It really hit me this week that there is no racing anywhere in sight. I’ve known that for the last month and a half, but it really sunk in this week. As the initial stress overload of the pandemic has petered out and become a new kind of normal, my body and brain are beginning to adapt. Stress levels are still high, but I’m less acutely aware of the accompanying discomfort. Even my screen time - which skyrocketed at the onset of the North American crisis - has tapered off to a more acceptable level.
This adaptation to stress overload is similar to the training/rest/supercompensation model of physical training: we’re presented with a demanding stimulus, we work through it and are forced to adapt, eventually reaching a new level of capacity. This new capacity gives us access to a lot of extra space where before there was only room for red alarms and the stress response. It’s in this extra space where my brain has now had a chance to stop and go, “what now?”. The thing is, no one can answer that question. No one can predict exactly when we’ll get to return to our jobs. And as an athlete, I’m lucky enough that my “job” is an all-consuming passion.
So far, I’ve been taking care of my mental health by focusing on what I CAN control, looking for positives, practicing gratitude and mindfulness, and generally asking my brain to remove focus from the negatives/pessimistic side of things. Essentially, these are all ways of refocusing… of, if not exactly avoiding reality, then at least attempting to reframe it into something more manageable. But this week, I started to think about leaning into the reality of where we’re at a little more. Hear me out…
If the train of thought headed for Positivity, Productivity, and Gratitude is headed in one direction, then the train bound for Rumination, Despair, and Sadness is headed in the polar opposite direction. But just before that first stop in Ruminationville, the track forks and a small offshoot heads for the related - but separate - township of Anticipation Cultivation. This is a town where we think about all of the things we miss… racing, going out for coffee, hugging friends and family, feeling secure… and we allow those feelings of yearning to fill us up. There might be wisps of sadness floating around when we do this, but we’re also building a really strong sense of anticipation, passion, and drive. These things are such powerful fuel that they send our train, once bound for Despair, all the way back around to Positivity.
That’s where I’m living right now - in the small village of I Can’t Wait (a suburb of the greater metropolis of Positivity), where the residents have a strong appreciation for delayed gratification and the power of anticipation. Mostly populated by the children who DO wait to open their Christmas gifts until the morning of the 25th, this town thrives on the excitement of waiting for the future. Not bitterness for having to wait, but rather the knowledge that waiting can be invigorating in and of itself. The adults here know that absence makes the heart grow fonder and the rewards sweeter. The residents aren't happy or optimistic all the time, but they've always got their daydreams of the future to turn to.
While those of us #stayinghome try to find a positive outlook, I want to send a personal, BIG thank you to all of the Health Heroes and essential employees working tirelessly to keep us safe and running. It’s because of you that we even have the luxury of dreaming of a joyous future. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.