“If you hold back in hurdles, you are going to fall over.”
-Sally Pearson, Olympic athlete
Mental hurdles. Our journeys are full of hurdles. They stand there, taunting us, getting in the way, blocking us from achieving our goals. We shout at them to go away but there they are. Mental hurdles staring straight into our eyes and challenging us.
Exercise Your Psyche
The mind is a very powerful thing. A beast to tame, if you will. If you let it think of fearful thoughts, and stew in I cannot’s, then it can remain in that state for dangerously long. But if you can combat those thoughts with positive ones, and exercise mental strength and resilience, then you can break free and jump over even the highest of mental hurdles.
Though I may seem positive and cheerful most of the time, this is not the product of an easy life. If anything, I’ve had to overcome really tough gut-wrenching, soul-crushing experiences such as witnessing my father’s death from lung disease. To get through all the tough times, I’ve had to come up with creative approaches.
One of the best ways to overcome mental hurdles is to give your psyche some tough and challenging exercises. This means setting up some creative training exercises for your brain or body, to help you make the jump. It may seem as if you’re setting up more obstacles, but think of those self-constructed exercises as launching pads to get over the hurdles. It might sound extreme, but that’s what I’ve practiced over the years in order to build my mental strength.
Ways I’ve Exercised My Psyche:
- vs. Fear of Heights: When I was a kid, I was really afraid of heights. Even looking over the elevator at the mall would freak me out and make me dizzy. So when my co-workers asked me if I wanted to go skydiving…I said, “Hell…*long pause*…yes?” I knew that I needed to get over my fear of heights, and since the opportunity arose I had to challenge myself in an extreme way. The ride up was terrifying, and I almost balked, but I sucked it up and flexed my mental muscle. 60 seconds of free fall out of a plane later, I had at least partially overcome my fear of heights.
- vs. Cancer in Family: In 2010, the worst time period of my life, when my dad was in the hospital and my mom got diagnosed with lymphoma at the same time, I felt hopeless and frightened. How could I possibly carry on? It was like trying to climb out of a bottomless pit of despair. But instead of running away from cancer, I surrounded myself with blood cancer in order to cope. I forced myself to immerse in it. I faced it with my mom by volunteering for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, practically living between hospitals, educating myself with blood cancer facts, and fundraising money to help those facing disease.
- vs. Unhealthy Lifestyle: Some years ago, when I was partying too much, drinking too much, and had a really shitty diet, I realized that I needed to become a lot more disciplined and get my life together. So I signed up for a 3-day juice cleanse. This wasn’t about losing weight. It was about being able to discipline myself and shift to a healthier lifestyle. It was super hard, some of that juice (couldn’t even pronounce some of it) was insanely gross, I was hungry and cranky, and it was mentally taxing, but I came out a lot more disciplined about my health. Now I’m a lot more mindful about what I put into my body.
- vs. Fear of Rejection: For those of you with fears of rejection, or fears public speaking, I’ve got an exercise for you: Improv Comedy. Last year, I had come out of a long and intense relationship feeling pretty damn rejected. At the same time, I also needed to become better at presentations at work and speaking in front of large audiences, so I signed up for Improv class. You basically make a fool out of yourself week after week hilariously in front of others, but everything that comes out of your mouth is positively accepted. There is no rejection, but instead, a community that laughs with you, not at you. I’ve now presented countless times since then, and even MC’ed a few events.
- vs. Myself: When I am feeling alone or weak, and need to push myself to power through life, I book a solo trip. I regularly travel alone to challenge myself and remind myself that the world isn’t so scary. Solitude can be empowering and therapeutic. You’re forced to face your own thoughts and demons, and even make new friends along the way. Recently when I was in Vancouver alone, I went over the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The first time walking across was…shaky…and looking at the river hundreds of feet below was nauseating. But on the way back, after I released some sadness in my heart on a hike in the forest, I challenged myself to walk the whole bridge without holding onto the handrail a single time. I accomplished that, with my head held high, to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
If you really challenge your psyche, you can overcome your mental hurdles. If you make the jump and fall, at least you can fall forward and try again. With relentless tenacity. It’s what even the best Olympic athletes do.