By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, November 13, 2017
Every Monday on USASwimming.org and inside every issue of Splash Magazine, I answer questions emailed to me from swimmers around the country. If you have a question about swimming, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll try my best to answer your question.
I love swimming but ever since I started 6th grade, I have been super stressed out. I have always cared about my grades and want to continue swimming but it is hard to stay motivated. I don´t want to quit but I don´t want to feel so stressed out. Every day when I get home from school, I have to rush to get to practice. Most of my teachers don´t like me and yell. What do I do? Should I quit? But if I do quit then I lose all that hard work. I would go back to nothing.
-Stressed Out Swimmer
Don’t quit. Not yet.
You’re in probably one of the more stressful periods of life. This period of time when you’re trying to balance everything — when saying no to activities can be hard.
I remember when I was in school, so stressed out, like you. Too many activities. Too many extracurriculars. Too many aspirations, goals, expectations, and pressures. It seemed like I didn’t have any free time. It seemed like I had no time at all.
Except, looking back, I did. I had lots of time — once I learned how to say no. Like you, I rushed to afternoon swim practice after school. Like you, I cared a lot about grades, school, and academic performance. Like you, I felt very stressed, at times.
Then I learned how to say no: I said no to activities, like playing the piano. I took piano lessons since I was a little kid, but over the years, lost my passion for the activity, and I just needed to cut it out. I wasn’t really into it, and I wasn’t really passionate about it. I said no to soccer. I liked soccer, but I liked swimming more, and I wanted to be a better swimmer than a better soccer player. I said no to certain classes. I could have taken additional AP courses, but I wanted to take other courses, even if they weren’t as difficult. I said no to TV. Even though I loved TV, I knew it would just waste my time.
Saying no taught me that it was okay to say no. Sometimes, we feel like we have to say yes to everything. There are even books written about it — just say yes. Well, I’m more inclined to say no these days. No to preserve my free time. No to preserve my sanity. And I’ve learned that saying no might disappoint some people, but ultimately, in the long run, the only thing we have in this life is our own time. We have to protect it.
All this to say: You should write out a list of everything you do, every day. Keep track of how you spend your time for a week on a sheet of paper. Literally everything. Every minute. At the end of the week, review.
Do you watch TV for six hours a week? Do you spend two hours a week checking Instagram? Do you spend five hours a week deciding what to wear?
I’m telling you: Many of us think we have “no time,” but the majority of us actually do. We just waste it. We waste it on things that don’t ultimately matter that much — checking social media, shopping, saying yes to activities we aren’t passionate about, joining clubs we don’t really want to be part of.
If you’re stressed out to the point where you want to quit, I hear you. You could say no to competitive swimming. Only you can make that decision.
But before you do, write out how you spend your time, and see if there are other “no’s” that you might want to decide on first. Being stressed out, for a little while, is okay. Life can be stressful. What you need to learn now is how to manage that stress, how to embrace it, and how to use it. Use that stress to learn how to say “no” to activities, events, and people who will waste your time.
Then, once you know you’re spending your time wisely, go spend it.
I hope this helps.