The Power of Positivity!

We're right in the middle of the Christmas season.  Along with the holiday music, cold weather, parties, gifts, and snow.....comes STRESS!  We all deal with day to day stress, but this is a particularly busy time of year for everyone, and often one of the most stressful times as well.  So, I felt it an appropriate time to talk a little bit about the negative effects of stress and how we can combat it! 

In our Jiu-jitsu academy, we discuss the negative effects of stress in our 7-5-3 code.  One of the 5 keys to a healthy lifestyle is "positive mental attitude".  While it seems a noble character trait to possess, at first glance, it may seem odd that this attribute is lumped in among other "health-related" items, like getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, and getting adequate exercise.  However, your attitude is directly linked to your health!  Stress is a killer.  It has been shown in multiple studies to have negative health-related consequences, and is a contributor to some of the leading causes of death, such as cardio-vascular disease.  Your body has a physiological response to stress, which is a natural defense mechanism.  However, repeated, unmanaged stress can have devastating impacts on your health.  We all have some level of stress in our lives, so it is imperative that we have outlets for managing that stress.  And one of the best ways to help you manage stress is through training Jiu-jitsu!

One of the many great benefits of training Jiu-jitsu is the way that it can help to reduce stress.  Taking an hour or two out of your busy day to set everything else aside, get on the mat, break a sweat, and take your mind off of everything else going on is so beneficial to your overall well-being.  It is hard to focus on your never-ending to-do list, the fight you had with your significant other, the way your boss is acting like a jerk, or any of the many other daily stressors when you're totally focused on trying not to get choked unconscious or get one of your joints hyperextended.  Besides that, the opportunity to share time with a supportive group of friends who share a common interest is a great way to reset your perspective and keep you focused on your goals. 

Don't get me wrong....Jiu-jitsu training itself is stressful.  It is mentally demanding and physically exhausting.  You often find yourself fighting with every ounce of your strength just to try to survive.  You find yourself in uncomfortable, compromised positions, where it is often a struggle just to breathe.  But, therein lies the key to its stress-reducing magic.  It is stress inoculation.  When you are constantly exposed to situations on the mat that are physically, mentally, and emotionally stressful, you become more easily able to manage the stress in your daily life.  We can never totally get rid of stress, but we can learn to manage it.

There are some simple things that you can do to help you manage stress both on the mat, and in your daily life.  Every Jiu-jitsu student has probably, at one time or another, heard their instructor say "breath, relax", during a hard sparring session.  This is one of the easiest things you can do when you start to feel your self getting stressed.  Take a deep breath, analyze the situation, and work out a solution to the problem in front of you.

Another thing you can do to help manage stress is to try to keep things in perspective.  I'm reminded of a phrase I first heard from my father, which, knowing him, wasn't original, but still rings true.  He would often say, "Don't sweat the small stuff......and it's all small stuff!"  There is a lot of truth to this.  No matter how bad the problem in front of you, when you put it in the proper perspective, it helps you realize how trivial it actually is.  For example, maybe you're stressed out with your job, stuck in a role you don't really like, frustrated with your boss or co-workers.  Try to keep a positive outlook.  At least you have a job!  There are plenty of people out there who I'm sure would gladly trade places with you.  Appreciate what you have, and also realize that, if you don't like the situation you're currently in, you can always change it.  Nothing is permanent!  It may take a lot of hard work on your part, but if it's really important, you can make it happen!

Identify what the problem is that is causing you stress, and make a plan to deal with it.  This is the same process we use when we find ourselves in a bad spot on the mat.  Spastically thrashing around is highly unlikely to be effective, and will generally only serve to only further exhaust you.  As you gain more experience in Jiu-jitsu, you learn how to methodically extract yourself from a bad position, and if you're unable to immediately escape, you learn how to at least manage the situation and survive.  Sometimes, you are stuck in a situation that is truly beyond your control.  In those cases, don't worry about things that you can't control, and seek to make the best of the situation through positivity.

The power of positivity and visualization is well-documented.  Use it to your advantage.  Something as simple as putting a smile on your face and trying to approach every situation and person that you deal with in a positive manner goes a very long way, and is amazingly contagious.  Even when it is very difficult, just fake it until you make it!  You will find that there is a real measurable affect just by going through the motions, that can help you turn that stress into a motivator to get you going in the right direction.  Trying to maintain a positive mental outlook and surrounding yourself with other people who have a positive vibe will do wonders for helping you manage the daily stresses in life.

Show up, train hard, manage your expectations, set realistic goals, think and act positively, and have fun, both in your Jiu-jitsu  training and in your life and you will reap great benefits and dramatically reduce the negative impact of stress!

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