Learning Life Skills

Below you will find just a few of the ways you can identify stress, target solutions, and improve your overall mental health and wellbeing.

By Katie Lovallo, MA, Mind Fit Performance (www.mindfitperformance.com)


Breathing and emotions are directly related. When we’re relaxed our breathing is regular, slow, and deep. When we’re stress, our breathing is irregular, shallow and rapid. Breathing is the easiest, simplest form of self-control. Focus on your breathing to calm down, energize, focus, refocus, take a minute, prepare to perform, and regulate your temperature. As a start, take a slow, deep inhale, hold it, and then release it slowly. Repeat as necessary.

WIN: What’s Important Now

The pandemic has forced us to slow down and be present in the moment. Embrace it. We may never get another time like this. Remind yourself to focus on what’s most important right now, this day, this moment.

Be Growth Minded

Every experience is an opportunity for growth. Adopt a mindset of learning, seek growth, and try to be effort focused rather than outcome focused.

Feel the Feels

The only way out of the emotion is through it. Feel what you’re feeling, but manage it. I like the mantra FEEL and DEAL. Feel it, process it, and then deal with it.  You might also consider challenging the feeling if it feels appropriate. For example, “Why am I feeling this? Is this feeling necessary or appropriate? Is it realistic? How can I use this feeling in a positive way? what is this feeling telling me?”

Set Goals

Goal setting directs behavior, facilitates motivation, and drives passion and growth. Identify a specific bigger goal you’d like to achieve then categorize specific smaller process goals that will help you achieve it.

Ever heard the phrase “every journey begins with a single step”? Use that to guide your goal setting. One step at a time. One day at a time.  Be flexible…goals can and should change depending on progress and timeline.


Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the  present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This is achieved by being fully present, curious, and focused about your current state in the present moment on the purpose and judgement free. How can you adopt more mindfulness in your day?

Know Your Why

Knowing your why serves as a motivator. It can help direct behavior, goals, and mindset. Identify you why by asking yourself why you do what you do and why you want what you want. Try to get to the deeper layers of your why, so it feels solid and strong, and is something you can turn to when you need it.


Self-reflection is a proven form of building self-awareness to one’s thoughts, feelings, behaviors, motivations, goals, and performances. Self-reflection can become an important tool for growth and progress as it brings perspective, understanding, and deeper learning into all that you do.

After each training or competition, reflect on your performance by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What went well today?
  • What were my strengths?
  • What would I do differently next time?
  • What can I improve for next time? How?
  • What stood out?
  • What did I learn from this experience?

You can write your reflections in a journal or create a verbal journal if you feel comfortable. Either way, practicing self-reflection will help you grow, improve, and progress.

Create SPACE to regulate and respond

Everyday, we are faced with a stimulus, or what’s happening, and a response, or how we respond to what is happening. Creating space between stimulus and response can allow for more control and more beneficial choices.

(Stressor)     (Choices)    (Learning)

Space can help you separate what’s happening and/or what you’re feeling to how you respond to it, allowing you to self-regulate. In most cases, you have a choice in how you respond. For example, sometimes it may be more beneficial to take a few breaths, walk away and return when feeling more calm, or sleep on it be before you respond or respond.

Identifying your stress tendencies can help you develop a plan to create more space between stimulus and response and use it to your benefit.

Identify Your Stress Tendencies.

  • What are my stress triggers?
  • Do I get clammy hands?
  • Does my heart beat race?
  • Does my breathing get shallow and rapid?
  • Does my mind race?
  • What’s my body language like?
  • What’s my inner dialogue saying?
  • Do I feel stress in real time? Do I feel anticipatory stress? Do I feel both?

Knowing the answers to these questions, and what causes them, can help you identify stress early and address it in the moment.

Control the Controllables.

Stay focused on what you CAN control, and let go of what you CAN’T control.

Try this: get a piece of paper and draw a big square on it. Inside the square, write down things OUT OF YOUR CONTROL. For example, you can control your attitude and effort, your preparation, your inner dialogue, your focus.

Around the outside of the square, write down the things OUTSIDE OF YOUR CONTROL. For example, the weather, the opponents, your teammates or fellow coaches are all things you cannot control.

Use this as a reminder to practice staying focused on the things that are IN your control, and let go of the things that are OUT of your control.