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4 Tips to Help Tear Down Negative Mindsets



One night before school started and the cross country season began, I was feeling very overwhelmed with the things coming up and the season ahead. I was already putting too much pressure on myself and the way I would perform this season, and it started to stress me out.


After a long talk with my parents, I realized that I needed to get my head in the game and correct all of these negative things I was telling myself. Cross country is such a mental sport, and without learning to be mentally strong, it is impossible to actually succeed or be a positive teammate. I began praying about it, and the Lord really helped me correct my mindset towards this season.


It's easy to get overwhelmed and put too much pressure on yourself in any area of your life. It's easy to feel like you can't measure up to the expectations you or other people put on you, but I'm here to tell you that maybe, just maybe, we can live without those kinds of expectations.


I mean, we can't control the way other people see us or what they want from us. But we can control the way we see ourselves and the things we expect from ourselves. We don't have to strive to be perfect or the most accomplished in every aspect of our lives. We don't have to be the fastest, the strongest, or the most put together. We don't have to be the best.


For me specifically, when I was looking ahead to this season, I began worrying about how my body was going to react to the heat, if my endurance is good enough, and if I'm going to be decently fast. But you see, all my parents and my coaches ask of me is that I work hard and give the runs everything I have. If I am putting 100% into my workouts and into the races, then that's all I can give. Some days 100% might look a little different, depending on the weather, the course, or how I'm feeling, but as long as I do everything I can, my parents and coaches are going to be proud of me, and I can be proud of me.


And honestly, my running career is going to be over after I graduate high school. I'm not planning on running in college except casually, for fun, so once I graduate, my times or paces will not matter. They simply won't. All that will matter is the memories and relationships I built with my teammates. So, in the grand scheme of things, the most important thing for me to focus on this season is loving on my teammates, cheering them on, and having fun.


So many of the things we are involved in that stress us out were originally meant to just be fun. We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best or improve that we forget to actually enjoy what we're doing. We forget why we fell in love with that sport, activity, or job in the first place, and I think that it's so important to be intentional about remembering that.


I fell in love with cross country because I love the people. When I hate the workouts and my body is exhausted, my teammates are what keep me going. They are my "why", and they're why I've stuck with the sport. Besides that, I usually love the feeling of pushing my body and the way running has become so therapeutic for me.


If you've been struggling with being mentally tough or having negative mindsets, whether it be in general or in a specific area, here's what I'd encourage you with:


1. Do not underestimate the power of deep breaths.

Sometimes when I run (or get stressed out in general), my heart starts to race and I lose control of my breathing. That only gets me more worked up, and it leads nowhere positive. I started doing some research on how to calm my breathing down while I'm running, and what I learned actually has changed my reaction to stress overall.


The key is taking at least three very deep inhales and exhales. Fill your lungs with air, and then let it all out. This helps reset and relax your body, both while you're running and while you begin to tense up from stress. It clears your mind and refocuses you on the present, and it has helped calm me so much so that I don't spiral into an anxiety attack.


2. Remember the big picture.

We so often spend so much time worrying and being anxious over things that do not matter in the grand scheme of things (like how my times this cross country season won't matter after I graduate). It is so vital that we are intentional about stepping back and refocusing on the big picture and remembering what will matter in the long run. Sometimes I think about what will still be important in heaven, and it won't be our grades, our appearance, how big our platform is, how many friends we have, or how good we were at our sport. What will still be important, though, is how well we love God and the people around us. That is what matters, that is our purpose here on earth. So instead of stressing about my performance, success, appearance, or popularity, I want to focus more on how I can better love God and the people in my path wherever I'm at and in whatever I'm doing.


3. Celebrate every little victory.

In our long talk, my mom reminded me of how far I've come since last season, and that it is so important that I celebrate every little success and victory. Last year, I rarely made it through a single workout because my shins hurt so bad. Now, being able to run without any shin pain is a victory I need to acknowledge and appreciate. Every run is a blessing, and even more so now that I'm not on the ground from the pain. It's a victory when I don't cry during or after a workout. It's a victory when my endurance continues to improve. It's a victory when I feel less tired than the run before, because I'm getting stronger. Every little step forward of growth and improvement deserves to be celebrated. And when I focus on the good things, instead of settling on all the ways I'm not achieving what I want to, my mindset is shifted from negativity and frustration to positivity and joy.


4. Know your "why".

Like I said earlier, my teammates are my "why". They keep me going on the days it would be easier to quit and give up. That, and the reminder that my team is one of my biggest opportunities to showcase the love Christ has shown me. It is so important that we each find our reason to keep going, keep pushing, keep working, because if we don't, we will become much more susceptible to giving into negative mindsets. Maybe your why is because this is where Christ has led you to be, maybe it's a person or a passion. I don't know what your "why" is, but I'd encourage you to really pray about it, and stay focused on your mission in whatever you're doing.

 

I want to take a moment to speak some encouragement into you, in case you're struggling with something similar that I am. If you are struggling with a less-than-positive mindset because you are facing a lack of answers or a feeling distant from God, I hear you. This is where I'm at. I've been waiting and waiting and expecting and expecting the Lord to make things happen, and those things aren't happening - and that is so discouraging. It's easy to slide into a trap of feeling sorry for yourself and questioning God, but that's not a healthy place to be. Have a moment in your emotions, yes, but let's take a step back together.


God is good. Our circumstances do not determine how good God is, how much He loves us, or if we're going the direction He wants us to. Our discomfort and struggles is visible proof that the Lord is refining and transforming us, creating a testimony within us to encourage others. It's going to be hard, but hold on to the faith that our plot twist is right around the corner, in the perfect timing He has planned, and it will be even better than we could have ever expected. Stay thankful and cling to the promises He has given you, because He will give you the strength to make it through.

 

I'm going to be real - resisting the negative mindset is hard for me. I've been wrestling with it quite a bit this season, and it is so easy to feel discouraged by this battle. It's more natural for me to doubt myself and become anxious about what's to come, but there is so much more joy and peace when I am intentional about squashing the lies and stress and focusing more on simply enjoying what I'm doing. I make so many more memories and meaningful relationships this way, and that is my mission this season. I'm by no means perfect, but these are just a few of the things the Lord is teaching me.


Do you have any advice for breaking down negative mindsets and instead enjoying what's right in front of you? Let me know down in the comments down below!

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