Mental blocks series - Part 4: Overcoming and working through mental blocks.
The temptation with a mental block is that we need to do more and more training and work harder and harder to overcome it - this is not the case. When we experience mental blocks, we are not being lazy, unmotivated, or giving up on skills. We really want to do the skills. But our brains won't let us.
Here are the steps you need to explore to help you work through it...
Notice the day-to-day pressure - Whether the pressure is connected to school, home, friendships, or the gym, we need to work out what they are. Taking some time to build this self-awareness and work out why your brain is on high alert will be a huge first step. Once you have done this you can then take steps to reduce the pressure or learn how to cope with it.
Take steps to cope with day-to-day pressure: Depending on the source of your pressure, some examples of coping stratedies might be:
Improving your time management,
Learning to communicate your emotions and feelings (rather than bottling them up),
Asking for help with your schoolwork (either from teachers or parents)
Get more sleep,
Finding outside activities other than gymnastics for some balance.
Focus on the skills you feel confident (help your brain to trust the process)
Break down your skills into smaller progressions,
Start with the most basic elements of the skill if needed and build up to the more challenging elements.
Take your time – as you go through each progression. You need each stage to fee easy and safe before you move on. This builds confidence and gives your brain the security it needs to move up on the ladder.
Each step can take a while depending on how confident you feel on these progressions.
Notice if something doesn’t feel right
Look out for early warning signs.
Trust your gut when a skill feels off and listen to your brain.
When we take the time to listen we will realise that we need to take a step back to feel safe and build confidence.
Talk to your coach if it doesn’t feel right as they can help and support you.
Work ‘with’ your brain
Try not to push through skills or force yourself to stand in the corner of the mat and "not go" for your skill.
Sometimes we stand there for minutes unable to and wondering why we can’t ‘just go’.
If we do this, it will develop a negative pattern of seeing yourself not doing the skill in your mind
Focus on replacing these thoughts with positive ones along with new images of you building up the steps of the skill.
Remember: Patience from everyone will be key in this process:
Gymnasts you need to be patient
Coaches you need to be patient
Parents you need to be patient
Mental blocks take time to overcome because your brain has to trust you again.
And we know that trust takes time to build.