How Do You Handle Setbacks?

Things don't always go the way you want. Flat Mat Yoga has some tips for what to do when that happens!

Newsflash: things don’t always go the way you want. GAH! Sometimes it’s an injury; other times it’s not passing minimum skills assessments or making the team. How do you handle setbacks when they happen?

A setback can be anything that pushes you away from your goal. Whether you broke your leg while scrimmaging, sprained your ankle by stepping off a curb the wrong way, or got 26 laps instead of 27, any physical or mental block can feel sometimes feel insurmountable.

Setbacks suck. Hard. Sometimes even minor ones can feel insurmountable. I’ve put together some info and tips to help with getting through times that feel kind of crappy so that you can come out ready to kick ass on the other side.

The Five Stages of Grief

First and foremost, your feelings are valid. Let me say that again, in bold: your feelings are valid. Whether you’ve broken a broken bone, gotten a concussion, or botched a transition during assessments, your feelings about what happened are valid, and you get to have them.

When you’ve been working hard to achieve something and something stops you, it’s likely that you’ll go through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. With a minor setback, you might work through each of those pretty quickly. If it’s something like a broken bone right before an important bout, it might feel tougher and take longer.

The different stages can also take different amounts of time. You might move pretty quickly through denial and bargaining and spend a lot longer in anger or depression, or vice versa. There is no one specific way to express your feelings, process them, or even feel them.

While you’re working with this stuff, it’s more than okay to ask for help from professionals or friends. F’reals. It doesn’t make you weak, or incapable of dealing with stress, or any other negative thing that you can come up with. <3

Things You Can Do When You’ve Had a Setback

  • Talk to your friends or teammates. Be sure to chat with folks who won’t dismiss your frustration/anger/sadness, because again, your feelings are valid. Often with frustration/anger/sadness comes the feeling that you should be isolating yourself. Try not to do that! Let your support network, you know, support you. You’d do the same for them! If you have a derby-related injury, I’d also recommend The Gimp Crew, which is a facebook group specifically for current skaters with injuries. You are not alone.
  • Take some time to wallow. You could have a wallowing day with a friend, or allow yourself to spend some time lying on the couch watching bad tv, or enjoy another guilty pleasure. Rather than trying to brush things off immediately, you can give yourself permission to take a little time (a few hours, a day or two, not the next month) to feel the grumps and not try to fix things.
  • Remember that something will happen. Whatever the situation is, it’s not going to be exactly that way forever. Broken bones mend. Cuts and scrapes and bruises heal. You talk to your coach or a more experienced teammate about how to improve at the skills you didn’t pass. You add a mental game component to your training. Whether the change is natural or initiated by you, something will happen.
  • Work on your mental game.  During the first few days of dealing with a setback, you get to feel what you’re feeling, because your feelings are valid. But if you want to move past this, you can’t wallow forever. That’s when mental game comes in. Shit happens, and you get to choose how you respond–or at least, you need to be able to hang out with the discomfort of things not going how you wanted.
  • Watch footage. Artoo Detoonate mentioned in Episode 12 of Flat Mat Radio that she started watching footage on the regular when she was recovering from an injury. It’s a great way to observe strategy and watch technique so that you’re still learning new things even if it’s not on-skates skills. And it could be a big help for your team!
  • Name your goal and make a plan. Whether your goal is getting back on skates after an injury or passing a specific part of assessments, name it. Write it down. Say it out loud. You need to know what that goal is in order to get there, and sometimes verbalizing it helps with feeling better, because you know what you’d like to have happen next. Depending on the setback, you’ll want to involve different people in this. If it’s an injury, you’ve got to listen to your doctor or physiotherapist. If it’s a skills thing, you’ll probably want to get input from a coach. Once you decide who needs to be involved, create a realistic timeline (ahem: if you broke your leg, don’t decide that you’re going to be back on skates in two weeks) with the steps to get there. The steps can be things you talk through with your support team, and should include lots of little mile markers/baby steps.

Last But Not Least…

Remember that you don’t suck even if you don’t achieve your goal within the timeline you set. Shit happens. Not everything goes according to plan. That doesn’t make your goal-setting and your physical and mental work any less valid. <3

Are You Blocking for the Wrong Team?

Lemony Kickit and Kandy Kakes, Bronx Gridlock 2007. Photo by Asa Frye.

Lemony Kickit and Kandy Kakes, Bronx Gridlock 2007. Photo by Asa Frye.

Are you blocking for the wrong team? If you’re beating yourself up every time you make a mistake on the track, then basically: yes, you are. And taking yourself out of the game–knocking yourself down mentally and emotionally for not doing everything right–isn’t going to help your jammer or the rest of your team.

How do you respond when things don’t go the way you want, expect, or hope?

It’s important to be able to keep yourself in check mentally during a scrimmage or bout. It’s okay to have “oh shit!” moments, or to falter and feel down on yourself when you feel like you’ve screwed up on the track. It’s quite normal, in fact–as long as you don’t spend the rest of practice/the bout/the night obsessing over that one moment.

And if you do? You’re in good company. You’re not the only one who’s ever done this!

Here’s the thing: once you recognize it as a thing that you do, you’ve got the power to change it. Don’t let your mental game stop you from getting out there and doing your best. Your best isn’t going to be Scald Eagle’s best, or Bonnie Thunders’ best, or Smarty Pants’ best, and that’s PERFECT. You’re an amazing and perfectly imperfect human and skater who’s kicking ass at being YOU.

Need some ideas for how to make the shift in your mental game? Here are six!

  1. Remember that one moment (or two, or five) doesn’t make up the entirety of who you are as a skater or human being. You’re so much more than that time you let the jammer get past you, or the time you didn’t make your 27/5, or the fact that your hockey stops need work. Think of one thing (or two, or five) right now that you’ve improved or done well at practice (or in life)!
  2. Remind yourself why you started doing this thing–derby, yoga, whatever–in the first place! Sometimes you’ve got to keep coming back to those little things that you love (for me, it’s the feeling of skating fast and of friends) to get your head back into it.
  3. Check your self-talk. You don’t suck! You made a mistake. It happens. You aren’t a failure, or terrible at derby or yoga! You’re learning. There is always going to be much more to learn, and you’re doing it. Notice when thoughts like that come up, and see if you can revise them.
  4. Enlist the support of someone you trust. I recently asked some close friends to slap me from their respective corners of the globe if they here me utter the words, “I’m a failure.” It’s resulted in a number of ridiculous GIFs being sent to me of scenes from tv shows with epic slaps.

    via GIPHY
    What you need from someone for support might be different; figure out what it is and ask someone you trust. (And if you need extra encouraging messages from me, email me, and I am seriously happy to send them to you. I think you’re fucking awesome, and I think you’ve got this.)
  5. Build your focus so that you don’t get so distracted by the little things. Flat Mat Mental Game is here for you with meditation mp3s and the Meditation for People Who (Think They) Hate Meditating e-book–in other words, lots of ideas for you to start incorporating more mindfulness and a stronger mental game on and off the track.
  6. When all else fails, take a little time after the moment to wallow. Set a timer, eat ice cream, cry, scream, punch a pillow or a heavy bag–and when the timer is up, have a dance party.

You get to choose how you respond. Choose to feel like you can move forward and keep working and striving. Because you? You’ve got this.

What’s one way you’re going to try to change your patterns?

Say hi!