Running a martial arts school and depression can go hand in hand. It can be lonely at times. When I started teaching I thought I’d made a huge mistake. I missed my fellow students at my old school, I missed my own training. It was a big change. Added to that the problems of poor attendance because I didn’t know how to build a school, and I had a problem. Before long you start taking things personally and thinking you’re not up to the job. Add to these issues the fact that you’re probably not training as hard, you’re getting less exercise, and your responsibilities just doubled in size.
Running A Martial Arts School and Depression
At this point it’s easy to start feeling sorry for yourself. Even though you have essentially got your dream job of owning a school, the reality can be different to the fantasy, as in everything! There’s not a lot of people around to help you. People either don’t know how to help or don’t want to. If you’re lucky enough to have a good support network you should use them.
If you’re seriously depressed you need to seek professional advice. Not doing so can be part of the problem. One of the characteristics of a long term martial artist is stubbornness! You probably have this too? If so it can also be part of the make-up of a depressive personality. Putting everything on your shoulders soon becomes unbearable. Unload some of the weight in any way you can. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask for help when you need it. Whether this be seeking the advice of a doctor, counsellor or even just bending someone’s ear about what you’re going through.
Many business owners claim that their number one failing is in asking for help. They hold a lot of personal responsibility. If you’re a martial artist and a business owner you are likely to have some similar traits and then some. This makes you susceptible to some problems and one of them may be depression. Added to that your increased responsibility of now owning a school.
Making the shift from a student to an instructor has a lot of inherent problems. People will come to you with their problems and it’s difficult talking about your own issues with your students. Doing so could put them off and they are often looking to you for advice not the other way round. You need to offer motivation, support and help to your students. No-one will come to your classes unless you are creating a positive environment. This is even harder to do when you are struggling with your own mental issues.
I was coming from an environment where I was training with other fellow students who I considered my friends. I had a lot of support. From this I went into a situation where I really didn’t have the support – I was the support for my students. Getting clear on your new role is a good thing to do. When I looked honestly at why my classes were dwindling I could only blame myself. I was dragging myself to class with a definite lack of enthusiasm. I decided that unless I took charge and make my classes work, I may as well throw in the towel.
Since throwing in the towel meant death to me – or a 9 to 5 job (which was essentially the same), I decided I needed to change some things. This one decision changed my outlook from one of apathy and acceptance of the situation to a fierce focus on changing my school for the better. The journey I took is described in my article Martial Arts Marketing, but it started with some mental clarity.
Martial Arts And Depression
I have had a leaning towards depression for large periods of my life and the martial arts has helped immensely. There is a huge boost to your endorphin levels simply through strenuous exercise. Then there is the benefit of meditative movement which changes your brain waves from the beta state where we spend most of our waking day, to the alpha state which is of a slower wavelength. Slower wavelengths means more time between thoughts. This in turn means more opportunity to skillfully choose which thoughts you invest in and what actions you take.
Over time I have developed a better awareness of how my thoughts lead me to depression, or away from it. When thoughts become paralysing, they stop you from physically moving. Everything seems futile. You stop enjoying life, you stop exercising. This is a negative cycle which leads you lower and lower. No exercise means no positive chemicals in the brain, you become trapped. This is not a good state of affairs and whatever the state of your martial arts school this is the bigger problem. You need to nip those early thoughts in the bud before they flower and blossom. Practicing regular meditation and taking regular exercise are two simple way to combat depression. Just looking after your mental health by doing simple daily activities, regardless of your personal situation (or how you perceive it), is a good strategy to employ.