Edmonton Psychologist | Mental Health In The NHL Bubble

Edmonton Psychologist The Ryan Jespersen Show Mental Health In The NHL Bubble

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Edmonton Psychologist | Mental Health In The NHL Bubble

Danielle Smith | HOST:

Greetings friends. Yes, you have to put up with me until Friday and then Ryan will be back next Monday. I want you to know it is genuine. I feel your pain. We grew up as an Oilers family. You guys had a team before we did down in Calgary. And so my brother and you know, little sisters take the cues from their older brothers, loved Wayne Gretzky.

So he played goalie. And when he played goalie, he was a Montreal Canadians fan cause he loved Ken Dryden. And then when he started playing forward, Wayne Gretzky, he was the boss. So yes, we all cried. When Gretzky was traded away to the Kings, we never became Kings fans. Maybe he did. I didn’t.

I stayed Canadian. So I loved the Oilers first. But then obviously when a Calgary had an awesome team, I know it’s a long time ago when we have to remember that back in the late eighties, I became a flames fan too.

Danielle Smith | HOST:

So I have never gotten into this battle of Alberta. I know some people really get into it. I look at it the other way, the way I look at it is no matter who wins, I’m happy. So I root for both teams.

Now the question I have for you is who are you going to root for now? Who do you want to see win it? Now we still have three Canadian teams who are in the mix. Will you root for the flames?

This is what I want to know. I just need to know what I’m dealing with here. And if not, then who is your backup? So send me a text, make sure the text line here is working. You know how to do that.

I think you text it to the phone number now, right? (780) 496-0063. You can I’ll also tell you the number to call in when we get into the rest of the show with our friends in Calgary.

Danielle Smith | HOST:

But you know what, if you guys are feeling like you need a little bit of psychological support through this difficult time, don’t worry. I’m here for you. Our opening guest today is going to be talking to us about mental health in the NHL bubble. Now this is how the players got themselves prepared for going into the bubble.

But you know what? Maybe all of us could learn some of these techniques since I think more, I’m seeing it about 50 50. And again, you guys don’t have to tell me how it’s happening in Edmonton, because I may have a misapprehension.

I thought that when your council made the decision to have mandatory max, I thought they had confined it to transit and to municipal buildings. But then I was reading a story that said that it was all publicly accessible buildings. So I guess that means restaurants and retail shops.

Danielle Smith | HOST:

So can you just make sure I understand what the laws are? Cause I thought you were a little more loose about it than Calgary because Calgary’s gone for a total mask wearing a bylaw in all spaces that are accessible to public. So including retail and restaurant, not just confining it to municipal buildings and it’s having an impact.

I mean, what we’re seeing is that a lot more mask wearing everywhere, even in the outlying areas. And I think a lot more people who are kind of going back into getting into their shell and just staying in there with their social cohort and staying in their bubble. And I’m wanting to know if you guys are feeling the same way.

‘ll tell you a little bit more about my perspective on this. I’ll wait until Calgary joins. Cause there’s a really good article written by a Swedish doctor that I want to share with you to tell you a little bit about what a different approach it is that they’re taking there.

But since we’re all dealing with psychological issues, whether it’s because of hockey or whether it’s because of lock down, I thought it’d be a good time to check in with John Stevenson. He’s a health and performance psychologist for Zone Performance Psychology, and he joins us now to talk a few things through John, thanks so much for being with me today.

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

Thank you for having me Danielle, and your first question about who I cheer for. That’s a tough one because I’ve got several clients that are on opposing teams. So it’s a I’m cheering for both.

It might look strange when I’m cheering for both teams. I’m, I’m in the same, same situation. I unfortunately, I’m not allowed to tell, but definitely I feel your pain when you were talking about cheering for both teams.

Cause I have the same dilemma. All right. I’m glad I’m not alone at least. Okay. So let’s not talk about

Danielle Smith | HOST:

What is it that you do that is so different about sports psychology. I’ve been constantly amazed about the zone that athletes are able to get themselves into.

And I, I wonder if it’s an easy thing for each of us to do and they just are more practiced at it. Or if being in high performance sports, it’s just an absolute requirement. If you’re going to be an elite athlete to get your head in the game.

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

Great question. Well there, there’s one part that we do now and it’s called cognitive perceptual training. So this is some pretty sophisticated equipment that literally allows us to train the brain and train the eyes to process the game at faster and faster rates.

So in the last decade, this has been something that has become more and more prevalent. And I’m going to go as far as to say, if, if you’re not doing this type of training you won’t compete with the, the other guys that are so, you know, in terms of preparation for going into the bubble of the clients that I worked with.

They were doing that training in light of not being on the ice. They were doing this type of training at home and in some situations they were actually doing it at our office. So that’s one form of training.

Danielle Smith | HOST:

Would you mind telling us how exactly does it work? Cause I guess what I’m envisioning, I mean, my, my dad used to coach hockey and he always talked about having kind of puck sense, not going to where the puck is, but where you think it’s going to be.

And, but you’re giving me this vision of playing almost like a big video game and, and being able to foresee that and have some kind of an advanced idea of where the puck’s going to be. Is that, is that what it is? Is it, is it all digital or how do you do it?

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

That that’s exactly it. And you know, I, I had a chance last night to go on YouTube myself and just watch a lot of videos and I might get myself into trouble here, but there’s a lot of guys that are still gaming and it really concerns me because they’re they don’t realize that the blue light off that device slows their brain down.

It produces more slow processing brainwaves. So instead of doing gaming, why not do something like cognitive perceptual training? So for example you know, with the neuro tracker, that’s one of the companies that we work with.

It’s a 3D you’re wearing 3D glasses. And that’s a key thing because the brain learns in 3D and anybody can do this. In fact, this device was originally developed for 70 year old clients in Quebec where they had to renew their driver’s license every year.

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

So it’s literally rewiring. So what happens is I’ll give you a kind of a core session, but there’s eight yellow balls. And because you’re wearing the three D glasses, it looks like the balls are around you.

And all of a sudden four of the eight balls will turn orange. And all of a sudden they’ll go back to yellow and keeping your focus more centrally focused on the screen. The balls will move around. And at the end of the eight seconds, you have to identify where those four balls are.

And if you do them correctly, the speed of the machine just gets faster and faster and faster. So a lot of national football league you know, anything with dynamic motion a lot of the premier soccer teams lead literally have this device in their, in their locker room.

So these are the types of training, like a lot of there’s a local, I, I can’t mention his name, but there’s a local kid here that I work with. Who’s been doing this for over a decade with us, and there’s a reason why he’s young.

Danielle Smith | HOST:

I was going to ask, how fun is it? Cause it’s almost like asking guys you’re playing red, dead redemption two to go back to playing. What was that game where you had the little paddles, penny playing and I’m just wondering, is it fun enough to keep their attention?

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I’m going to really downgrade it. But another company that we work with is called Synaptec.

And one of the the, the exercises is no go and it’s kind of almost like an advanced whack-a-mole where you have to literally, you know, process it, see it, decide, am I going to make that decision or not make that decision?

So these are the types of things that a lot of, you know, like, cause I had a lot of people ask me, what are the clients doing leading up to that event? And that’s what they were doing.

And instead of doing video games, why don’t we do things, you know, like you did. It really surprised me to see that a lot of guys were still doing that. And you know, the other thing that surprised me yesterday, watching these YouTube videos is they talked about social distancing.

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

They talked about all these different measures to keep people safe. But the one thing that they forgot to mention, you know, is literally, and I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but if you put COVID virus in the Petri dish and you put nitric oxide in that dish, guess what happens to the COVID virus?

Tell me. It gets killed. And so what I’m a little bit surprised about is in the world health, organization’s not talking about this, but nasal breathing, teaching proper nasal breathing. And when you’re doing this, you’re creating nitric oxide and you’re strengthening your immune immune system.

There’s a lot of things, you know, and this is just my personal bias, but there’s a lot of breath work sessions, whether it be Wim Hof breathing or the Buteyko oxygen advantage, breathing that in their downtime for me.

I would be saying to the guys in your downtime, why don’t we do things that are going to strengthen your immune system, train your brain more efficiently so that you’re using that downtime, you know, efficiently. It’s great to see the guys doing the games. I think that’s a key thing.

Guys are doing all sorts of different games and different exercises. And aside from the psychological benefits, but just having that team bonding where guys are coming closer and closer together it’s great to see. And, and that’s one of the things that they can do to, you know, keep their mind occupied in mental training. No, I mean one of the skills…

Danielle Smith | HOST:

Oh no. Before you, before you leave the issue of breathing, cause some may not have been accustomed to what this Wim Hof method is. I watched goop. So I saw the whole Gwyneth Paltrow’s segment on the Wim Hof method. And I also do yoga.

And so sort of interesting what you’re saying because I’ve had instructors for whom nasal breathing and breathing from one nostril versus the other is vitally important to their practice.

I’m not sure I quite understood why, but you’ve kind of connected the dots for me. So you gave us a bit of an education on how we could do that focus rather than playing video games.

What, what would you do if you wanted to improve your breathing is as a way of improving your immune system what’s the practice.

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

Well, there’s so many different types of breathwork practices and that’s one of the things that I teach my clients because you have all sorts of different cadences, I guess, I guess the big thing is there’s three pillars. We want to make sure that we’re getting good gas exchange.

We want to make sure that we’re breathing diaphragmatically. And if we’re working on strengthening, there’s, there’s different theories and different practices, but the Wim Hof method that you mentioned is a lot of cold exposure.

And so when you’re doing this kind of gradual cold exposure from a physiological point of view, you are actually strengthening the immune system, but from a mental point of view, it’s a little bit cliche, but get comfortable being uncomfortable.

You know, even I’ve been doing it for over two years now and you know, always that first 30 seconds, I, and I’m assuming you’re from Calgary, is that correct? Danielle? So like Lake Minnewanka to Jack Lake, Troll Falls, upper Canada

Danielle Smith | HOST:

Ice dip in the winter kind of thing, right?

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

Yeah. So a lot of my clients are doing that and that’s one of their ways of one learning to get out of their head, getting more into their body. And that’s a way of allowing them to just get more into that quiet mind. And again, there’s so many different, it could be box breathing, it could be Buteyko breathing.

But make sure, making sure that, you know, and I’m sure in your yoga class you’ve been you know, taught proper belly breathing. And a lot of it’s amazing, a lot of hockey players have not been taught this. And so, you know, this is a great title. A lot of my clients initially, you know, we’re having a difficult time falling asleep at night.

And it may sound crazy, but I’m having a cold shower or a cold tub, or literally doing this type of breath work. Would allow people to get out of their head, quiet their mind down, get more into their body and allow their brain to shut off.

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

And, and one of the key factors in this, you know, bubble and for anybody honestly, is if you don’t get a good deep restful sleep well, what’s your ability to focus, gonna be like the following day, what’s your ability to regulate your emotions. So any type of breath work.

I’m a huge fan of breath work because it can help us regulate our attention, regulator emotion, whether we’re a national hockey league player or, you know, we’re, we’re doing our work, you know, our every day work. So, and mindfulness is another practice that anybody can start to do, whether it be formal sitting down or just be more mindful like right now, if you’re going out for a walk,

Danielle Smith | HOST:

Pause you there for a minute, just so I can take a quick pause because I don’t want to run out of time with you, but but I want people to maybe sit and take a few notes so that they can use some of these techniques.

If this, if these techniques work for high performance athletes, get them in the zone at the motivated, alleviate stress, alleviate depression. I think he could probably work for us mere mortals to let me continue our conversation with John Stevenson, health and performance psychologist zone performance psychology. When we return on 630 CHED.

Danielle Smith | HOST:

Kind of sounds like being on a massive cruise ship cruise ship. The bubble comes with amenities such as 14 restaurants, three food trucks for players and staff, as well as concierge services for deliveries and you know, 700 players, 300 staff living in those conditions among the most significant changes of the obvious.

No physical contact with family and friends and no venturing outside the bubble. That’s a little bit tricky, especially the not having friends and family with your part. John Stevenson is my guest health and performance psychologist Zone Performance Psychology.

John, this is going to be even come even more difficult for the teams that keep advancing round after round to not be able to have that contact with family and friends, physical contact with family and friends for literally months.

Is that where mindfulness comes in? Like what kind of techniques are you given to the guys so that they can stay focused on the task at hand and not allow that to be too much of a distraction?

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

Well, I might just step back. This might sound a little bit strange, but it actually might get a little easier for, as guys go deeper because a lot of people have just kind of assumed it’s like a long road trip.

So, you know, compared to the normative season. But it is, I mean, there’s no doubt about it. It’s, it’s difficult to have family communication, you know, over, over the internet or zoom or Skype or things like that. So but I think again, the, the families have really adjusted. But I think, you know, like a lot of the guys that I work with again, it’s, it’s like being on the road for an extended period of time.

That’s kind of the mindset that they have about it. You know, with, with mindfulness, for me, a lot of times people think it’s a technique, but for me it’s a way of being you know, just for the average person right now.

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

Like I said, if they, if they were going to go for a walk, they could do it mindfully where they’re, you know, noticing things that they see noticing things that they feel, whether it be the wind or the sun, or, you know, noticing things that they hear. So they could literally ground themselves in their senses for the hockey players and for, for everybody.

If they’re having a meal, it’s amazing how many times we just, you know, put our foot, put our food down, but we don’t, you know, take the time to eat it where we’re hearing it. I know it sounds strange, but hearing it, smelling it, tasting it. So you know, that’s

Danielle Smith | HOST:

Help is a bit of a coping mechanism. Hey, I only have about 45 seconds left, but I do want to ask you, is, is it, is it a distraction or a removal of distraction that there aren’t fans in the audience anymore? I mean, I wondered if the guy’s tune it out anyway and it’s actually allows for greater focus or if some of them would be having a harder time dealing with the silence in the arena.

Edmonton Psychologist | John Stevenson:

Both for, for the goal goalies that I work with, they love it because they have better sight lines to the puck and they have better have better vision. I say for some of the forwards comments that have come back to me, exactly what you just said, it is harder. It’s, it’s, it’s strange, you know, when you’re making a great play and no one’s making a sound so it, so it really depends on the person.

Danielle Smith | HOST:

That makes a lot of sense, John Stevenson’s my guest, he’s a health and performance psychologist zone performance psychology. Plus the goalies have the hardest job they always get Dog-piled on, whenever a goal goes in. So it probably helps with their confidence that they don’t end up getting booed or in some ways, shame that every time they end up making a bad, play.

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