Mental Blocks – we all experience them at some point (if not multiple points) in our aerial journey. A mental block is the inability to remember or think of something we normally can do. In the aerial world, we get these mental blocks when we try to do a specific move and, while our bodies have the capability and experience to achieve it, our minds get in the way by sending fear or doubt. Whether it’s getting our straddle from the air or getting into the proper setup for an intermediate drop, we will all, at some point, hit a mental block and start to question “what if I really can’t do this?” This seedling of doubt can easily grow and create more fears if not confronted right away. I am all too familiar with these kinds of fears and doubts, so here are some helpful ways I’ve found to overcome these mental blocks:
1. Believe in Yourself
I know this sounds cliché, but we can be our worst critics and often experience mental blocks when we don't believe in ourselves. Many times we’ll be frustrated and think “I’m not strong enough” or “I’m just not capable of doing this”, but most times the real problem is our lack of confidence. If we spend our time getting down on ourselves about not getting a move, then we only let that mental block grow stronger. Recognize that you do have the ability to achieve your goal; all it takes is more time, practice, or modification. Also, take the time to reflect on all the great things you’ve accomplished before reaching this mental block –build up confidence that is stronger than your doubt!
2. Talk to your Instructors and set up a Private Lesson
At AerialCLT, we pride ourselves on having instructors that are very caring and encouraging; we always want every student to succeed! If you are struggling, don’t hesitate to talk to your instructor about it – that’s why we’re here! Your instructor can identify if your challenge is more about trusting your strength, trusting the apparatus, or overcoming a fear of heights. Furthermore, by talking to the instructor, you can figure out the specific things you can do to improve: for example, maybe it’s practicing your set up multiple times near the ground so that you don’t blank out in the air or using knot work to train your body more. Your instructor can also help you set up a private lesson to get more one-on-one training. Private lessons can help you grow exponentially; they let you focus on exactly what you have the most trouble with, they let you learn at your pace, and they give you undivided attention.
3. Team up with a friend (You’re not alone!)
When experiencing a mental block, it’s easy to think that you’re the only one struggling, especially if you see your peers having no trouble at all. Well, you’re not alone! If there is a particular move or concept you need to work through, you can easily find a fellow aerialist that can split a private lesson with you. AerialCLT encourages a great sense of camaraderie at every class; you will have peers cheering you on and applauding when you overcome that mental hurdle. While each aerialist has their personal journey of self-development, each class promotes a team effort in overcoming fears, so don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers for encouragement too!
4. Redefine Expectations
Often, we’ll expect mastery of a move on our first couple of tries, and then get disappointed when we can’t get it. We let our frustration cloud our minds, which starts to make the class less fun. If you experience this, then you need approach class with a different mindset. Some mental blocks take longer than others to overcome. Instead of thinking about taking giant leaps in your aerial growth, think about taking baby steps; make mini goals and challenges for yourself in each class to get closer to your goal. By focusing on progress instead of perfection, you allow yourself to truly enjoy each class.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
The only way a mental block will win is if you give up. So to overcome it, you need to keep showing up and trying. The more you do something, the better you will become at it. Create a solid class routine and stick to it; eventually, whatever doubt in your mind will start to subside as your confidence grows which will overcome that mental block!
When you get stuck working through more complicated moves, going back to the basics and taking a fundamentals class could be a great way to regain confidence and reset your mind. There’s always something that can be improved upon, even when reviewing moves you’ve done over 100 times. Fundamental classes give you the space to explore and perfect sequences of basic moves, which will condition your endurance to handle more challenging ones. (By the way, did you know that there’s a Silks Fundamentals Part 2 which takes the basic moves to new levels?) Going back to the basics can build confidence while still adding a challenge such as doing longer sequences or performing a sequence backward.
If your mental block gets too strong, then trying something new may be the best solution. A new perspective gives your mind a break and allows you to explore again. AerialCLT currently offers classes in Silks, Lyra, and Trapeze, so it’s easy to discover something new! Even better, there tends to be overlap in the different moves you can learn on each apparatus which can be an excellent way to condition your mind and body to learn the same concept in various ways.
The student showcase is another outlet to discover and gain new perspective; a performance has you think through moves in a different way since you need to focus on how to sequence them seamlessly. The performance prep course has you go through so much repetition that you’ll learn all the ins and outs of the moves you use in your showcase. You can challenge yourself by using a move you struggle with in your performance; by the time you get to the showcase, you’ll overcome that mental block! Performance Prep also gives you the space to think of ways to put your personal flair on standard moves, so you can make even the most basic moves look stunning. The experience is a great confidence booster and will give you a newfound appreciation for the apparatus –it’s a must do!