Don’t Get Lost in the Trees …

Today’s Topic: Don’t Get Lost in the Trees

Hi everyone.  My name is Kayla and I am a coach here at Complete performance coaching.  I work specifically with dancers and cheerleaders as well as some swimmers and football players.  I was a professional cheerleader in the NFL for six years.  I also swam at Cal State East Bay for a year or so and I was on the dance team.  I have a lot of different experiences in different sports.  If you ever want to book a coaching session with me, feel free to do so by clicking here.
I heard this quote on my first day of my sports psychology masters program at John F. Kennedy University.  I’ll read the quote to you all and I’ll give a couple of minutes to let it sink in.  The quote is:
“Don’t get lost in the trees.  Take a step back and look at the forest.”
That can be interpreted in so many different ways.  I want to take some time to reflect on how that quote hit home for me and how it’s been relevant to my life for so many years.  I remember when I heard this quote and I was just in shock.
Whenever I find myself lost in the trees in different aspects of my life, I always reference this quote, and we’re gonna break it down today.  My hope is that you can use this and we can relate it to certain life experiences.  We’ll talk about what getting lost in the trees mean, what it means to take a step back and look at the forest, and hopefully you’ll be able to take this quote with you and it can serve as a tool.  It’s a tool that I have in my back pocket.  I share it with a lot of friends and family and I really wanted to share with you all, as well.

What does it mean?

“Don’t get lost in the trees.  Take a step back and look at the forest.”  When I first heard this, I envisioned myself walking through a forest and with big Redwood trees.  Maybe the forest was dark and the trees are very overbearing and I was a little scared.  The trees seem bigger than me.  I relate that back to when I’d overthink certain things.  The trees represent all the different things running through my mind, all of the things that I’m fearful of, or certain mental blocks that I have in my head.

The Forest

The whole point of “take a step back and look at the forest” is taking a bird’s eye view.  If someone were to zoom out and look at the whole forest, they would be able to see that the trees aren’t so big or that there’s a beauty in the forest.

The Trees

Let’s break it down even more.  The trees in this quote can relate to fear and anxiety, maybe a certain mental block that you have.  I know things can tend to pile up and spiral and that’s what the big trees mean, that you get in the spiral and you need something to help take you out and see the forest.

What does it look like?

So how do we know when we’re lost in the trees and what does it feel like mentally and physically?  This is something that I really encourage everyone to reflect on because it’s gonna be different for every single person, but I can give you some examples of how I know when I’m personally lost in the trees.
Mentally what it can look like:
  • Racing thoughts
  • Overthinking
  • Thinking of everything at once
  • What if – the majority of us like to predict different scenarios, like, “What if I fall during that jump,” or “What if I fall during the turn and hurt myself and then I’m out for the season?
That’s what the trees represent – this big forest and it seems bigger than you.  So that’s what it can feel like mentally.
Physically what it can feel like is:
  • Racing heart
  • Physical energetic weight that’s on your chest (which relates to anxiety_
  • Not breathing properly
  • Sweating
  • Shoulders rising
  • Clenched fists
These are all clues saying, “I need to relax.  What am I  anxious or nervous about?”  Some of the feelings that you can have when you’re lost to the trees are maybe frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, hopeless, or scared.  I guess the big question is what do you do?  How do you get out of the trees?  How do you get to that bird’s eye view where you can start to see the beauty in the whole forest? 

My Tips

I came up with some things from my own personal experience of how I’ve gotten myself out of those trees.  The number one thing is having an awareness of your body – knowing your body mentally and physically and knowing what it feels like to be stuck in those trees.  That experience when you recognize that can serve as a reminder of, “Okay, I’m in that place again.  I’m in the trees again.  I know I’m here,” and having an awareness of that is what’s going to serve as the next step forward to pulling you out of those trees.

Use Sports Psychology Techniques

One technique you can use is a breathing exercise.  You can do some meditation.  I think the really, really big thing that’s helped me get out of the trees is starting to compartmentalize my thoughts, and I could do that either in my head or writing my thoughts out, or I like to call a friend and say, “Hey!  I just feel so overwhelmed right now with all these thoughts.  Can you please just help me sort it out?”  Having that support of a friend helping you sort things out helps the trees not seem so big.  When you sort or compartmentalize, the trees start to sink or you start to go up and you start to see the forest view.

Be Honest with Yourself and Others

I think being honest with maybe some of the Complete Performance Coaching staff or a friend or family member about how you’re feeling and can help.  Literally just list out every single thought, even if it’s 30 of them, who cares?  Do it!  It is really going to be helpful.

Reasoning with Your Thoughts

The next way to get you out of the trees is to reason with all of those thoughts. Really take the time to reason with each one of those thoughts, even if there are 30 of them, because some of the thoughts can be negative thinking or distorted thinking, and it’s really helpful to have another perspective.  That’s why I said maybe telling a friend or a family member that can offer a different perspective saying, “Why don’t you try looking at it like this?” and use that reframing, slip those thoughts into something more positive and that’s what’s going to help you really get out of those trees.

Checking In

I want to mention that it’s really important to check in with yourself.  I’ve been reflecting on some of the tools and techniques that I use to check in with myself, and one of them is making it a routine.  Whenever I’m driving somewhere in the car, I’m always asking myself, “How do I feel today?  How do I feel compared to yesterday?  What are my goals?  What am I looking forward to today?”  It’s really important to do that because a lot of the time, there are so many things that get piled on into our lives, or we’re driving really fast to work and we need to really take that time to pause and do that for yourself.
Even if you’re willing to do that while you’re eating lunch – you can call a friend, and check in to say, “Hey, how are you doing today?”  They ask you how you’re doing today, and if you’re honest, it’s going to be really helpful.  I really want to encourage everyone to do that.
“Don’t get lost in the trees.  Take a step back and look at the forest.”
I really hope that you all can take this quote, put it in your back pocket, and apply it to any life circumstances.  Now you know that when you are stuck in the trees that it may feel anxiety-provoking.  It may make you feel sad or hopeless.
You may be thinking about so many different scenarios in your head.  Maybe you have a racing heart, maybe you feel this energetic weight on your shoulders or chest, and that is your clue that you are stuck in the trees – now you have these tools to get out of the trees.  It’s all about having an awareness of how you’re feeling mentally and physically.  
I guarantee you that your thoughts will not seem as big as they were in your head when you write them down on paper or when you talk to a friend about them.  Also, don’t forget to check in with yourself and ask yourself how you’re doing.  Not many people ask us how we’re doing, so it’s our responsibility to check in with ourselves.
Thank you for tuning in.  I will see you next month.

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