As a new school year starts again, I'm hearing from a lot of gymnasts who are feeling the pressure of juggling gymnastics, school, and everything else in between!
Many gymnasts feel stressed because they don't feel like they have enough hours in the day to get everything done. Others feel overwhelmed with homework, school projects, studying for exams, and practice while also learning how to adjust to a new back-to-school schedule.
Transitions of any sort can be stressful but luckily they serve as a chance to learn a new skill set or to refresh an old one. So embracing this as an opportunity to try out new strategies is a great way to feel hopeful about a new school year.
When you are juggling the pressure of having to do so many things, it's common for your brain to perceive that as a threat to its safety. Pressure is always perceived as danger to your brain, whether the source of that pressure is actual gymnastics or anything perceived as pressure.
As a result, your brain starts to shut down as it goes into a fight-flight-or-freeze response. This can lead to difficulty concentrating or thinking, being more prone to distractions, feeling less focused and more forgetful, being unable to think through problems, and underperforming or getting mental blocks.
Here are 5 tips for how to juggle gymnastics, school, and life in the new school year:
Tip #1: Start With An Awareness of Where You Are Spending Your Time
Just like a budget for money, when you track everything you do for a week, you then have a better understanding of where you are spending your most time. Awareness is the key to making any necessary changes.
Therefore start by writing down every single thing you do and how long each thing takes you during the next week. List everything including time spent making dance videos for TikTok, texting with friends, watching tv, and anything else that you do throughout the day that wastes time.
You want to be super honest about what you are doing in every moment so you can look for areas you can improve upon.
Tip #2: Focus On Your Priorities
Start by listing out everything you have to do or anything that takes up your time or your brain space. Of those things you listed, choose which ones are your 3 biggest rocks. Your rocks are the most important things to you. Off the top of my head you might say gymnastics, school, and family.
Next, write down which of those things left on your list are your pebbles. Your pebbles are things that are important to you but not as important as your rocks.
Finally, write down your sand. Those are the things that are least important to you but probably steal most of your time.
Your goal is to fill your time with your "rocks" first and then if you have time left, do some of your pebbles. Then, and ONLY then, do you add in your sand.
If you do the opposite and start with your sand and then pebbles and then add in your rocks, you will NEVER have time for all your rocks.
Tip #3: Use Your Pockets Of Time Wisely
One of the best tips I can give is to utilize those pockets of dead time.
When you are in the car on the way to practice, try to get some homework or studying done. When you are on the bus on the way home from school, see if you can get parts of your homework done too. If you have a free period at school try getting ahead on your studying. Any time you have to wait for an appointment or take a car ride, consider using that time to your advantage.
Tip #4: Write Lists, Use Your Planner, & Set Reminders On Your Phone
It's easy to forget all the things you need to get done without writing everything down. And when you have a lot of things on your mind, your brain can feel overloaded and stressed. Try putting important events down on your calendar/planner and write lists of things to do so you can free up your mind.
Another method is to set reminders on your phone to do the things that are time-sensitive. You might also keep a notebook next to your bed so that you can jot things down as you remember them before you go to bed or when you wake up in the morning.
Tip #5: Eat Your Frog First
The concept of eating your frog means that you tackle the most important task first. Your "frog" is often the most important task and something we avoid because it's hard or time-consuming. But if you can get this done first, then you've won your day.
So if you have a big project due for school or you have a an exam to study for, it's best to do those important things first to get them out of the way. If you wait to do them you might run out of time causing you more stress.
Juggling back-to-school with a change in gymnastics practice and adding in extra activities after school plus homework and exams can add loads of stress to your brain. Remember, when your brain feels stressed it goes into a fight-flight-or-freeze response which in turn contributes to mental blocks in gymnastics. By first understanding where you are spending your time through awareness and then focusing on the most important "rocks" first, you can alleviate some of that stress and let your brain feel safe again.
If you or your gymnast needs support, in addition to the resources below I also offer one-on-one coaching sessions via Zoom.
- Resources: Get gymnastics downloads to help your gymnast work on her mental skills in gymnastics
- Mental Health Training for Gymnasts: Help your gymnast learn about her brain and the fight-flight-or-freeze response.
- Free Facebook Group for Moms of Gymnasts: Join this group to chat with other gymnastics moms and get tips for how to help your gymnast navigate through the mental ups and downs of gymnastics