Mike's Mailbag: When Pressure is Too Much

Mike's Mailbag: When Pressure is Too Much

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Monday, April 16, 2018

Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com.


Dear Mike,


My coach says that I’m being too hard on myself and pushing myself too hard. I want to follow his instructions, but I also want to get better. What should I do?


“Frustrated and Depressed”



Frustrated and Depressed,


I’d like you to learn how to occupy two thoughts simultaneously:


1. To be great, you must push yourself to the brink.

2. To have longevity, you must learn to let go.


Everyone needs a little pressure. Pressure forms great things — diamonds, foundations, straight ‘As and Olympic champions.

But too much pressure leads to damage. That damage might just be a small crack, at first, the result of too great of a pressure. But over time, that crack can widen, and possibly, undermine the entire foundation.

So how much pressure is too much? Only you know. Listen to your coach, take in your coach’s advice and guidance. But also, try to realize that pressure is both good and bad.

If the pressure is making you Frustrated and Depressed, my guess is, you probably are too hard on yourself. So, working on #2, learning when to let go, might be a good exercise for you.

Try this: Put your heart and soul into your workouts. Appreciate them. Embrace them. Love them. Have fun with them.

Then, when you leave the pool, let it go. Don’t think about swimming until you swim again. As soon as you walk out the door of the pool, embrace something else. School. Friends. Art. Music. Something else, not-swimming.

At first, this might be really hard for you. Especially if you’re like me, and you tend to fixate. Stop reading swimming websites—including this one! Stop pouring over heat sheets. Stop thinking about results and goal times. When you do inevitably think about swimming when you’re away from the pool, pause, recognize that thought, then let it go.

Mental fatigue comes easily, especially when you’re hard on yourself. So, try to embody both lessons: Use pressure to make yourself the best swimmer you can be—when you’re at the pool. Then, when you’re not at the pool, let it go.

I’m happy you’ve found a passion. But depression and anxiety are two sides of the same coin. Don’t beat yourself up. Try your best, swim hard. Then, take off your flippers, put on your shoes, and walk away.



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