Stay Calm, Be Strong.

Before getting to today’s article I wanted to point out a new, free of charge, feature on the IE website.  We’re now providing daily workouts for anyone interested in doing functional movement workouts.  You’ll find these workouts in the “Daily Workouts” section.

We program workouts 5 days per week with Wednesday and Sunday always serving as active recovery days.  Additionally, if you do a different workout and want to share your results with the IE community feel free to add your results to that days workout in the comments section.  We also encourage folks to share the spiritual work they’re doing each day as well.

Finally, if you’re just starting out and aren’t quite ready to sling kettlebells and sandbags around we’d encourage you to begin with our 40-day Intentional Wellness plan which can be accessed, free of charge, by completing the form at the bottom of this article (click through to website if you’re reading this via RSS feed or email).  We can also send additional workouts once you complete the first 40 days.

Now, today I’d like to focus on a particular aspect of mental toughness.  Specifically, I want to explore how we can respond when facing physical and spiritual adversity.

As you know Mike and I believe our physical lives, including the time we spend working out, and our spiritual lives are closely united.  As such, my advice for how we should face adversity – no matter the situation – is the same.

Here’s the advice.  First, smile.  Second, say this phrase (or something similar) out loud or in your mind, “Stay calm.  Be strong.”

Here’s an example.  Imagine you’re in the middle of a grueling workout and it hurts.  Bad.  You want to quit but, somehow, you find a way to continue.  When you hit this redline point and you’re not sure what to do I want you to force yourself to smile.  And the smile should be as big, and real, as you can make it.

I know… you think I’ve lost my mind.  I haven’t.  You see smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that help to fight off stress. Additionally, the feel good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are released when we smile. And, believe it or not, this not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate!

And if this isn’t enough to convince you to smile during that next workout… know this.  Smiling also causes endorphins to be released which act as natural pain relievers!  So, make no mistake, smiling is no joke.

Now, once you have that smile working the next thing I’d like you to do is say the following phrase out loud or in your mind… “stay calm, be strong.”

You see, if you’re anything like me adversity can create a sense of panic.  Staying with the workout analogy.  It’s easy to send yourself into a frenzy when you’re struggling to breathe.  But, freaking out about the situation is only going to make things worse.  So do your best to control your breathing and stay calm.

At this point, you’re already feeling better as a result of that smile… and you’re doing your best to stay calm.  The last piece of the adversity puzzle is to be strong and never give up or give in.  Obviously, this doesn’t mean to be reckless and hurt yourself… but, in most situations, finishing that last 400 meter run without walking is doable.  Yes, it’ll hurt.  But you can do it.  Be strong!

This now leads us to how the simple acts of smiling and positive self talk can impact our spiritual lives.  And, to be sure, I believe, with all my heart, they can.

You see, when we’re facing the temptation to sin smiling is likely the last thing on our mind.  Instead, we’re probably too busy rationalizing why what we’re about to do isn’t that bad… that we can just go to confession on Thursday.

So, instead of being weak we should stand up tall and smile.  Smile because you know God loves you and is proud of you for saying no to sin.  Smile because Our Lady loves you and is proud of you.  Smile because you know you’ll be far happier in the state of grace than you will in the state of mortal sin.

We also need to stay calm and be strong while also gaining control of the situation.  This may mean leaving the place you find yourself in.  This may mean hanging out with different people.  This may mean getting an online accountability partner.  Just gain control.

But, no matter what, when sin is softly whispering in your ear and you feel your heart rate beginning to increase… take a few deep breaths… then smile and tell yourself to stay calm and be strong!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!