Publisher’s Note: Join us for Mini-Con Series: REFUEL on November 16 to hear more from Karen Allen!
We all know what it feels like to be running on fumes. You feel tired, overwhelmed, anxious, irritable, and stuck. You struggle to stay focused, to make decisions, and to bring your best to interactions with other people.
Most of us wouldn’t push our cars past E and expect them to keep running, and the truth is that we can’t power through burnout either.
In order to maintain a joyful mindset and show up as your best self for your members, you need to continuously refuel your mental well-being.
That means focusing on your mental wellness.
That’s right, to really perform at our best, we need to expand the conversation to focus on mental wellness, not just mental health. Supporting our mental wellness means pouring into three tanks—mental health, mental performance, and mental strength—so that we can serve others from the overflow!
Regularly refueling those three tanks helps us weather the everyday disruptions and stressors that we all experience—and that we all need to learn to manage.
Here’s how you can build routines that keep those tanks full!
Focusing on mental health means learning to navigate mental illness and trauma, to seek out support and assistance when you’re struggling, to make healthy choices and prioritize your own self-care.
It’s also about taking good care of our brains as part of our bodies. Caring for our mental health means taking steps to ensure that we’ve got optimal brain health and giving our brains what they need to perform their best.
Here are a few easy ways to refuel your mental health every day:
- Drink water and eat well. This sounds so simple, which can make it easy to overlook! Our brains are organs in our bodies, just like our hearts and our lungs, and they need the proper fuel! Just like staying hydrated, eating nutrient-dense foods, and taking our vitamins are important for our physical health, they’re also key to your mental health as well!
- Sleep. We tend to think of sleep as a passive experience, but when our bodies are resting, our brains are actually performing critically important tasks! When our bodies are still, our brains have a chance to process new information and turn it into deeper memories. There’s also evidence that when we sleep, our brains use it as an opportunity to clear out waste that accumulates over the course of our waking hours; when we don’t get enough sleep, that waste can build up and make it more difficult for our brains to perform at their best.
- Embrace the good times. Enjoy a laugh. Do something that brings you joy. Hug your kids, your friends, your spouse, and your fur babies. We can take these moments for granted, but they actually have an enormous impact on our mental health. In those feel-good moments, your brain is actually releasing important chemicals—serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and more—which continue to support your mental health long after the experience is over!
Focusing on mental performance is about developing a mindset that allows you to perform and excel. In fact, most elite professional athletes work with mental performance coaches to help them find the right headspace to focus during games and competitions.
But really, we can all benefit from working on mental performance!
We all want to show up as our best selves in every role that we play. When you’re at work, don’t you want to be able to focus and deliver your best for your team and your members? When you’re interacting with your kid or your partner, don’t you want to be able to show up as the best version of yourself to support them?
That means being able to hone your focus and block out the noise and distractions that can throw you off and lead you to take actions that don’t align with your true goals.
Learning skills to improve your mental performance means that you’ll be able to approach daily challenges and disruptions with focus, calm, and self-confidence.
Here are three strategies for fueling your mental performance:
- Practice balancing emotions with logic. Our emotional responses to situations are immediate and powerful, but they can also cause us to block out what we know to be true. That leaves us responding from a reactive mindset rather than responding in a skillful, intentional way. Emotions also tend to spike and then pass, which means we can practice riding the wave of our emotions while looking for facts. Just taking a moment to ask yourself “What emotion is coming up for me right now?” can help you pause and assess your reaction before you respond.
- Visualize the best-case scenario. When we’re really overwhelmed with nerves or stress, it’s often because we’re envisioning the worst-case scenario. The next time you find yourself facing a stressful situation, like a big presentation, close your eyes and try to visualize what it would look like if everything went right. Bring in as many details as you can. What does the room look like? What will the audiences faces look like when you nail your big point? How will their laughter sound when you tell that joke you’ve been practicing? How will you feel when you hit your stride? Imagining the best-case scenario helps you step into the next moment with greater confidence, calm, and clarity.
- Revisit moments of strength. When overwhelm is threatening to overtake your thought processes, remind yourself of times when you got through a hard moment or a stressful situation. Reliving those moments where you were able to show up and succeed will open space for you to approach this new challenge with a more focused, confident mindset—you’ve overcome challenges before and you can do it again, even if the specific details are different.
Have you ever been so stressed that you can’t think clearly? Suddenly your brain is flooded with thoughts and worries and it feels hard to stay in control of your emotions and responses.
There’s actually a scientific explanation for that fuzzy feeling. When we experience stress, it floods our brain with cortisol and disrupts the functioning in our prefrontal cortex, which is the CEO of the brain.
Focusing on mental strength is about developing the resilience, clarity, and composure necessary to do hard things. That means training and conditioning so that when you need to rely on that strength, it’s available for you to tap into. You can learn to shift out of that fight-or-flight response and switch your prefrontal cortex back on so that you can focus and make clear-headed decisions.
Just like physical strength is built one rep at a time, you can build mental strength by incorporating strength training techniques into your day. Those exercises help you build resilience and respond to hard moments—big and small—as the person you’ve always intended to be. That way when you encounter big challenges, you’re already conditioned and ready to rise above them.
My signature mental strength training technique is Stop & Shift, which is the framework that helped me to rebuild my life when I had to overcome personal tragedy. Practicing Stop & Shift helps you fuel your mental strength by giving you a go-to tool that helps you make decisions from a place of strength instead of stress.
You can learn how to build a new map for your mind by using Stop & Shift by joining me at my keynote on Wednesday November 16th, 2022. I’ll guide you through the technique and share strategies that will help you build those mental muscles. (And if you want to do an even deeper dive into this technique and how to apply it in your life, my book Stop & Shift is full of activities, exercises, and resources to help you learn to grow with the flow!)