Today for Diabetes Blog Week the topic is one of my favorites, Mantras and More. I like mantras! As an athlete, I use mantras all the time. In training and in a race or big event, mental challenges come in all the time. In the moment they don’t always seem just mental, they can be physical and situational. A flat tire, a blister, losing my goggles, these seem physical and situational more than mental as they are happening. What I’ve learned is that HOW I respond to the situation, is actually what matters more than what is actually happening.
Several of the coaches I’ve worked with use something that is called Solution Focused Psychology. I’m not sure if the coaches I know were ever officially trained in Solution Focused psychology, or if they just happened upon this way of being, maybe it’s part of why they became such successful coaches. As an educator who worked with young people from challenging life circumstances, poverty, and racial disadvantage, using a Solution Focused approach turned out to be almost miraculous in helping many young people transform their life paths.
In Solution Focused psychology, what you do is spend all your energy focusing on what is actually in your control with the resources you have in that moment. For example, I woke up the other day with a blood sugar of 401. I literally gasped when I saw that number. I washed my hands and tested again to be sure. I got a 398 the second test. Then, I breathed deeply, and refocused my mind and my energy. I reassured myself that a solution could be found. Then I considered all my options. I checked my pump infusion site and all seemed well, technically I had enough insulin in the pump for another day, and it didn’t appear I had air in the line, but maybe I did sometime during the night. I decided to grab a new bottle of insulin and change the set. I did that quickly and efficiently. Then I did the correction. And then I started drinking water, to help my kidneys and body get rid of all that extra glucose in my system. I distracted myself by playing with my dog and reading a book.
I set a timer for 45 minutes and tested when the buzzer went off. My bg was 241!! I did a happy dance!!! And reminded myself that I hadn’t caused irreparable damage by having that high blood sugar. I said thank you to my body for responding so well to insulin. I said thank you to the universe for providing me the tools I need to take such good care of myself.
It turns out that a Solution Focused approach works really well in dealing with diabetes and athletics. Which is probably why I like it so much. As an athlete, in a race, there are time limits, and usually, in a triathlon, you have to solve all your problems without outside intervention. Thus, wasting mental energy on why the problem arose, or berating yourself for allowing the problem to happen is just that, a massive waste of time and energy. Instead, quickly assess the situation and take stock of the resources at hand and take action. Calm, focused action.
Which brings me back to mantras. I worked with Carrie Cheadle, she’s a mental skills coach who has worked with many professional cyclists, as well as with hundreds of athletes with diabetes, to help me figure out what to do when I smelled gasoline from a boat during a triathlon. The smell would send me into a panic as I was swimming, because it reminded me of chemotherapy. Carrie worked with me to tell myself a different story when I saw the boats, since I usually would see the boat before I would smell the gas. The new story was to tell myself that the boat was there to help me, and help all the swimmers, to keep us safe. And I would repeat that mantra, “Boats are safety.” And I would keep going with, “Boats keep me safe. I am safe as I swim strongly. I know how to swim smoothly and strong. I am a fast, smooth swimmer. The boats help us stay safe so I can keep swimming fast and strong.” It was amazing! I no longer got triggered by the smell!
Yes, mantras help me nearly every day! I make up new ones as I need them. The key is to keep them short and have them resonate authentic, positive energy. Mine for today is, “I am an athlete in training for a 100 mile bike ride.” “I am a strong, solid cyclist.” “I pedal fast!” “Diabetes propels me forward.”