March Madness. In our house it’s almost considered a holiday. When my husband was in college, he would actually grow his hair out all year and ceremoniously shave it the day March Madness began (I am speaking of a month long frenzy of college basketball play-offs, in case you are not the sporty type or are not living with someone who is). Part of the “Madness” is obvious. Tons and tons and tons of games–all-month-long. I am convinced that there is also an unspoken (or possibly out-spoken) “madness” that comes from family members of those who must watch all of these games.
I was trying to talk to my husband last night when I noticed he seemed a bit distracted (He was kind of dancing with his feet like a toddler who had waited too long to go to the bathroom). I asked him what was wrong and he just spouted, “March Madness.” Games had started and his mind was already downstairs on the couch, soaking in the energy of the competition. But over the years of being associated with someone obsessed with March Madness, I have joined in occasionally and listened to the pontifications of my husband regarding the whole experience. I have concluded that much of the “madness” comes from the upsets. The teams that were expected to win the whole tournament lose in the first round. Or a team who has never even made it to the tournament before rises and surprises. People are angry because their bracket is “destroyed in the first round” (and by “people” I mean the boys living in my house).
All this has got me thinking lately, primarily because I am sensing the “Madness” of my own life. I feel like I am a number one seed (ok, maybe more like a 3) for a good stretch of time and then inexplicably drop to the worst ranking possible. In sports lingo, I am in a “slump”. Even though all the statistics point to a winning trajectory, I just can’t pull it off. My slump effects my attitude and my motivation and my confidence. Things around me just seem to go in the opposite direction that I want them to go. If a situation has potential to go south, it seems to go there every time lately. It’s become almost comical (in an infuriating and discouraging sort of way). So I looked up some info on “Slumps” in the sports world, and realized the reasons and answers are pretty much the same with sports as they are with our lives.
The first thing sports psychologists tell us to do is to try to identify the root of the problem. One article said, “many athletes are unaware of the causes of a slump, so they look in the wrong places for a solution. As a result, they fall even deeper into a slump.”
Sometimes we have to look at our lives and do a check. Are we still doing the basics? Are we eating right, exercising, reading, praying, sleeping enough, spending quality time with friends, making time fun, keep first things first? Have we been neglecting any of these areas?
Much of the time I can see a lag in one or more of these areas. I need to tweak my game and get back to the basics. That can sometimes get me out of a slump.
But sometimes, those areas seem to be in working order. This is where it gets dangerous. This is when we start to blame outside sources. Our “teammates” if you will. Or stupid calls that the ref made. This is when we have to keep the focus on ourselves, since we are ultimately the only one we can do anything about. The slump will never end if we depend on what’s outside of us to fix the inside of us.
A few other tips for managing a slump:
1) Focus on the task at hand. Don’t get attached to the outcome. Just do the next right thing, one day at a time, and more than likely the slump will heal itself. Sometimes we just can’t figure it all out. We have to just keep moving forward and not quit. Remembering that “this too shall pass.”
2) Don’t compare. Don’t compare your insides with other people’s outsides. Or even your outsides with their outsides. Comparing will lead to despair and frustration, ultimately prolonging your slump.
3) Relax. When you try to force a solution before it’s time, you can exacerbate the problem. Trying too hard in life, just like in sports, typically makes the problem worse. Keep your eyes on the big picture. Don’t over-think or over-feel it. We don’t know what God has planned for us or others. We are always a part of the plan. Trust that He will bring it to fulfillment in due time.
And the number one thing to remember when you are in a slump, is that it’s not personal. Slumps don’t discriminate in sports and they don’t discriminate in life. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. The sun shines on the evil and the upright. Even the best sports teams and athletes go through slumps in their careers. That’s perfectly normal. It’s part of the deal.
EMBRACE THE MADNESS