By Jason Donaldson
PSE Director of Training
What do we mean by that? How do we manage our State?
The good news is you’re probably already doing it. At least to a point.
Whenever you get angry or frustrated and you take a few breaths and talk yourself down, you’re managing your State. Whenever you hit a training session and decide to back the weight off a little so you can maintain technique, you’re managing your State. Whenever you get an early night because you’ve had a hectic day, you’re managing your State.
It’s easy, right?
Unfortunately, not always. As easy as it is to do, it’s just as easy to fall into the trap of failing to pay attention, ignoring the warning signs and instead of choosing our response and managing our state we simply react to what’s going on. We’ve all been there, right?
Recently my partner and I went to an outdoor festival/concert kind of thing that started on a Sunday afternoon and went until 10pm. Then there was getting out of the venue and a 35 minute drive home. In bed just after 11pm. Not bad.
Problem is, I’m someone who is usually tucked up in bed by 9pm. That’s after doing my pre-bed routine and gradually winding down for sleep.
Unfortunately my post festival pre-bed routine involved beer, dodgy food and loud music. Needless to say I slept terribly. I still got up at 5am Monday and hit the pool for my regular swim, and sauna. But I was very aware that I needed some recovery time and I was not going to smash Monday out of the park as far as performance goes.
I kept the swim easy, very low volume and my Sauna was only 10 minutes. Less than half of what I normally spend in there. I knew my body didn’t need the extra stress. I had a nutrient dense breakfast, drank plenty of water, did some gentle movement flow work around midday and had a short afternoon nap. Then I got an early night.
If I didn’t have the awareness around my state management (AND the lifestyle flexibility) to have a low-stress day I would have found myself come Tuesday having to do some damage control to get my State back to something resembling my normal. Burning the candle at both ends may be ok for a few days, but no one gets a state management free pass.
Fortunately, I have a job and a personal situation that allows for some flexibility in regard to managing my stress. It hasn’t always been that way. Shift work for 20-years, 3 kids under 5, a big mortgage etc etc. Let’s just say I’ve got some idea of what a lack of lifestyle flexibility is like. I get it.
But, there are still things we can all do to manage out State.
It starts with self-awareness; identifying your weak points and then deliberately practising how to intercept and choose a response that will help, rather than harm.
Some areas you can delve into that may help.
Breathwork – learning to use your breath as a tool in managing your state is a simple and readily accessible strategy that can have a huge impact. Breathwork can be a deep rabbit hole, but it doesn’t have to be. Simply start by bringing an awareness to your breath as you go about your everyday life. Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible. When it comes to training, aim to stay in control of your breath regardless of how intense the session is.
Sleep – there are mountains of research that shows only bad things happen (technical term) when you don’t get sufficient, restorative sleep. Also, when you’re tired it can be so much harder to choose a helpful response. A pre-bed routine is a must. It can be as short; 5 minutes, or as long; 1-hour plus, as you like. The important thing is that you’re doing something consistently to signal to your body and brain that it’s time to wind down. Anyone who has had kids knows the importance of a pre-bedtime routine when it comes to babies and toddlers. We adults are no different in that regard.
Nutrition – the things we consume give our body messages; release this hormone, suppress this one. Send help to this area… When we consume nutrient-dense foods in quantities that support our energy needs, we are positively managing our state. When we grab whatever we can find to stuff in our pie-hole we are reacting to primitive signals that may negatively impact our state. Most people could do with eating more vegetables. That’s probably a good place to start; at least 5 serves a day.
Exercise/Movement – we are designed to move. If you’ve ever done a long-haul flight you’ll know the feeling of getting off the plane at the other end feeling pretty damn rough. It’s not just the jet-lag or the sucking in of recycled farts. It has a lot to do with sitting on your butt for so long. Sit in an artificially lit office for 8-hours a day? Not much different. There’s a reason you feel exhausted after a day at work, even though you’ve hardly moved. All that sitting around negatively impacts on our state. Exercise and movement are the antidotes. Do it outside for extra credit points.
Connection/Relationships – we are pack animals. We’re not designed to be by ourselves. Mess up in days gone by and a common punishment was exclusion from the tribe. We thrive on human connection. That can come from family, work colleagues, the people you chat to at the gym, a community group, a sporting team… what it’s not is followers on social media. Sitting at home scrolling or hitting like is not connection. While social media can help us to connect with others, the connection really occurs when we’re spending time with people, having great conversations, sharing our thoughts. These days, this can be one of the more difficult components of state management. It’s easy to disengage and spend our lives disconnected. I know it’s a tough one for me.
Meaning/Purpose – without getting too esoteric or woo-woo, when I say meaning and purpose I’m talking about having something to work towards. Floating aimlessly through life is a really good way to negatively impact your state. It’s amazing what setting a goal, finding some focus and having a purpose can do for your state.
This article isn’t intended to overwhelm. Moreso, I’d like to provoke some thought on your behalf about what step, or steps, you may be able to take to help you improve your state management and improve your well-being. To inspire you to take a step, no matter how small.
My advice, start with one thing. Make it a small thing that you can work on doing consistently. When you have consistency, you’re getting in the reps, add something else.
It’s the small things, done consistently that lead to massive change.