This week I had the misfortune to have to go to the dentist. Until relatively recently, I’ve never been the slightest bit worried about going to the dentist – in fact, when we lived in Slovakia we had a fantastic one, who always left me feeling like I was a work of art he was striving to perfect! But what with one thing and another (we had a bit of an ‘Annus Horribilis’ in 2009/10) on return to the UK I ended up neglecting my regular check-ups. As a result, and after a nasty experience with a dentist/butcher I started to get a little bit nervous of going. Like when you have a bad skate at one competition and you have another one coming up.

I started to overthink.

Things had gone badly wrong with ‘Dentist/Butcher’ and even though I changed dentists to a lovely one, I had lost faith. The trust had gone. Now I had seen that dentists could make mistakes. That “you’ll just feel a sharp scratch” actually meant it might hurt quite a lot…

So when I sat in the dentist’s chair this week, I was feeling a tiny bit nervous. And overthinking.

The “What if..” gremlin had arrived. What if this dentist made a mistake?

And then the little filing clerk in my brain showed me the “All The Things That Could Go Wrong” file… Gee, thanks for that!
The dentist said “you’ll feel a sharp scratch and it might sting a little”… Gulp! I’d been expecting that… And THEN… I felt the most dreadful pain, shooting across my face! It seems I had a nerve in the wrong place (her version). In my version – she’d injected me in the wrong place.

The thing is – I knew she had to do another one, and now I was REALLY nervous.

“What if it happens again?” piped up the Gremlin, unhelpfully. And the little filing clerk cleared his throat, adjusted his glasses and quietly handed me a list of ALL THE THINGS THAT COULD GO HORRIBLY WRONG.

So you know what I did? I drew on all the resources I have within me to combat the gremlins and the filing clerk (who’s only trying to be helpful, bless him) – and get rid of all the negative self-talk.

I used affirmations.

I repeated to myself “What if it doesn’t (happen again)? What if it doesn’t? What if it’s fine?” I reminded myself that I’d had injections at the dentist many times before and they’d all been absolutely fine. Unclenching my hands from their vice-like grip on her arms, the dentist remarked that she’d never had THAT sort of reaction in all her 20 years… Logic was on my side. It was highly unlikely to happen again.

I relaxed, and it was absolutely fine.

My skaters will recognise this as a variation on the “I’ve done it before; I can do it again” affirmation. When you remind yourself of all the times you’ve managed to do something right, and that there’s no reason why it won’t go right on this next occasion.

I was really blown away by the power of that affirmation this week. By focusing on that one sentence I managed to completely obliterate any negative thoughts or feelings about the injection I was about to have – and it truly worked a treat!

So what can we learn from this?

  1. This stuff works!
  2. This stuff works for SO MUCH MORE than just your skating!
  3. Just because one competition didn’t go well, doesn’t mean the next one won’t.
  4. If you’re returning after an injury you can use affirmations to reassure yourself.
  5. An important lesson for coaches to reflect on the difficult thoughts which could be going through your skater’s mind if they have just changed coaches – and which they are very unlikely to share with you!
  6. Overthinking will almost certainly lead you in the wrong direction, send you down those negative pathways and present you with a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’

Next time you catch yourself overthinking it, remind yourself of this!

PS: you should always go to your dental check-ups on time. Neglecting anything which should be done on a regular basis almost always leads to bigger problems if you leave them! Trust me. I know (and the same goes for neglecting your mindset exercises too!). #AStitchInTimeSavesNine