Watching the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs prompted me to question the way we handle pressure when facing “The Goliath” in our lives. The Toronto Raptors had such a great regular season, but when they had to demonstrate this on the big stage, they were unable to translate it into a victory against the Cavaliers. Most seasoned sports fanatics would say that regular season performance does not count during the playoffs. However, to tell you the truth, I believe that to know where you are going you need to know where you are coming from. In other words, we need to recall what got us to where we are today and how we accomplished it? (Make a list of the skills that you used and the strengths that are necessary). Are you able to identify your strengths and areas that need improvement to ignite your “why”? I am not sure the Raptors understood all the excellent qualities they possessed going into the playoffs, both individually as players and as a collective team.

In fact, by the time they had arrived at the playoffs, their confidence was weaning and although they had a roadmap to the playoffs, in some ways they lacked the “minds-eye” necessary to accomplish the goal. Each of us see the world differently, and the way we make sense of the world and life experiences effect how we feel. Humans are able to reason and recall past situations and this impacts the way we cope with challenges, take care of ourselves mentally and spiritually and the types of stories/memories we hold on to that provide us with a helpful narrative about ourselves.

When looking at the four games against the Cavaliers, the Raptors lacked the energy, tenacity, and vision they had during the regular season. In therapy, we might refer to this mind-body survival mechanism as freezing. The easiest way to explain this, is that when the body is under stress, it can become immobilized. This is a process that can occur consciously or unconsciously. When looking at the NBA playoff games, some players appeared frozen making it very difficult for them to recall what they had just accomplished only a few months back. In the face of a threat, sometimes our natural instinct is to freeze in the fight or flight defense reaction. We freeze as a way of allowing the situation to pass. What I believe I witnessed while watching the Toronto Raptors play is a patterned response that locked them into a position resembling a perceived threat (the last two playoff seasons). In fact, the Raptors the fans fell in love with over the past six months, had vanished right before our eyes, leaving some fans and other NBA personalities bewildered. When we are in this passive state, we are unable to process information effectively. This is what I believe occurred with the Toronto Raptors team. They were unable to settle their fears to accomplish their goal even though they did have some steep competition.

Battle Plan:

  • Identify your triggers (monitor your negative self-talk)
  • Seek some professional help to address the unresolved issues
  • Identify your strengths (be specific)
  • Surround yourself with people who care about you
  • Activate your motivation (practice the things you are already good at and strengthen that muscle)
  • Be kind to yourself (with every loss we grow, but this is not an opportunity to bewail yourself)

The lesson learned from the Toronto Raptors playoff season is don’t allow yourself to feel the weight of the past or let your fears or other emotions hold you back from going after what is important to you. This experience challenged me, and I hope it will do the same for you. Get the help you need so that you do not have to keep going around that same mountain. I want you to start believing that you are capable today. The last thing you want to do is work hard and arrive at a place where you are competing with the best and you are not mentally prepared to face “The Goliath” in your life. Start training yourself to recognize your strengths and create a plan to acknowledge the worry and racing thoughts your experiencing. Have the armor and tools you need prior so that you are anticipating the pressure while recognizing your role, thoughts, and emotions. Take the time today to strengthen the way you see yourself and be honest about the stressors that lead to your demise. Think about the many ways how you are held captive. Who or what gets in the way of you showing up and being your authentic self? We have one life to live, and no matter what happens we get a chance to learn from our difficulties and get back up again and do something different the next time around.

Are you looking to learn how to manage stress and worry? If so I would love to speak with you and help you on your journey to a balanced manageable life. I am a multi-faceted counsellor working with individuals, couples, and families. Through my various counseling services, I assist people in breaking generational hurts, creating new career possibilities and helping individuals discover how bright their future can be. Contact Carole Sandy for a free consultation (

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