At the end of a hard practice or tough competition,...
“Hold your head up!” “Put your hands above your head!” “Don’t sit down!” “Keep moving!” These were the demands of my coach in the middle of an intense workout and at the end of a race. When athletes give their all in practice or competition, they feel the sting of their efforts. Their body is in pain; their legs are heavy. They are both too tired to stand and too tired to sit down. Their number one priority at the moment is to catch their breath and bring their heart rate back to normal…rest. Some athletes might collapse across the finish line and relish in the moment of not having to run another step. Regardless of how tight their legs, or impossible it is to breathe, walk or stand up straight, Coach will holler, “Hold your head up! Keep moving.” Stopping, sitting, laying down is not an option, no matter how difficult the workout.
Holding one’s head high while the body is exhausted is essential. It keeps the oxygen flowing and makes it easier to breathe. Having one’s hands above the head elevates and expands the chest again, allowing more oxygen to flow freely. Walking versus lying down keeps the blood circulating and muscles from locking up. Both outcomes are significant for recovery. Once again, what’s best for the athlete in the moment of weakness and distress is the least natural and comfortable option. Until the body again reaches its resting heart rate, the athlete must hold her head up and keep moving.
We get hit with waves of “hard practices and competition” Beyond Athletics. Life is relentless to give its best shot: the first fifty potential clients you reached out to declined; you’ve been working for months on a project, and there’s still no end in sight; it seems no matter how many times you present it in different ways, your spouse is incapable of seeing your point of view; you’ve lost everything you’ve worked for with one word, one dumb decision, one diagnosis. All you want to do is collapse, lie on the track and pray that the pain goes away. I feel your pain but doing so for too long does more harm than good.
It feels like a cliché. In times of despair, it comes across as mere words and, quite frankly, patronizing. But to hold up your head and continue to move forward even at the height of desperation is HOW you BREATHE beyond athletics. This is how you face resistance and fight The Rig even after you’ve finished running. This is how you keep your body from shutting down. The event may have passed, but the feelings…effects linger, and they need to be tended to as well.
How might we tend to our emotional needs amid hardship to keep moving? Here are some ideas.
1. Worship. Praise. Surrender. “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! (Psalm 24:7-8)” Did you know the act of worship can extend beyond church services? Our praise is not confined. We can actively praise, worship and invite God into our career regardless of what industry we are in. We can seek God’s wisdom and insight on a work project. We can intentionally directly pray our work to God and invite the Holy Spirit into the process just as you would invite a colleague. When things get complicated, worship is our weapon. We can release the strain of the challenge to God, cast our cares on Him, through worship, and surrender that occupational challenge to Him no matter what it is.
2. Set your mind on things above. Colossians 3:2 says to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Verse 1 says, “Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” Sometimes, we need to stop for a moment to step back, regroup, rest and regain perspective. An exhausted athlete doesn’t just go straight into another run. She walks for a bit and allows her body to return to resting heart rate and regain its strength gradually. Christ is everywhere. There is a heavenly perspective to your job and business across industries. Keep your head up and keep checking in with God to stay connected to what that perspective is.
3. Think about anything that is “true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)” No matter how difficult the situation, you can always find something optimistic to turn your attention to rather than constantly focusing on the negative.
4. Find any and everything to be thankful for, then actually take the time to tell God, “Thank you.” Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Sometimes we may feel gratitude or know that we have plenty to appreciate but allow our gratitude to be a thought in the background of our mind. Practice sitting in the thought of all that you are grateful for and then take the additional step to stop, actually express that gratitude and say, “Thank you.”
5. Get on the same side with God. God is not the enemy. “God is with us; He is our leader… do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed” (2 Chronicles 13:12). We can at times see God as the antagonist in our story ¬– He is the inflictor of the conflict and the barrier between us and our desires. Instead, see yourself on the same side as God – fighting together against your opposition and working together toward your goals. He is for us (Ro. 8:31). His plans are to prosper you to give you hope and a future (Je 29:11). He is on your side, comforting you and fighting alongside you. Lean in, connect and depend on Him.
Keeping your head up through challenges is not pretending as though nothing is wrong. When a runner crosses the finish, she knows that her body is tired. She cannot deny the weight of her legs and lack of oxygen. She is aware of it, but she finds the strength to stay up and not collapse from the exhaustion. She can take control of her breathing; she can choose to keep walking despite how she is feeling. Even if you have to stop for a moment and rest your hands on your knees, reclaim your composure, put your hands above your head, hold your head up and keep moving!
- What gives you optimism?
- What lessons have you learned through past challenges?
- What is something – anything positive that you can find within your current challenges?
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