Disrupting the Death Spiral; Healthy Living through Dry Fire

We all hit low points in life. We all struggle at times to focus on what we need to do for the business of living. Some recent heartbreak has had me searching for ways to deal and move forward. It was affecting my life and work—I couldn’t focus. I was struggling to complete tasks on time, if at all… I needed to do something to change my mind frame and I needed to do it fast, or else I’d be out of a job.

Everyone says to stay busy. That’s great in theory, but then in practice, it wasn’t helpful. Am I busy at work? Yes, but it’s a desk job and the mind can wander. Am I busy at the gym? Yes, but that’s engaging my body and again, the mind can wander. Other advice – read a good book. Great, but if I my mind is wandering at work, how could I focus on a book?

It was in these wandering moments that I felt the lowest and struggled the most. Those were the moments that would trigger a downward spiral that would kill the rest of my day and possible productivity.

I mentioned my struggle to a friend who suggested that I substitute a healthy activity for the negative thoughts and feelings. So, in those moments, I started to dry fire. 5 – 10 reps of punching out from the 3 to getting sights on target and pressing the trigger. I reset the trigger and repeated that until the worst of the ache passed. It was enough to be able to get back to my task at hand. It was like doing a mental pull-up—something quick, requiring intense focus to redirect my thoughts. That little bit of dry fire work has helped my shooting and my psyche. It helped me refocus during the day and kept me from getting wrapped up in negative feelings. The added bonus was the translation to real world shooting skill improvement.

If you’re struggling now, or if it happens to you in the future,  look to your training for ways to cope—go out of your way to make it happen if you need to. Ask yourself how you can incorporate your training into a low, sad or heartbroken moment to pull yourself out of it—if even just for that moment. Skip Facebook and use it instead to improve yourself. Then do it consistently. You don’t always need to do marathon training sessions to improve. Five minutes a day is better than one steady hour once a week or so.

Even if you’re not feeling awful or struggling internally, you likely still have distracted moments –If you can’t dry fire, identify another opportunity to improve. Challenge your mind. Get up from your desk, walk around your office and assess it for areas of cover, concealment or quick exit. Go to the break room and watch an MMA or boxing highlight reel on your phone (looking deeper than surface entertainment value). Find a short jiu jitsu instructional video and watch that while mentally following along. Shadow box if that suits. I hit up the blogs of all my mentors, guys like Cecil Burch and Paul Sharp. I watched MMA fights with the intent of studying small portions of them.

Self-defense training is rich in ways to deal with the hardest parts of life beyond the obvious violence of life. Mental health and acuity is part of that training. I even studied music theory, 3 or 4 minutes of reviewing a key signature in place of dry fire when I was at my desk at work. The mental exercise heals the mind.

Then, get back to your task at hand. Visualization and “dry training” are powerful tools that can be readily fit into your life—whether it is done in a moment of heartache or of simple distraction. Those small, consistent training opportunities will translate into greater success. A mind that isn’t healthy is an obstacle to every facet of life, including your training. You will see benefits in all areas of your life.

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