I am a big advocate of the work that a long-time friend is doing in the sporting wellness space. He's recently employed a bright, smart young woman Deanna Niceski to take on the role of General Manager for Global Wellness Tracker. He asked me to share her story.
Why? Because it talks to every single thing that I as a Mindfulness practitioner can invite of you the reader to consider when you weigh up the challenges that life will invariably throw at you.
Life can turn on a dime, but how many of us know how to roll with the punches, come out smiling, stronger, changed, and be a force for good?
A terrible car accident saw Deanna, with a fantastic career ahead of her having to re-adjust her sails, a long road to wellness - her story is testament to how we as humans can learn to adjust and accept the unexpected life-changing challenges that can befall us. And not just adjust, thrive. She shows how managing unpredictability with a softness, but a steely focus, determination, a strong support network, and a great big heart are key to getting not just her body back to wellness but looking after the health and well-being of her mind too.
This is her story - take time to watch her short video and hear in her own words how she overcame the challenge to re-build her life and career. It's really quite something.
What struck me most was her empathy and compassion for others, there is a lot of research that talks to the benefits of extending kindness toward ourselves and others, we feel good when we are kind and supportive of others, it boosts our immune system, resilience levels and hits our reward systems – all of which will be so important to keep her motivated and focussed on her long-term wellness.
Another part to her success is her ability to stay on track, and that requires two things, focus and self-reward. There is no doubt that her journey back to wellness wouldn't have been without it's stress and it's challenges. When we feel stressed the brain is wired to shut down our cognitive control, and inevitably we quit. How did she circumvent this?
How to overcome challenges:
Focussing - on the long-term goal; focus is integral to success. Focus teaches our brain how to re-wire itself for positive change, and this change happens in our sleep! We lay down markers in our brain when we are in deep focus mode, and our brain tracks and embeds those markers for change when we are at rest. So sorry good people if you are planning epic study sessions and to party all night and hope it sticks - don't, get some rest, your brain will thank you for it.
Not being blindsided by setbacks - we take two steps forward and one back, and each step is momentum overall in the right direction, being able to see this and not let set-backs overwhelm would have been key to Deanna's success. This comes when we loosen our grip, softly leaning into the process by expecting things not to always go the way we might like all of the time. Think about holding a pen tightly in the grip of your palm - how does it feel? Muscles tense, you may even be holding your breath, now put the pen in the open palm and let it rest, same pen, less grip...we may have to practice meditation to support us in this challenge, taking in the good meditation practices will greatly support us with this.
Acceptance - it sounds passive, it's anything but, acceptance is an action-based approach, I talk about it here. For what we resist persists, we must accept all that life deals us in order to move forward.
Reward - struggle is part of the process of life i'm afraid. But so is reward - when we look inward and reward ourselves for the small steps we take no matter how small, we feel good, we get a little dopamine hit and a mood boost. Self-reward is often overlooked, typically we tend to focus as humans on when others compliment us or see our inherent goodness, but this means we are reliant on the support and opinions of others to help us to feel good. When we build our own self-reward system we are recognising our value, telling ourselves that we matter, and rewarding ourselves for the steps we take and the progress we make. Simply noticing and rewarding being on the right track is enough to mobilise a dopamine reward.
Life can be a monumental tinker, it sends us moments that rock us, threaten to overthrow us, but it doesn't have to be this way. Even in the darkest of moments there is always something we can do. Spreading kindness, being compassionate, giving love and being a support to others are the cornerstones to wellness for ourselves and our fellow mates in the Universe we spin in.
What can you do today to spread a little kindness? Perhaps share Deanna's story, reach out to someone who may be having a tough day, or make a cuppa and take some time for your own well-being. Either way, look after yourselves, embody kindness it's the roadmap to wellness.