What helped you make it through the season?
It’s no secret that living and playing overseas is fun, exciting, and also a bit daunting at times. Some days it’s difficult to wrap your mind around the idea that you’re going to be away from home for “x” number of months — or that you haven’t had Chipotle or Taco Bell since you left the States. The thought of your extensive expat experience can be overwhelming, especially for athletes who are new to the world of playing sports abroad. The good news is there are plenty of tips and tricks to make your experiences enjoyable. There are three things I do that make passing the time easy and help maintain my sanity when I’m overseas, and I have yet to sustain a mental breakdown so I believe they are effective.
READING is a great way to free your mind. Maybe you had a bad game; a less-than-great day at practice; or you’re feeling overly homesick — getting lost in a good book forces you to focus on the details of the story and not on the scathing lecture you received from your coach earlier that day. I prefer Dan Brown and Stieg Larsson books — they are rich in detail, mystery, character and plot development. Audio books are great for long road trips when you inevitably get sick of all the music on your iPod. (PRO TIP: Audio books and e-books are great and convenient, and they’re 21st century marvels, but a hard copy paperback book is your best option. They are lighter and more compact than a hard cover book, and they will never run out of battery. There will be long road trips on planes, trains, and buses where all of your devices will die. If you’re like me and cannot get comfortable enough to sleep on a bus or a plane, a book will be a lifesaver.)
WRITING down your thoughts in a journal is cathartic. There is a reason people have been doing since the beginning of history. Writing down how you feel can help you sort out your emotions. I enjoy hand-writing the occasional letter to my loved ones — it’s a lost form of communication; and who doesn’t appreciate getting a hand-written letter? Hand-writing things forces you to think about what you’re going to put on the paper (spelling, grammar, punctuation, clear and concise thoughts, etc) even if it’s just for your own benefit, it takes a little more effort than just pecking at a keyboard. There is no spell check and no delete button when you write by hand, so when you go back to read those journal entries you don’t want to feel like a dummy when you realized you misspelled “baketball”. If you prefer to stay technologically relevant you can always start a blog, if you don’t have one already.
AVOID ARITHMETIC at all costs! By that I mean don’t count down the days until you go home. Before you left on your adventure you probably had every family member and friend ask you “How long will you be there? That long? Wow!” And every time you answered maybe you had a miniature panic attack contemplating the duration of your experience. That’s a totally normal feeling to have, but you don’t want to re-live that on a regular basis. Getting into the habit of counting down the days or weeks will only make it feel as though time slowed down. I learned first-hand that counting down only made me feel like I was trapped; it affected my mental toughness and I lost track of my personal and team goals. Once I refocused on the game and stopped counting days six weeks had passed and I barely noticed until it was close to the time of my birthday. It’s true what they say, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” The trick is to find things to do in your free time that are fun and engaging. If you’re too tired, sore, or broke to go site-seeing, exploring, shopping, etc. these tips will help you find your mental “reset” button.
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