This was part of a recent EPYSA (Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association) publication.
We live in a culture that takes pride in being sleep deprived. People, soccer players included, brag about getting only four, five, or six hours of sleep a night. College and high school students will talk about pulling an all-nighters as if it’s a badge of honor. We take pride in our ability to tolerate suffering and yes, being sleep deprived is a form of suffering. But when we brag about it, are others really impressed? Are the negative side effects of sleep deprivation worth it? (Please refer to the list below.) Another factor that prevents soccer players from changing their sleep habits is poor judgment. When sleep deprived our judgement deteriorates. We fail to recognize how poor sleep significantly negatively impacts performance and emotional regulation. In addition, exhaustion causes the body to crave unhealthy food which is something all athletes need to avoid. Teenagers seem to be the most sleep deprived population. Eight to nine hours of sleep is recommended for the average adolescent in order to function properly. Unfortunately 70% of teens fail to get this much sleep, while half of them are getting less than seven hours of sleep a night. Some experts report that sufficient, restful sleep can increase one’s ability to store memories between 20-30%, increase learning capacity 40%, and increase creativity up to 60%.
The aforementioned information describes the average adolescent. Soccer players are likely to be more sleep deprived because of the time demands of the sport. As a result they start and finish homework and studying later. On the bright side of things, improvements have been made to help soccer players better take care of themselves. US Soccer’s player development initiatives suggests 7v7 and 9v9 for U12 and younger, as well as no more than one game per day. There have also been discussions in the college ranks to move soccer to a full year sport with one game a week instead of the grueling 2 games/four training sessions/one day off a week schedule.
Parents also might want to concern themselves with the potential long term effects of ongoing sleep deprivation, not only for their children, but also for themselves. New research is beginning to connect chronic sleep deprivation with Alzheimer ’s Disease. Scientists are learning that toxic proteins (Amyloid Beta) naturally build up in our brains throughout the day. Sufficient, restful sleep allows our brains to be flushed or cleared of this protein. Insufficient sleep prevents this “flushing” process. Experts believe that these proteins might contribute to that foggy feeling and when sleep deprivation is chronic it can eventually to Alzheimer’s disease.
This article explains how we often turn common stress into overwhelming anxiety.
-My boss critiqued me therefore I'm going to get fired.
-I failed a test and now I'm never going to get into college.
-My friends made plans without me so I must be I'm a loser.
-I missed that open goal/easy jump shot/save/split/pass/catch... so now I suck at soccer/basketball/hockey/sprinting/lacrosse/football...
Our brain regularly creates unrealistic conclusions based on minimal evidence. I always ask clients, "What evidence do you have to support that thought or belief?" Failure and the subsequent stress are an inevitable part of school, work, sports, and life. It is a lot easier to manage stress and bounce back when we do not add fuel (exaggerated thoughts) to the fire (stress.)
Inspiration can come from unlikely sources. This post was inspired by Henry Marsh's book "Do No Harm" and the 30 Seconds To Mars song "Alibi." My summer reading started with Marsh's book. He is a leading neurosurgeon and has operated on countless brains. His book gives an honest and unfiltered account of the psychological highs and lows experienced by a doctor who, every day, holds another person's life in his hands. He speaks of the tremendous ego and God-like complex needed to take the risks involved with brain surgery, along with the fear, depression, and inner pain that occurs when his decisions or mistakes cause paralysis or death. In order to become a successful brain surgeon, one must be able to emotionally recover from the most horrific failures over and over again.
I interpret the 30 Seconds To Mars song "Alibi" as an exploration of what happens when things don't go according as planned. "Crashing and burning, the inevitable end, and trial by fire" are all expressions for facing adversity and failing. But Jared Leto's chorus is "I fell apart, but got back up again."
The question that stirred in my head while reading this book and listening to this song is "Do you get weaker or stronger when you repeatedly fall down?" Most peple would be unfit to be a brain surgeon. Living with the pain of knowing that your mistake or accident caused someone's death is a psychological burden too great for most people. When describing the psychological make up of a neurosurgeon, Marsh says, "I suspect that you've got to be a bit of a psychopath to carry on, or at least have a pretty thick skin." His failures cause catastrophy at the highest level. However, we've all failed in our respective areas of life: school, friendships, marriages, work, finances, job interviews, personal health, sports... As I question how we respond to failure on a general psychological level, I encourage you to question how you respond to failure on a personal level. Have your failures made you weaker and caused you to become depressed, fearful, and ultimately reluctant to work harder and try again? Or have you your failures made you stronger and caused you to become smarter, a better problem solver, more resilient, and ultimately work harder to try again?
No warning sign, no alibi.
Were fading faster than the speed of light.
Took our chance, crashed and burned.
No, we'll never ever learn.
I fell apart, but got back up again,
And then I fell apart, but got back up again, yeah.
We both could see crystal clear
That the inevitable end was near.
Made our choice, a trial by fire,
To battle is the only way we feel alive.
I fell apart, but got back up again,
And then I fell apart, but got back up again,
And then I fell apart, but got back up again.
So here we are, the witching hour,
The quickest t tongue to divide and devour.
Divide and devour.
If I could end the quest for fire,
For truth, for love, and my desire.
And I fell apart, but got back up again.
Technology and over-planning have deterred kids from developing the ability to tolerate boredom. Many children struggle with not being faced with constant high stimulation. Smart phones and I-Pads offer children readily available and unceasing games, websites, and video clips. Problems arise when there aren't limits placed on usage. Technology deprives kids from developing the coping skills necessary to tolerate boredom. Kids who spend all free time in front of a screen do not have to problem solve when forced to create some form of entertainment.
The attached article also discusses the pitfalls of parental over-planning every summer activity for their children.
These ideas are applicable to most, if not all, professions.
There is an art to conducting therapy. It is a craft that requires awareness, intelligence, passion and discipline. The passion is fueled by the joy experienced when the therapist makes a unique interpretation transforming the perception of the client. An interpretation that shines a bright light on something previously concealed by the dark. An interpretation powerful enough to evoke emotion so strong it becomes the catalyst for behavioral change. Strong enough to begin the process of stopping bad habits of the mind and behavior while inspiring the arduous journey of forming new habits that are going to lead to the client to be more at peace with her/himself. That is the fun and energizing part of the art, but there is still the difficult discipline necessary to reach the heights of being a good therapist. The foundation for the discipline of therapy is created in grad school. The discipline is built through hours in the classroom, in the library, in internships, writing a dissertation, and forcing the mind to understand. But that is not enough. A good therapist cannot become stagnant after grad school. A good therapist must constantly challenge his/her own mind, recognize and improve weaknesses, and experience the stress of being a psychologist, all the while not giving up or taking short cuts. The discipline and passion come together when inspiration is found in the traditional: books, articles, workshops... But inspiration can also be hidden in plain sight, in nontraditional sources: music, nature, exercise, other professionals outside of psychology…
Now apply these same principles to your profession or passion.
The link below leads to an article describing the chills sensation (frisson) most people have experienced feel with powerful music. It is something that, if harnessed and reproduced, can impact performance on the field. Some people liken it to an adrenaline rush which can motivate and push athletes to be their best. I often encourage athletes to use music in their pregame routing to pump them up and this article explains some of the underlying biological principles.
This article does a nice job explaining the function and impact of the stress hormone, cortisol, which is helpful if introduced into the body on a limited basis because it prepares the body for action. This process is normal when we experience stress as it pops up from time to time. What is not normal is when we perceive stress all the time by perpetually imagining worst case scenarios. Under these conditions cortisol can become toxic with side effects like agitation, fatigue, poor focus, lowered self-esteem, clinical anxiety, and major depression.
As the weather beings to improve (hopefully) many people will shift their attention and bodies from the couch, gym, and yoga studios to the street, trails, and track. Running has so many physical benefits, but the mental benefits often lack understanding. I often encourage my clients to run or engage in some activity that raises the heart rate. Running has been proven to alleviate the painful symptoms of depression and anxiety, while boosting self-esteem and confidence. The article below explains how running helps the brain grow new neurons, improve memory, assist emotional regulation, provide clarity, and help with executive functioning.
Here is the segment in which I was interviewed for NFL Films. It is about self-talk in sports
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