The Types Of Challenges You May Face - Mental

Continuing on with our ‘This Is Really Hard’ series, we are going to discuss mental challenges. Read Here for the different types of physical challenges you may come across.

As previously discussed, physical challenges are fairly easy to spot and relatively easy to do something about. Mental challenges are more difficult as they disguise themselves in many different ways and you likely aren’t as aware you’re dealing with them at the time. When thinking physical think body and mental think brain.

Choreography/Understanding a Movement - A common challenge you may have is not understanding how to make your body do what your instructor is asking. For example, choreography in a chair routine or a pole or hoop combo. You may see what the instructor is telling you to do, but things are not quite computing. This is very normal and can be fixed by good old trial and error. This is especially true if you did not grow up dancing or any other sports that require coordination. Remember, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Just go easy on yourself and know that it’s ok to feel a little uncoordinated as you figure it out. Something else that can help is to continue practicing the choreography at home to help wire your brain for those types of movements. If you never do contemporary dance, for example, continuing to practice the previous week’s routine at home can help with next week’s choreography as your brain is thinking and practicing that particular way to move.


Discipline - Discipline is a sneaky one! It’s what makes all of the physical challenges happen or not. Are you disciplined enough to do your physio exercises, stretch or strength train outside of the studio? What about your diet and sleep? Being disciplined can feel annoying at times because you can’t really tell that you aren’t until after the fact. For example, finishing a session to realize you are no further along in your splits. Or you still can’t mount the hoop because while you knew you needed to condition at home, you didn’t feel like it. Think of discipline is being an adult. You’re making good choices now that may not be so fun, so that they pay off later. More childlike decisions are doing what feels good now, and then complaining to the world about it later that it’s not fair you don’t have it or that you’re just too busy and don’t have time (Note: everyone has time). While discipline may feel a little annoying, the payback you get from being disciplined is incredible. There is no better feeling than doing what you said you were going to do. The confidence, and self-respect, let alone the results of the hard work you were putting in, are worth it every time.

Stress - Stress! Welcome to being a human being - we all have it, although we all have different degrees of stress and we can all handle stress a little differently. Any sort of physical activity on your body is stress, even if it’s positive, so it’s important to monitor where you’re at overall when training. Let’s do a little visualization exercise. Pretend your capacity to hold stress is a bathtub. The stress coming in is the water filling the tub, the water in the tub is the stress level you’re carrying, and the drain is you looking after yourself, or the stress leaving (stress management). At different times our bathtub will be more full or more empty depending on what’s going on in life. If you close the drain (don’t manage your stress), the bathtub will flood the bathroom and now you have to do bathroom renovations (or, you become a disaster in life, take it out on the ones you love, and then have to go on an apology tour to everyone to make up for lashing out… or whatever your acting in/acting out behavior may be - and we all have them). Back to training at the studio! If your bathtub is pretty full when getting to the studio, that has a major impact with your training. Are you studying for finals? Have major pressure at work? Trying to get pregnant? Going through a divorce? Family members sick? Your children having trouble at school? Drowning in debt? You get my point. While you wonder, why can’t I get this stupid move? You are actually carrying so much more with you to class than you know. And while many of us take classes for stress management, it’s important to be gentle with ourselves if we’re having a harder time in class one day. It’s so much more complicated than that. Effectively managing your stress can help make life’s challenges in all capacities easier to deal with.

Mental Health - Mental health is a huge component to functioning in our daily lives. If you have struggled with anxiety or depression or any other mental health disorder, it can play a huge part in functioning at the most base level of life (sleeping, getting out of bed, going to work), let alone the other things you love. Then add on top of it, the physical challenges of taking a class and things can feel discouraging. As with working along a health care team with physical ailments, mental health is no different. Talk with your doctor about appropriate medications if needed, talk with a therapist or psychologist, and reach out to friends and family for help. If you struggle with anxiety or depression, going out in public, let alone taking a class can be very challenging. It’s important to communicate with your instructor where you’re at so they know how to support you. I’ve had countless experiences where participant say they were having a really tough day, and wanted to come to class just to be around people and that’s wonderful. Some would do the warm up and stretch throughout the class to just be a part of things, others would try a move once or twice and support others, all of that is great if that’s what we can do to support you. Remember that you are not alone, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Be gentle with yourself, do what you can do, and communicate with others so you can be supported properly.

This is barely brushing the surface of the types of mental challenges you may face, but I hope it gets you thinking about your own training. Things will ebb and flow depending on other areas of your life and the mental side of things is layered just like the physical. For example, if you’re lifting heavy weights with a rotator cuff tear, you’re likely making the injury worse. You need to take care of the rehab before adding heavy weight. If you’re struggling with depression and are having trouble getting through the day, it’s not appropriate to worry about whether you’re stretching or not. It’s important to get back to functioning in your life first.

When thinking about your training, assess where you’re at. Are you struggling with your mental health right now? Do you have a large amount of stress that you’re dealing with? Or is life going quite well and you need to start practicing discipline? Regardless of where you’re at, things require different care and attention. It’s important to identify where you’re starting to know where you’re planning to go.

Stay tuned for talking about feelings when we discuss the emotional challenges!

Sarah Longpre