Have you ever wanted to accomplish something, but haven’t been quite sure how to get there? Or even wondered if you’re capable of the task? When my goals seem out of reach, I often turn to my husband for support. It can help to have someone in your corner, cheering you on and providing perspective. Dr. Bill Polonsky talked about the value of having someone rooting for you and Carrie Cheadle, MA, CC-AASP, fits that bill.
When I talked with Dr. Matt Corcoran about his Diabetes Training Camp, he mentioned that his campers work with Carrie, a mental skills coach, to help define and work to achieve their fitness goals. I was fascinated by the idea of working with a mental skills coach, so I turned to the source to learn more.
With an undergraduate degree in psychology, and experience in outdoor education and leadership training, sport psychology was a natural fit for Carrie. After college, Carrie’s boyfriend (now husband) worked at Bearskin Meadow Camp, a camp for children living with type 1 diabetes, and encouraged her to join the staff. While she didn’t have a previous connection to diabetes, she worked there for a few summers. The experience left a lasting impression, and a desire to specialize in work with athletes living with type 1.
In her role at Diabetes Training Camp, Carrie facilitates educational workshops and small group sessions on topics such as goal setting, motivation and stress management, as well as meeting with campers individually. “I get to help with all of the mental aspects that come with trying some new sport or exceling in your sport, or even just being confident and motivated to start making exercise a regular part of their life,” she said.
Athletes and Diabetes
In working with athletes living with diabetes, Carrie has noticed some unique challenges. Stress and anxiety can impact blood sugar level. “A lot of my athletes get really nervous before a competition, and then their blood sugar may go high,” she said. “Some people have not been able to compete because they went so high. So part of what I work on is managing performance anxiety and how to perform under pressure.”
Carrie has observed some similarities in mindset between an athlete and someone living with diabetes. In both cases preparation is key, making sure that one has the supplies and positive attitude to address whatever may come up that day. Dedication is also important to staying on track with goals. “With athletes, sometimes you train when you don’t necessarily want to train,” she said. “Living with diabetes, you manage your diabetes when you may not necessarily want to, too. Both may experience burnout, but you’re committed because you’re working towards something bigger and more important.”
A Matter of Perspective
A big part of Carrie’s work involves goal setting. “I often suggest checking in on your goal and your progress and making adjustments along the way,” she said. “Making that a part of the process may help during those times when you get off track. A lot of times when someone gets off track, they’ll beat themselves up and feel like they failed, then they may never get back on track. Part of my role is helping them to not be so hard on themselves and say, ‘Let’s figure out why I got off track and how I can get back on.’ I try to help people be OK with making adjustments along the way. That’s a part of that process.”
It can also help to look at the next step in achieving a goal. “We’ll do an exercise where I ask them, ‘On a scale of zero to 10, how confident are you feeling right now in your ability to accomplish this goal?’” she said. “They say a four. I say, ‘What made you say a four instead of a three?’ That helps them recognize that some things are going well, and that they do have some belief in their abilities. Then I ask, ‘What would need to change in order to feel one step more confident, and move forward to a five?’ And we go from there. I believe building confidence is a big part of helping people get back on track.”
Sometimes a shift in mindset may help as well. “One of the campers that I met with had a lot of anger, frustration and burnout with her diabetes,” Carrie remembered. “Every time she tested, or did anything related to her diabetes, it was a trigger to negative feelings. We talked about trying to see it in a different way. Every time you test, every time you do something related to your diabetes management, it’s a way to show love and kindness towards yourself. It’s a way to take care of yourself so that you can do the things that you really want to do. It was a really big light bulb moment for her.”
Inspiration, Motivation and Commitment
In her book, “On Top of Your Game,” Carrie talks about three key aspects in achieving goals: inspiration, motivation and commitment. “Inspiration is something that we connect with on an emotional level; it gives us a visceral feeling that makes us feel really good,” she said. “Motivation is when you get to that point where you’re ready to tackle something. Then commitment helps you stay on that path. All three of those things work together to help you keep moving down that goal path.”
To help with motivation, Carrie suggests visualizing success. “Let’s say your game plan is to work out after work, but you’re tired and feeling the pull of home,” she said. “Take a couple minutes to close your eyes and see yourself putting on your workout clothes, walking into the gym, feeling excited and strong. See yourself working out and feeling really good about it. Sometimes it helps to pause long enough to think about what you really want. Overcome that moment of inertia and connect that decision to your bigger value.”
I can see why Carrie’s sessions are so popular at the Diabetes Training Camps! She has a unique way of reframing challenges to help put people on the path to achieving their goals. I love the idea of visualizing success and the good feelings that come with it. How empowering! My thanks to Carrie for sharing her perspective.
All the best,
Disclosure: Carrie Cheadle received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.