25 January 2023
Contributor - Founder of One Wellbeing
Former NRL superstar and founder of One Wellbeing, Chris Lawrence, knows a thing or two about overcoming adversity. Here, he shares his thoughts on how you can do this too, without making any overly drastic life changes.
Most would agree that the last 12 months have challenged us in ways many haven’t experienced before. I’m not sure about you, but there were times during 2020 that I was just hanging on, just surviving rather than trying to get after my goals.
It’s something I’ve experienced before throughout my professional sporting career. During my 15-year NRL career, I faced multiple injury setbacks, two of which were likened to a car crash. Through all of these challenges, I was able to lean on some great minds for advice, as well as learn from my own experiences to know how to take back control when you feel like your back is against the wall.
So, how do we re-focus, manage the stress of external distractions and take back control in order to start moving closer to our goals? Fortunately, I’ve learnt three simple strategies that can allow you to do just that.
In 2011, only 5 months after making my Test debut for Australia, my career took a sharp turn, when in round 3 of the season, I dislocated my hip in a routine hit-up. I lay there on the field in agony, I was stretchered off the field and taken to hospital, where six doctors and nurses had to try and get my leg back into its socket. The injury was so rare it was likened to a car accident.
The next night, I found via the sports report on the news that this injury could signal the end of my career, with the very real possibility of me needing a hip replacement at 23 years of age. The most frustrating part was that I wouldn't know my fate for another three months, when I’d need to have another scan on my hip to see whether the hip socket had healed or not.
The uncertainty and lack of control took its toll on me mentally. The constant negative thoughts were stopping me from performing my rehabilitation and recovery in the way I needed. So, I needed to refocus my attention. I needed to understand what I could control in this situation.
The answer? MY thoughts and actions. The rest, I needed to let go. I then sat down with my physiotherapist and mapped out a day-by-day plan, which simply focused on the actions I needed to perform to get myself back on the field.
So, that’s what I did. I turned up to training everyday and focused my thoughts on what action or target I needed to complete that day. Days, weeks went past and before I knew it, three months had passed and I had my scan… All clear!
Two weeks later, I returned to the field in record time. By the end of that year, I would go on to represent Australia. If you’d told me I would achieve that a few months after my injury, I would’ve said you were mad.
There is so much in the world that’s outside of our control. When it comes to being your best, having an ability to focus on, or even master, what's 100% under your control is an essential mindset skill.
I’ve learned to use these strategies through any challenges I’ve faced since then, by simply asking myself, “What can I control?” The answer is always MY thoughts and actions.
So, next time you’re faced with a stressful or challenging situation, follow these three steps:
Identification - Do I have 100% control of the situation?
Awareness - Identify what is in your control in the situation.
Action - What action needs to be taken to rectify the situation?
It’s a simple way to feel on top at a time when you can quickly find yourself feeling like you’re fighting from underneath. When you realise what you can affect, you’ll feel much more in control of the overall situation.
Finding an anchor or something you can fall back on in order to ground yourself, reset and get back into routine, is crucial to manage stress and build resilience.
Three things you can draw on as your anchor are:
The solution may seem simple but that’s because it is; as the old saying goes...
“A lot of people know what they need to do, but do they do what they know?”
How often do we wake up, roll over, grab our phones and then go straight to our emails and social media? I know I was guilty of this for a long time!
Unfortunately, this immediately sees you start your day full of distractions. It takes you away from having clarity and a focus on what you want to achieve that day. Often these external distractions are the cause of our daily stress and anxiety. You want to be an air conditioner, not a thermometer.
What I mean by that is you want to set the temperature or set your mood and focus for the morning, the way an air conditioner sets the temperature. You don't want to be a thermometer, which reacts to the environment. This is what your phone does in the morning. Your body and mind have an immediate reaction when you open your emails or open social media.
Set the tone for the morning by controlling what you watch and do, before you’re distracted by the external noise that awaits from your emails and social media. If you can, try and get a small win in the morning. It gets you in the right mindset to start the day!
This could be something as simple as making breakfast, or putting on a load of washing. Seeing something started and finished will give a great feeling of accomplishment to carry into the rest of the day.
Now that I’m retired from professional sport, I have to ensure I consistently schedule time to exercise. Exercise gets your endorphins flowing through your body and instantly boosts your energy and mood.
I can notice a massive difference in my focus and clarity on the days I don't exercise. I use this as one of my motivations when I have a big day ahead and need to be focused and on my game. I know if I don't exercise then I won't be at my best.
For me, the easiest way to do this and create positive habits is to do this first thing in the morning. This means a 5:30am start to get up and exercise. Some days I go to a group class in a gym, sometimes I do some weights on my own or even something as simple as walking the dog in the morning.
Find something that you enjoy doing and that gets you moving and ensure you can commit to this time consistently.
“Consistent actions produce massive transformations.”
Exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand and we can’t reap the benefits of exercise if we’re not putting the right fuel into our bodies.
Often when we’re stressed or time poor, good nutrition is the first thing to go. That’s where My Muscle Chef has been a game changer for me. Having fresh, healthy food delivered to my door takes the stress away from worrying whether my nutrition is on track.
Having the comfort of knowing there’s one less thing to worry about really helps during stressful times, and it means that my health and nutrition won’t be sacrificed.
Creating good positive habits and ensuring your health is your anchor will allow you to weather any storm in your life, and give you the strength to grow and excel through the challenges you’re facing.
Mindfulness is about learning to be present in the moment, being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgement.
Being able to master the skill of mindfulness is extremely beneficial in helping to rid ourselves of a lot of the external distractions that can lead to stress or a lack or control within our lives.
During a major facial injury I suffered in 2019, I again struggled with the stress, uncertainty and the changes that occurred as a result of the injury.
A few weeks after my surgery, I was not in a good mindset. I had tried a lot of the other strategies that I’d learnt over the years but nothing was working. To top it off, I couldn’t exercise and I was on a liquid diet.
I went to visit the surgeon, as I was frustrated about the progress of my recovery. I talked through my frustrations with the surgeon, but I left the appointment feeling no better about the situation.
As I left the hospital, I was kicking stones, and letting the stress and frustration get to me. I had a victim’s mentality.
I walked into the lift at the hospital and saw a young boy and his mum. The boy would’ve been about 10 years old and he was standing with a drip in his arm. This boy was laughing and joking with his mum and that’s when it struck me; here was this kid, laughing and joking and enjoying time with his mum, despite whatever he was going through.
It immediately put things into perspective for me and brought me back to earth. It immediately made me feel grateful for what I do have and stop worrying about what I don’t have.
I went home from the hospital and immediately spent time trying to train the skill of mindfulness. Some of the mindfulness skills I trained in included:
Guided breathing techniques
Putting things in perspective
Any combination of these activities is a great way to ground yourself and will go a long way to giving you a calmer, more balanced disposition.
So, they’re the three steps, now it’s about action!
Don’t try and make drastic changes to your lifestyle and as you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Choose two things that resonate with you the most and commit to those things for a month! You’ll be amazed at the results you see in such a short amount of time!
I would love to hear how you go! Reach out to me on socials and let me know what worked best for you @chrislawrence04 @onewellbeing
To take control of your nutrition, view our Meal Plans and Packs here to make positive change in the most delicious way possible.
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