The author of the article below is Angela Naeth, professional triathlete and Founder of I Race Like a Girl, she is also one of our Caliloko athletes. She shared the below article with us and we wanted to also make it available to all of you as it represents the current reality of our athletes around the world. We also interviewed Angela on the topic of the impact of the pandemic on her. ♡ During the interview, she also talked about her passion to create a community of women athletes and shared her tips to speed up recovery after tough trainings and races.
By Angela: COVID-19, stay at home advisories, closed businesses, fear, worry, concern, and anxiety. MAKE IT STOP!!! This is the reality we're all living in today. When I first learned of pools closing, etc. and how this was going to effect me personally, as an athlete, I wasn’t too concerned. I have been thru a lot worse with my own health and Lyme, the unknown. I’ve got this. A flu?! It can’t be that bad. This won’t last long …A few weeks of downtime will be OK, and simple. Well, that thinking and thought process sure ended quick!
This has been a very challenging time for all of us. Some, have lost family members, jobs, sources of income, and for many, we’re working from home. We’ve lost access to gyms, health clubs and isolation is our new reality.
Anxiety can creep in
At one point, my head/mind spiraled I went downhill, fast. Emotional despair and distress took over. I started to ruminate. I was stuck. I was wallowing. And my energy was from fear, worry, anxiety, and I had a feeling of worthlessness. I found no value in who I was.
I found myself not being able to focus, let alone do anything. I sat, I ate, I cried, I zoned out, for a few, if not many days. I’d get out of this funk, for a while, but I'd then go right back to where I was. For many, I’m assuming, can relate.
Below is the conversation (in my own words/writing) I had with Craig Manning (a high performance coach I have been working with for over 5 years - Fearless Mind). With his help, time, action, and work on my thought patterns, I’ve been able to get out of this dead-end ruminating cycle. Part of that process is me writing this now. I still find myself in a small spiral at times, but, the difference now is, I can stop it. I’ve found a new outlook and perspective.
Let’s keep sharing, moving forward, and helping one another. Here’s my sharing, my way to move forward, and my way to reach and help others.
Me, calling Craig
“HI Craig. I’m doing terrible. Yesterday, I literally couldn’t do anything. I jogged, and then completely broke down. I was alone all day, and completely spiraled into feeling I have no value in life. I can’t do anything, I’m fearful, worried, and just don’t know what to do. I haven’t seen the sun in days. The weather sucks, it’s cold and raining [Massachusetts in April!] and I just broke down. I realize what I’m doing but I can’t stop it.”
I was STUCK. I was ruminating, and creating an emotional spiral of despair, and distress. Craig helped me break down this tough process.
What is rumination?
Rumination: the focused attention, on the symptom of one’s distress, on it’s possible causes and consequences, as opposed to it’s solutions.
So let’s break this down.
“Focused Attention”. What we focus on. It’s a choice. Our choice. The first thing we all need to realize is that we have control over our focus - what we focus on.
“Symptoms of one’s distress”. Emotional despair can hit you when the environment hits you with stress. For example: Watching the news and seeing/hearing how COVID-19 is growing in cases/deaths, the numbers on the TV keep going up and up and up, or when you head to the grocery store and see aisles empty, face masks, and 6 feet separation barriers for people in the checkout lines.
“On it’s possible causes and consequences” We start looking at the consequences and things that are now changing in our lives - lost jobs, stay at home advisories, closed business, we can’t go out with friends, lack of freedom, for me - not being able to race and swim. We react to our environment, and before you know it, our emotions take over, and our minds spiral in despair, worry, anxiety and stress - a full on ^&*^*-show as I like to call it.
“As opposed to its solutions” Instead of finding solutions to what is going on, we spiral from our direct focus on distress. But this, herein lies the resolution to our own mental and emotional spirals: focusing on solutions.
OK, so where am I going with this? Stay with me. :-).”Rumination: the focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, on it’s possible causes and consequences, as opposed to it’s solutions.”
Rumination is where emotional instability thrives, and we spiral to depression, despair, and emotional turmoil. It’s caused by the uncertainty of what’s to come.
As much as I like to think I’m not ego-oriented, I believe, we all are, to some degree. Ego-oriented outcomes are where we think we have arrived. Our society is built on ego-oriented thinking. When this virus started to work it’s way into my life, and surroundings, I told myself, this won’t effect me, it’s fine, things will work out. Putting it directly - I didn’t think I had to do the work, because I’m better than this.
But damn, I have an ego and my thoughts were directly stuck in ego-outcomes. We all have an ego - whether we want to accept that, or not. (The very fact you might be thinking - I don’t have an ego - is EGO!). It’s how our society is built. So we have to become aware of that, and fight it. We need to constantly put the work in changing our mind/thought patterns from being ego- related to task related.
More on this later, but first, you might be thinking, screw this, I’m stressed out, tired, emotional - I deserve a break! I’m going to watch Netflix, eat this pint of ice cream (I have done my fair share of this the last two weeks!), and zone the $^&*% out.
THIS is ego-thinking. THIS is ruminating. THIS is not going to help you long term.
So let’s get back to rumination, and the start of this whole spiral. Rumination creates distress - BAD stress, which causes mental and physical fatigue, to a point where we simply don’t enjoy life. We then feel we deserve a break, so we decrease our overall productivity, in our life and work. We think the break will help us. Perhaps it will - but it doesn’t stick. This action of doing NO action creates empty space for MORE rumination, and more emotions to then take over. And then, guess what? We keep spiraling. It’s a never-ending rollercoaster, with no end in sight.
When your ego is in control our happenings and approval of ourselves comes form the external world. And since we don’t have direct control of this, our stress and anxiety rises when something like a pandemic faces us. We need to change our perspective and look at something we do have control over. Be part of the solutions, not part of the problem.
Things don’t just work out. PEOPLE work things out. Reminding ourselves of this is what we need to do. By acting - giving ourselves TASKS to do, our motivation goes up, and so does our sense of motivation. Instead of having our ego hit by the external world, we can find internal engagement and find safety and security in DOING.
So what does this mean? For me, it means staying active, being part of the community - online, writing, coaching remotely, and getting busy with engagement. We all want to feel safe and secure - for many, our jobs and careers provide that for us. But since many have lost this, and if we wait for the virus to just go away, our mentality is that of a victim. We (me, you, all of us) need to learn to LIVE with the virus. This is the test/challenge for all of us. Can you live with this? What are you doing to handle it? CHALLENGE YOURSELF to be proactive, not reactive.
OK, OK, I know where you head might be. This is stuff you ultimately know, right? Be proactive, stay busy, work on myself etc etc … But, do you do it? …Be honest with what you’re doing EVERYDAY, every hour, every minute of your day. As soon as you start to slip, you can derail, and spiral. It’s occupying this empty space that needs constant work so you don’t fall into the victim mentality of ego-oriented thinking.
If you stop occupying your mind and engaging in life (your life), fear and despair will creep in - and you’ll continue to spiral, and ultimately try to escape reality - which in and of itself, in my opinion, is simply not living.
So let’s get back to our rumination definition, and yup, put all this together, so you get something out of it!
The definition of rumination is: the focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress on it’s possible causes and consequences as opposed to it’s solutions.
If we can control our thoughts, be rational/logical, and be outside of our emotions that are running high right now, we can be proactive. The goal here is then, focusing on solutions.
Remember things don’t just work out, PEOPLE work it out. Our life is up to us. COVID-19 isn’t just going to go away. We need to live with it. This doesn’t mean denying how you feel. Be real, cry if need be. But FEAR is not real. It’s created from our thoughts. We have direct control of our thoughts - thoughts create emotions. Emotions create reaction. If we control our thoughts to create action first, we might just come out of this stronger - mentally, physically, and emotionally.
- FOCUS ON SOLUTIONS
- FOCUS ON TASKS
Just becoming aware of this and talking thru how this is for me, I have been able to stop the spirals. For me, this includes giving myself tasks EVERYDAY: things that I know will make me a better person for those around me, and the community.
How this looks for me:
Everyday I make a task list, ideas, things I know make me feel productive, part of society in a meaningful way, and give me overall health, and love for life. I look at this list and make sure I’m focused on tasks, and ideas that I have control over, and well, just start doing them.
Yes, there are days I just don’t want to do anything, and find myself in that ego-though process and emotional despair but, I know the key to get out of it. I have to make the change. Focus on solutions. Again, things don’t just work out, PEOPLE work out. Our life is up to us.
Emotional despair: we can get out of it
So here’s my list - and it’s the same, EVERYDAY.
- Continue my training, and program as a professional triathlete
- Connect with my community and reach out to family, friends.
- Use FaceTime, Zoom, meetups and other online platforms to connect with others, and be part of bringing joy and good energy to others
- Join virtual events and activations
- Be informed on the news, and work with it by doing my part to help lower the curve of this pandemic.
- Coach my athletes remotely, with vigor and support.
- Support and create events/challenges/meetups with @iracelikeagirl team members and the entire endurance triathlon community. Reach as many people as I can to help support others
- Make dinner nightly. Take my supplements, Athletic Greens, and a salad a day.
- Be creative (this is my big one!) - the more I write, create avenues for others (check out the BIG INDOOR RIDE CHALLENGE), and find solutions, the better I feel. The more engaged I am with the process.
- And finally, Be grateful. I have been using my 21-day awareness journal again (check out it out) and writing.
Let’s focus on task, focus on solutions, and keep moving forward. I hope to continue working on myself EVERYDAY so I can keep myself (and in doing so, helping others!) healthy - mentally, physically, and emotionally.
I encourage those that find themselves in a spiral, to reach out. Talk to someone. It was the key for me to get out of my own funk. Feel alone, are alone? Happy to connect! Just email me at email@example.com. Let’s get thru this together.
*Big thanks to my partner in crime, my boyfriend. He’s not only my main squeeze, but my best friend. He makes me feel I’m of value, that I'm loved. I love you, Tim (...Yes, I am a girl, and proud of it, ha!).
More about Angela Naeth