Winter’s Toll

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I hope you are enjoying the Holiday Season and the peacefulness of winter, nature’s time of rest and rejuvenation. It is truly a time of self-reflection, connection with love ones, holiday festivities, and the excitement of an upcoming new year with the opportunity to redefine one’s self.

But for many, December (or winter in general) can be a tough time emotionally and physically. I am reminded of this as my own energy is waning and my mental focus is harder to come by right now. The problem for many is that it is not usually just one thing that is affecting us. For me, chronic and annoying health conditions, not being able to exercise (because of said health conditions), lack of sunlight, being pulled in too many directions, and making poor food choices are all contributing this week. 
The most common reason people have a decrease in energy, focus, and positive moods? Lack of sunlight which can lead to a decrease in Vitamin D. Read more about Vitamin D deficiency.   Lack of sunlight can also lead many people to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

There are things we can do to improve how we feel. Below are strategies and resources to help you (or your loved ones) improve your health and overall wellbeing in these colder, darker winter month. Seek medical attention if your symptoms are severe or worrying you.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if you or someone you know, is suffering from depression (read symptoms of depression) or is not able to make progress, a mental health professional is the best first step. You can find one near you at Psychology Today

Winter Strategies: start small and build

  1. Take Vitamin D
    • You can get vitamin D from food but many of us will need a supplement in the winter months. Not all supplements are created equal, Vitamin D is not readily absorbed in all it’s commercial forms. Look for a Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K combination. 
    • See your doctor and get tested to see how low your Vitamin D levels really are. 
    • Everlywell offers a home test kit for vitamin D levels. If you want to order one of Everlywell’s tests, contact me for a 15% discount code. Read more at Everlywell.com
  2. Get Outside
    • Nature is the best medicine. Getting fresh air and sunlight can do wonders for your health and well-being. Take a quick walk at lunch or park a little farther away when doing errands. 5 or 10 minutes here and there can add up. 
  3. Connect
    1. Don’t hibernate. We are social creatures; even introverts. Accept that invitation. Call a friend and family member. Meet for coffee, lunch, or dinner. Go see a movie with someone. Invite someone over for dinner. Take a class or workshop. At work, get up and go talk to that co-worker instead of sending an email.  We need connection. Feelings of isolation can increase depression and mood disorders. 
  4. Get Organized
    • Feeling frayed, unfocused, and unsuccessful can have detrimental affects. Use your calendar to make time for those things that are important to you. Set reminders. Make lists. Start your day by looking at your calendar and to-do list and picking the 3 most important things that must get done, anything else is icing on the cake. Do not rely on your memory. 
  5. Exercise
    • It is a fact, exercise boosts moods. Getting up and getting your heart pumping and blood moving is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. Although we should get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, some is always better than none. Start small. Even 5-10 minutes here and there can add up and boost your mood. 
  6. Eat Smarter
  7. Enjoy a hobby
    • Doing something you enjoy and that disconnects you from work, your to do lists, and your thinking brain will help you feel happier and more relaxed. Paint, listen to music, cook, photograph, etc.
  8. Do Good
    • Helping others can help you feel better about yourself and boost your mood. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry. Volunteer with your local Council on Aging by checking in on homebound seniors. Donate food to a local pantry. Check your local government’s website for volunteer opportunities. Doing good feels good.
  9. Practice Gratitude
    • Making the switch from negative thoughts to positive thoughts can help boost mood. For example, instead of focusing on how much you can’t do or how cold you are, make a list of all the things you like and appreciate about winter. Make a list of all the good things in your life and really feel that gratitude. It’s a natural instinct to focus on our fears, dangers, and stressors but doing so too much can be detrimental. Choose love. Choose to focus on the benefits of whatever is causing an issue. The more you do this, the easier it becomes.

When we are cold or in a funk, it can be hard to get started.  Motivation may be lacking. But just get started no matter how small the action. Visualize yourself doing what you want to do, schedule it, and then make yourself do it.

The first step is the hardest.

Focus on the positive outcomes and find meaning in what you do every day.

 

 

 

What would you do if men had a curfew?

If men had a curfew

The other day I was sitting with a group of wonderful women and one of them posed the question…

“What would you do if men had a 9pm curfew?”

Such a simple question and yet so powerful. Just thinking about this brought about immediate physical and emotional changes. My stomach relaxed, my soul lightened, and I felt free. Wow! What would I do if I knew nothing bad would happen to me?

I would go for a walk at night

I would sleep with all the windows open

I would sleep outside

I would dress differently

I would do more things alone at night

I would park farther away

This simple question made me realize how much I live in fear of men. How much I tailor my life to avoid conflict, unwanted attention, and potential assault. I knew it to some extent but I hadn’t been really aware of how much I limit my life because of that fear. It’s like an invisible jail constructed of emotions.

“1 IN 4 GIRLS AND 1 IN 6 BOYS ARE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED BEFORE AGE 18”

This is where that jail comes from; messages received as children and reinforced by people like the so called “First Lady” who tells women not to report assault with out evidence, but men assaulted by priests as children are readily believed and actions are taken.

THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE NOW.

What can we do? (because without having choices we continue to feel victimized)

  1. Believe and support victims
  2. Speak up/Speak out
  3. Ask the good men in our lives to speak up and join us
  4. Support groups such as PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment) to help “shatter the silence of sexual violence”.

PAVE on Facebook

PAVE website

So, I ask you again…. What would you do if men had a 9pm curfew?

The Reset

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Decisions. Decisions. Chocolate or Fruit?

“RESET” has been a theme lately for me and I think it may be a key to making progress on our goals. Here’s why…

I recently started going to the gym every morning at 5am. It turns out to be a great time for me because I am already an early riser and go to bed early. I get my exercise in before the kids get up and the exercise does not cut into my work time. When I exercise in the morning, I have more energy, I make better eating choices, I can think more clearly, I am focused, and I am more efficient. I am happier!

Getting up so early in the morning can be daunting when you just want to stay cuddled up in a warm bed. So, I focus on how it will make me feel and how productive and happy I will be. I also focus on the social aspect of it.  There are a bunch of other people who routinely hit the gym at 5am too.  Even though I do not talk to anyone, they become motivators for me. I know they will be there and if they can get themselves out of bed to workout, so can I. I know that I am not alone in this crazy endeavor. They are my support, even if they do not know it.

Coupled with my early gym activity is the fact that I joined Weight Watchers to help me RESET my eating habits. WW works for me because its flexible and the focus is on healthy eating/good decisions.  For me to eating healthy, I need to plan and prepare – something I often help my clients work on. Also, logging what I eat keeps me more mindful about what I am putting in my body. I don’t really believe in dieting, I believe in eating a balanced diet. So when I get stuck on the cycle of eating too much sugar or eating mindlessly or because I am bored. The WW plan helps me get that behavior on track while maintaining some balance too.

When the weekend comes, it is easy to go off the rails (sometimes I just need/want to) but I make that decision consciously. Most weekends I don’t want to write down what I am eating and I want to sleep in. So I do just that but I still try to make choices with intention instead of with self-indulgence. Life is about balance. You can be healthy and enjoy life. They are not mutually exclusive. You don’t have to be gluttonous to be happy.

So Monday is my reset day. When the weekend has gone to the birds and I am bloated and feeling lazy. I know that on Monday, I will wake up early, go to the gym, and eat a sensible breakfast and lunch. If I can make good decisions early in the day, I have a better chance of continuing those healthy behaviors and feeling physically and mentally wonderful! It doesn’t always work but tomorrow is ALWAYS a new day to reset.

I don’t write down everything I eat ALL the time; just when I am struggling to get back on track. Each one of us is unique and may have a different solution to our reset plan. That’s great. The key is to have a reset plan for whatever behavior sends you off the rails.

Another reset for me is my schedule. What works for me is to sit down every morning and determine what is most important to get done that day. I look at my schedule for the week and fill in when I can work, when can I walk the dogs, when can I have meetings, etc. Sometimes I just go on autopilot and miss some things that are important to me OR I spin my wheels. This morning ritual is good to keep me on track and get me back on track when I have skipped it one too many times.

Never think failure.

This is life and it’s messy.  That’s the fun!

Just have a personal reset plan.

 

Note from Kim:

If you need help developing your own reset plan, email me to schedule a conversation so I can learn a little more about you and what you want to do. 

Chill

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Recently, my daughter turned me onto the Chill App.  This app sends you a positive message every morning and sends reminders during the day to breathe, relax, take inventory of your emotions or stress, etc.

At first, I was not interested. The last thing I want are more reminders, alerts, and noises from my phone. However, she insisted. What teenager likes positive self-help stuff? So, I tried it. Besides, it would give us some common ground.

I have to say I REALLY like it. I love the quote every morning. I am finding the little IMG_5086reminders throughout the day to be exactly what I needed. They are not invasive or annoying. They are actually helping me. I hear the “ding” and think “oh, I should take a breath” or “am I tightening my shoulders or clenching my jaw?” or “is my mind obsessing over some thought or event?”

This application really can help you become more mindful and more aware of stress acting on the body.

If a high school student can find a benefit in it, maybe you can too.

Try it and let me know what you think?

Let’s make the world a better place, one simple moment at a time.

 

 

 

What is sexy?

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Today, I went on a photo shoot with a photographer friend of mine. I was serving as the test model for a collection of fine art, lifestyle images. When I asked what clothes I should bring, she answered “wear what makes you feel sexy”.

Sounds like an easy request, but it wasn’t.  What is sexy? Is it dressing provocatively? Is it showing cleavage, legs, or a bare midriff? Is it a pair of shoes or heavy eyeliner? Is it lace,  leather, or silk? Is it tight body hugging clothes or barely there outfits that leave little to the imagination?

Yes and No.

Being sexy is an individual opinion. What is sexy to one may not be sexy to someone else. It’s all a matter of personal preference. It’s subjective. Everything can be sexy; it’s all about how you feel at that moment. I think it is about what makes you feel good and what you find attractive. I don’t think its only about attracting a mate or attracting attention. I think it can be an internal feeling of self-love and self-attraction.

So, as I perused my closet looking for outfits, I had to define what made me feel sexy.  I realized that sexy for me is Confidence and Strength; the ability to stand tall, head held high, and a sense of “owning it”. To me, being comfortable in my own skin, is sexy.

So what did my collection of CLOTHES include? Well, I brought a comfortable pair of slightly baggy girlfriend jeans, high heeled tall leather boots, a halter-top summer jumper, a flowy kimono scarf, a choker necklace, a long goddess necklace, big earrings, rings on my index finger, and a flowy, low-back top. What else helped me feel sexy? The wind blowing through my hair, being barefoot in nature, and open and outstretched arms.

In reflection of this little mental exercise, I realized I don’t give being sexy much attention. After being married for 21 years and climbing up on 50 years old, it’s just not on the top of my to-do list. But it made me feel good to feel desirable, comfortable, free, and full of self love. Whether or not I will try to be or look sexy more often is not really the point BUT taking time to harness that feeling is worth it.

So thank you, Carol, for asking the question and providing me an additional opportunity to feel alive and comfortable in my own skin.

So what makes you feel sexy?

What does sexy mean to you?

Is it strength and confidence or something else?

I would love to hear your take on it.

 

 

 

Time, Time, Time

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We all wish we had more time. There is not a person alive, that I have met, who has ever said “I have all the time in the world to do whatever I want”. It’s always “I don’t have enough time” or “I am too busy for….”.

Well, that’s life. We all have things we need to do to live and for society to function. However, I think many of us spend too much time on things that are not important to us and don’t make time for our top priorities…like family, self-care, hobbies, rest, our health, a career or lifestyle change, etc.

For example, for me, Facebook is a time suck. I can think I am going on it for 10 minutes but 1 hour later I am grumpy and stiff from sitting and scrolling. In this scenario, I lost 50 minutes I could have used to meditate, read, work on my newsletter or an upcoming event, or return a call. Heck, I could have prepped healthy snacks/meals for the week or have gone for a walk. So now, I limit my time on social media so I don’t waste my free time, but I don’t feel deprived, and I can have time for what is most important to me…and it’s not surfing the web.

There is also an app for that. (of course there is)  She Knows: programs to limit time on social media

Managing your calendar is especially important for people who do not have a regular schedule. When each day is different, it’s hard to get into a routine. For me, there are days that I even need to schedule time for my shower, just to make sure my schedule is manageable, I get done what is most important to me, and I don’t over-extend myself.

If you want more time for what you truly love…get organized and just schedule it. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. Make a place holder in your calendar and set a reminder. If it’s important to you, it’s important to give it the attention it deserves. Almost all of us have some time in our schedules available or where we are wasting time.

When I work with my coaching clients, every goal is defined by a day, time, duration for a very specific action they want to accomplish in the week.  They ALWAYS come back saying how much that strategy worked and how they got so much more accomplished. Even those that really fight that level of commitment do come back to say how much it helped…IF what they are doing is important to them.

So, if you really want to do something. Put it on your calendar. It can always be moved/delayed if something comes up, but do not delete and forget about it.

Your personal priorities are important and deserve your time. Do not give yourself away. Create time boundaries that protect what is most important to you.

If you do this, I think you will find that you feel more focused, energized, and accomplished.

 

PS: Social Media addiction is real and growing. Read this article by LifeWire on ways to beat Facebook Addiction if you or someone you know is struggling to gain control over their Facebook usage.  Beat Facebook Addiction

Tips for the new school year

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For parents and kids alike, the new school year can be exciting and full of new opportunities. It can also be a source of stress and frustration. Parents are inundated with papers to complete and return, upcoming events to record, check writing, meetings, coordinating schedules and rides, after-school activities, etc. For students, it can elicit feelings about being successful, accepted, supported, and safe, popularity and fitting in, with who will they eat lunch or what will they eat, what to wear, how will they get to school, etc.  The lists are never-ending.

IF you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of parent and IF that works for you AND your kids, then great. You can stop reading now. For the rest of us…I hope you find something that will help you with the summer-to-school transition.

So what can parents do to help minimize all this emotion?

  1. Acknowledge it. First, we have to take our heads out of the beach sand for a moment and realize that this is a transition and it is coming up quickly. Also acknowledge this transition can be hard on us and our kids. Ignoring it won’t make it so.
  2. Prepare your mind. Make a list of all the things you know will be changing and coming your way. Get it out of your head and onto paper. This may help to relieve the internal mental churnings and allow you to observe the list and think about possible solutions for each item. For example…
    • If you know that the paperwork trail is overwhelming to you….maybe you can think about creating a place for all school forms to go so they don’t get lost.
    • Or if you know that the busy schedule gets you stressed, plan to take a little time each day to relax or exercise or do some other actviity that helps you reduce that stress so you can be more present and positive.
  3. Sleep. I don’t know about you but our sleeping patterns change in the summer: later nights lead to later, slower mornings. Decide whether you need to start going to bed and getting up a little earlier each day as you get closer to that first day of school OR will you bite the bullet and just get up early for that first day, struggle for a few days/weeks and let your body adjust to the new routine? Whatever works for you, but make the choice.
  4. Healthy Meal Planning. The new school year may also bring changes and challenges to meal planning. You can do a little prep work here too.
    1. Think about what worked in the past.
    2. Research and save recipes and meal ideas that are healthy easy, and quick in a file or on pinterest for easy access.
    3. Use a whiteboard to write the meal options/ideas for the week
    4. Create a snack bin
    5. Put out veggies (and fruit) after school. Kids will pick at it as they walk by.
    6. School lunch… discuss with your kdis about making healthy choices
    7. Bag lunch…. find creative and healthy options so they don’t get bored.
    8. Share dinner time responsibilities. This is great if you have older kids but younger kids can help out too.
  5. School supplies. Getting all those supplies can be expensive and stressful for some. My daughter loves shopping and organzing her supplies, my son hates it. Here are some things we do…
    1. Make a organized list.
    2. Get in a mindset of fun
    3. Get creative…my daughter likes to color coordinate classes. The best part is that it helps with organization all year long.
    4. Re-use…whether it’s from last year or a hand-me-down, if it’s in good shape why buy more?
    5. Set your priorities… what is more important to you? time or money? Shop accordingly.
    6. If you are able, buy backpacks and supplies for local children who cannot afford it.
  6. Homework.  It’s coming, why not prepare for it. Create a space that is welcoming and conducive for homework…quiet, well-lit, distraction-free, and comfortable.  Allow your kids to help create and decorate the space.
  7. Visualize a great year. What does it look like? What does your student want out of this year? Talk about it and set some goals. Create a vision board or a sign to serve as a reminder and motivator.
  8. Talk about fears and anxieties. Discuss steps that can be taken to reduce the anxiety so your student can feel more in control and prepared. Also make sure perspectives and expectations are realistic. Help your children develop tools to handle real life. Plus, always get professional help when needed. Here are some other ideas to consider…aikido blog
    • exercise routine
    • tutoring
    • school guidance or other services
    • academic coaching
    • therapists
    • health and lifestyle coaching
    • activites and interests outside of school

What do you do to help with the school year transition?

please share your ideas

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You are a good mom

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This week I met with a friend for coffee. During our time together, we began talking about our kids, like any mother eventually does. Her kids are much younger than mine, so her stories brought back old memories…both good and “bad”.

In the telling of her stories, I could see in her eyes: joy, fear, guilt, frustration, anger, hope, confusion, love…all those emotions our children elicit from us on a daily basis. It reminded me of a time when a stranger made me cry.

Many moons ago, I took Jordan to lunch at Applebee’s after picking her up from preschool.

NOTE: I was a fairly new mom and parenting didn’t always feel natural for me. I struggled emotionally.  I was a task-master. I loved working and struggled with being a stay at home mom. I did (and still do) not like to be uncomfortable, physically or mentally. To me, obstacles need to be overcome, a solution to be found. Well, in parenting all of these traits can be counter-intuitive and make parenting (and life) that much harder. My true person has not changed but I worked really hard to adjust my mindset and grow into being a better, more balanced parent. and, by the way, I am still working on these traits so I can be more accepting and present.

So, we are at Applebee’s. I am sure I encouraged 3-year-old Jordan to order for herself, we were playing games, and/or I was asking her questions and showing genuine interest in her and her day. I know I was praising her for actions and behaviors (I love psychology so THAT I knew to do).  I don’t really remember all the nitty-gritty details. But a man came over to our table and said to me “YOU are a good mom.”

Even now, as I hear that memory in my head, I cry. How nice it was to hear a kind word from a stranger who had no ulterior motive or any pressure to do so. It is not very often someone compliments us. When that compliment is about something you feel so in adequate or insecure about, it makes it that much more meaningful and emotional. Mothers are rarely complimented. Shamed, yes. Judged, yes. Praised? Hardly ever.

The memory of this kind man is one of the most important memories I hold onto. It helps me through hard times with my kids. It reminds me that I do have some natural parenting skills or instincts. It is the kindness I need, when no one else is offering it.

I didn’t get a chance to tell my friend what a good job she was doing with her children (and she truly is). She is a natural mother, although it may not always feel that way to her. So I sent her an email and explained to her what I observed in our conversation and told her that she was a good mother. She seemed very appreciative. I know she will hold onto those words in tough times. They will help her build self-trust.  I know this because I have been there. I am still there.

It is SO important to be kind and give words of encouragement and positive feedback, to our friends, family, co-workers, even strangers; maybe especially strangers. None of us hears it enough. We get plenty of judgement, name-calling, put-downs, and negative feedback. Hell, check out social media if you don’t believe me. But in real life there is not enough encouragement, empathy, and kindness.

On the flip side, giving a compliment can bring up some deep-seated emotions. I know I got emotional when I told my friend she was a good mom. When I want to say “thank you” to a soldier, I get so emotional that I can’t get the words out. I know their family’s pain and the sacrifice they made. I grew up with it, so it brings up some strong feelings from my childhood. One day I will find a way to get the words out. For some people, this type of emotion is scary and something they avoid at all costs. But in the end, you both will feel better. It is a win-win.

So if you see someone doing a good job, tell them. If you see a mom being a good mom, tell her. If you see a mom struggling , be supportive maybe give her a compliment on what she is doing well. It will help her more than you ever know.

Compliments are good for the soul for both the giver and the receiver.

Why not make a committment to compliment one stranger this week?

See how it goes.

I would love to hear your story and I am sure others would to.

 

The Case for Coaching Teens

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Many people ask why I am focused on coaching teenagers. My answer is easy. I like teens, their energy and outlook on life, and I want to see them be successful. To me, they are mini-adults with a zest for life! I gain as much from them as much as they learn from me.

High school students are under an enormous amount of stress to perform by teachers, parents, colleges, coaches, peers, and themselves, and yet, many do not have the emotional tools to handle the level of stress they are experiencing. For these students, developing resiliency and a growth mindset is very important so they can interpret mistakes as opportunities, instead of fearing them or considering them failures.

I recently attended a seminar with Suniya Luthar, PhD, whose “research involves vulnerability and resilience among various populations including youth in poverty, children in families affected by mental illness, and teens in upper-middle class families”. She reports that a caring adult relationship is a strong protective factor for drug and alcohol misuse in high school students. This is consistent with the messages I learned in my teacher-training program and the experiences I had as a teacher.

In many cases, health and wellness (or lifestyle) coaching can provide that supportive relationship, while helping this population achieve their personal goals. Parents and teachers tend to be in an authoritative position, but coaches are not and therefore receive less resistance.

Coaches have no motives other than to support our clients and help them overcome obstacles and find success. We do not tell our clients what to do; we help them find what works best for them. This is powerful for an emerging adult, who wants independence but needs more tools, experience, and confidence making decisions, asking questions, and reflecting on their learning.

Kids do well if they can.  Provide the tools and the support and watch them flourish!

 

Student Athlete Performance

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Next month, I will be leading a workshop for a girls’ hockey prep school/college showcase at Breakaway Ice Center in Tewksbury. The topic is “Improve your health, Improve your performance”.

You might not think this is a necessary conversation but truly it is.

Do you know how many times I see student athletes walking into practice or a game with a Dunkin Donuts Koolatta or some other nutrient-lacking, chemical-laden fast food? All the time! You would be amazed at how many student athletes are overweight, go to their sport hung over, or struggling to control stress and anxiety during high pressure moments.

This demographic is not immune to the same temptations and health concerns of every one else.  Although they exercise and are usually physically fit, they do not always have balanced fitness routine, they are not necessarily mentally or emotionally fit, nor are they eating foods that support the body’s need for nutrition and energy. In time, these bad habits will catch up to them.  And for now, I guarantee, they are not playing as well as they could.

There was a recent article on the benefits of pilates for hockey players. From In Goal Magazine, “Hockey Players and Pilates Reformers“. It briefly discusses how pilates and yoga can help bring the body in balance.

“Hockey players spend most of their time in a crouched over position. Because of this, their bodies are extremely imbalanced.”

Physical fitness should not be the only focus of the student athlete. Mindfulness is becoming increasingly more popular among professional athletes says “The Mindful Athlete: Can Preventative Mental Health Improve Performance, Too?” on Vice Sports. Our brains cannot function when they are stressed and anxious. A calm, centered mind is more creative and capable of functioning in the most stressful environments.

As a parent, I know how hard it can be to provide healthy meals and a balanced enviroment while running from rink to rink, game to game. Sometimes you do what you have to do and, from this, we helped to establish these bad habits.  But teens can take control over their own behaviors and work with their parents and coaches to determine the best choices for them.

Health and wellness coaches, like myself, are available to work one-on-one with student athletes to determine what habits are holding them back and how they can take charge and perform at their preferred level of performance. Not all student athletes WANT to function at their optimal level and that is okay. For those that do, how they treat their mind and body should be as important as going to practice.