Strength Benchmarking

We may get knocked down on the outside, but the key to living in victory is to learn how to get up on the inside.”
― Joel Osteen

I had a trainer who periodically decided that the best external indicator of the improvement in my strength was the one rep bench press. This measures the maximum amount of weight that I could lift at one time. For example, if in October I could lift 100 pounds, and in April I could lift 125 pounds, it was clear to him that I was getting stronger. He could take out his excel spreadsheet, look at these two measurements, do some statistical analysis and draw the conclusion that I was indeed stronger.

We use the same statistical measurement in many other areas of life. We can look at the performance of a stock or at the speed of a computer. We can make a determination that the gold standard or benchmark should be this rate of return (stock) or speed (computer). We can then measure other stocks or computers against this benchmark.

Emotions can also have their own benchmarks if we measure them correctly. Our lives are full of tough events that push us into making hard decisions. Our automatic thought is “I can’t handle this, there’s no way I’m going to be able to do this” Some people unfortunately stay in that place and avoid issues–relationship conflicts, financial issues, their own poor self-care etc. The avoidance of the issues only makes them worse and reinforces the “I can’t handle it” approach. This pattern can go on and on and on and on until some crisis occurs. This crisis may mobilize the person’s internal resources in order to deal with the issue. If the crisis is resolved, the person realizes that they can handle stress and crisis and pain. They have just created a benchmark that they can measure other painful events against.

Strength benchmarking can also be used as a challenge to those automatic thoughts. We can ask ourselves “What is the toughest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with?” We can then recollect that situation and the skills and tools that were used to tackle that situation. We then can measure the current situation against the strength benchmark and see how it measures up. Most times, the benchmark will be much greater, giving us confidence that we can handle the new situation. “If I handled losing my job, then paying this bill is much easier”.

Life, however doesn’t always work in positive statistical measures. We may get hit with harder things —a major illness, a significant loss, or infidelity. These issues can be monumental and overwhelming. Strength benchmarking can be helpful in giving us the confidence and tools to handle these difficult issues. “I handled my job loss through exercise, prayer, meditation, and good eating. If I approach this other loss the same way, I know I’ll be working in the right direction”. Positive self-talk, through examination of our past struggles, can give us the confidence that we need to overcome the tough things that life can throw at us.

I no longer have my one rep trainer. His training methods, although statistically significant, produced many trips to physical therapy. I learned in physical therapy about the need to have a balanced core in order to prevent injuries. A balanced core makes you stronger in physical and emotional ways. When you are stronger physically and emotionally, you can handle whatever issues life throws at you. When we are aware our own benchmarks for inner strength, we can handle the weightiest of issues.

Change is possible.

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Nothing Else Matters

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” – Eckhart Tolle

On a recent trip to Italy, I set out to find a particular destination.  My map reading skills were failing me. Every turn was the wrong one.  Using Google maps kept me turning and turning but not getting me to my destination.   A stroke of luck(brought on my actually going in the opposite direction) took me to the Pantheon.  The Pantheon is the most intact artifact of the Roman empire. It is nearly 2000 years old.  As I was standing in the plaza(Piazza) of the Pantheon there was the sound of music.  In Rome, it is not unusual to have street musicians playing for money.  Most of the music is hardly noticeable and noteworthy. Today’s musician’s were different.   There was an excellent trumpet  player and an  amazing electric guitarist.  They were playing songs that were familiar to me, but didn’t shake me out of my frustration. I was highly preoccupied with our current location and how we were WAY off course. I was feeling hopeless, defeated, and frustrated.

The guitarist then starting playing this very familiar riff:

 

 

As I was hearing this amazing rendition of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” I stopped immediately took a deep breath and said to myself:

” Nothing else matters.  I am right here in Rome, Italy, enjoying a gorgeous day at one of the most historical sites in the world.  Who the f@ck cares that I am not where I am supposed to be.”

At that moment every thing slowed down.  I kept repeating the phrase “nothing else matters”.

Being in the moment is the hardest thing to do.  We are usually projecting all our “what if” anxieties into the future, or ruminating about our past failures.  Eckhart Tolle  in 2004, wrote the book The Power of Now.  The book gives us good meditative ideas about how to be “right here, right now”. To learn how to be in the now will require us to have patience with ourselves and to practice this art regularly.

One of the best tools that can be part of this practice is that of mindfulness.  Mindfulness is the way of experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations that occur right now.  A recent article about mindfulness describes how to use this tool for difficult feelings.  If we can practice mindfulness and the Power of Now, we can learn to be in the moment better.  As we learn mindfulness skills, we can be calmer, more productive, and less stressed.

On that fateful day in Rome, armed with my new self talk phrase “nothing else matters” I found my destination and had an amazing day.  The frustration of not being where I wanted to be left.  It was replaced by the melodic sounds of peace, calm, and letting go.  In order to practice living in the moment, it would be better to start changing how you live now. Musical “coincidences” don’t happen everyday.

Change is possible.

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Coping with Stress and Depression During the Holidays

  • Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Do not put entire focus on just one day (i.e., Thanksgiving Day) remember it is a season of holiday sentiment and activities can be spread out (time-wise) to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
  • Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them. Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
  • Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some time to help others.
  • Enjoy activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations; going window shopping without buying; making a snowperson with children.
  • Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
  • Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
  • Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends or contact someone you have not heard from for awhile.
  • Save time for yourself! Recharge your batteries! Let others share responsibility of activities.
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