are two really great ways to better manage your stress, and one is to be able to deal with the physical feeling of stress.  These ideas are things that we work on in our Perform Happy Community, and one-on-one with our athletes.  If you feel like your athlete needs more help managing stress, let us know, because we can help.

The first way we can help our athletes better manage stress is deep breathing.  We’re in day four of summer, day six if you count the weekend.  I’ve been doing a lot of deep breathing because even though summer should not be stressful, having my now first grader in the house a lot is creating some tension.  We are all taking a lot of deep breaths.  Deep breathing is a really great skill, a skill developed to help you calm down, to manage nerves, and to manage stress.

Get Into Your Body

It’s simple.  It’s obviously not quite as simple as “just breathe”, although that’s a really great way to start.  Simply take some deep breaths.  If you can start to notice when you’re feeling stressed, if you can start to pay attention to the way your body starts to react and respond when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can take deep breaths to help you calm down.  Again, because the summer is a time where we hopefully don’t feel as much of that, it’s a great way to get our body used to this idea and this skill of deep breathing.

Even though it’s summer, there will be stressful moments.  For example, in my house when my almost six year old is chasing his little brother around, nobody’s listening to me.  Deep breaths are used by all of us in that situation.  My almost six year old, and my almost three year old do take deep breaths when they need to calm down and it’s awesome.  That’s one way to improve your ability to manage stress in the summer.

Notice What You’re Thinking

The other way I’m covering today, these are not the only two ways, but these are the two I’m just going to briefly touch on. The second way is to notice what you’re thinking, and make adjustments as best you can. Typically when we are feeling stressed, or overwhelmed, the way we’re thinking, it changes from when we are feeling more calm, more in control. For some of us, we go negative, right? Like, “I can’t do this. This is going to terrible. Why did I get myself into this situation?” Some of us go to what if’s like, “What if I fall? What if I don’t do well on this assignment? What if my coach gets mad at me.” Right?

A lot of times our thinking will change when we feel stressed or under pressure.  Hopefully in the summer we don’t have many situations that bring that up. However, chances are your athlete isn’t training.  They are in these situations where they’re asked to perform, they’re learning new skills, they are being challenged.

Then, there is also dynamics with family and friends over the summer.  If you have them try new things, they might feel a little pressure and stress, and that negative voice comes up.  So Start to pay attention to what that negative voice is saying, and really work to short circuit that habit.

Notice it to Change

We can do this in a number of different ways, but the first way to really make change is to start to notice it.  Then, really allow yourself to notice the feelings and the thoughts that are occurring.  Also, find something more productive or more helpful to think about.  Again, if it’s trying this new skill like tennis and you’ve decided, “This could be fun.  I’m going to pursue my new interests.”  I  pick up a racket and, “Oh my gosh, I’m terrible.  I can’t even hit the ball.  What’s happening?  Why did I decide to do this?”  You notice it, right?  This is your stress level is starting to increase.  Now you really can’t hit the ball. You notice it, and you change it.

You think, “You know what?  This is the first time I’ve done this.  It’s not going to be easy.  The first time I got on the beam, that was really hard.” Or, “The first time I put on a pair of skates, I fell over.” Or, “The first time I took a basketball in my hands, I had no idea what to do.” You start talking to yourself a little more kindly, a little more calmly, and a little more rationally.

Start the Summer Off Right

That’s a really great way in the summer, to further develop your mental skills when you’re hopefully not as stressed, there’s not as much on your plate hopefully. If there is, it’s more sort of fun and exciting things.

Really, summer is a time that you can hopefully create more balance, figure out how you kind of correct when that balance is off, and do the best you can to make the most of your summer. Again, that’s five ways to create more balance in the summer months when there’s not as much on your plate. The first is, that you want to plan out your schedule a little bit. Two, is to really make sure you’re getting enough rest.

Three, think about trying something new. Four, have fun. And five, develop or improve your ability to manage stress in the summer. Again, especially if you need help with that fifth one, we are here to help you through our online community, or through working with our coaches individually. If you have any questions, let us know. Again, this is coach Sara. Thank you for joining me for my very first Facebook Live for Complete Performance Coaching. I look forward to seeing you next time.

Is your gymnast struggling with mental blocks or fear?  Check out my FREE resource for parents.