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The summer Olympics are now over, but no matter what sport you tuned into, there was something to marvel at in every moment. These athletes modeled grace, beauty, agility, sportsmanship, and hope. To reach these heights of performance and ability they had to adhere to the most difficult and rigorous practice and training schedules, and in the end, after all their efforts, they made it look effortless. Yet these athletes were not without their own challenges or disappointments.

These are stories of hope and inspiration, and yet these athletes are not unlike each of us.

Stories of Hope and Inspiration

Each one has a story to tell. Many have stories of hardship where they overcame incredible obstacles just to be at the Olympics. For example, Yusra Mardin had a budding swimming career in her home city of Damascus, but when the civil war started her pool was bombed and life became perilous. She and her family fled, and she ended up swimming three hours to save her own life and those of 20 others who were stranded at sea when their dinghy broke down.

There’s also the story of our own US gold medal gymnast Simone Biles who as a young child was left in foster care with her younger sister due to her biological mother’s drug addiction. As they waited in foster care to be adopted, her biological grandparents heard about their situation and adopted both girls and raised them.

Training Ourselves

These are stories of hope and inspiration, and yet these athletes are not unlike each of us. We all face challenges and there are times when we are called to rise up to meet those challenges. How we show up depends on our own attitude and training.

One way we can train for these hardships is through our own daily stress management practices. These practices build our strength, endurance, compassion and hope, so that when we are asked to rise up to the challenges of our own lives, we have the tools we need.

Much like these athletes, we train ourselves to be strong and flexible, calm and focused. We may not be competing for a gold medal, but we are training ourselves inside and out to be able to meet what is in front of us with our best selves.

We use the yoga postures to train our bodies, the relaxation and breathing to train our nervous system, and the meditation and imagery to train our minds.

We too may face our own challenges and might have days when we don’t want to get out of bed or even look at our yoga mat. There are times when we just don’t want to practice.

In an interview with Childs Walker of The Baltimore Sun, the gold medalist Michael Phelps admitted to “not wanting to even step in the water” at some point during the last Olympics. And though he struggled with his desire to practice, he did it anyway and continued to win even when his heart wasn’t in it. Later he began to search for the joy in it all. He insisted he wanted to rediscover the fun in swimming and that he was doing it only for himself this time.

Finding Joy When We Hit the Wall 

When you do struggle in your own practice, there are things you can do to strengthen your resolve, find the joy in it and keep coming back to the mat.

1.Do more of what you love

If there are stress management practices you enjoy more, then do more of those. If you like relaxation, do more of that when you are struggling. Let that serve as a rope to draw you back into the other practices. When we love what we are doing and how it makes us feel, we will keep returning.

2.Remember that your stress management practice is like a good friend.

If you nurture it, it will be there for you when you need it. The more time you put in the more benefits you will receive.

3.Practice helps us to feel better

When we feel good, the world looks brighter, and the joy that is always there inside of us can be realized.

Sometimes we just need to show up. It’s in the showing up that we develop discipline. We just return to the training for the sake of training and at some point just like Michael Phelps we find the joy.

How were you inspired by the stories of the 2016 Summer Olympics?

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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