Michael Kostka

Oct 6, 2021 | Gin with a Genius

Michael “Mike” Kostka is a Canadian former professional ice hockey defenseman who played in the National Hockey League for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, and Ottawa Senators.

Upon retiring from professional hockey, Mike earned a Master’s degree in Human Kinetics in Intervention and Consultation (Applied Sport Psychology) from the University of Ottawa. For the past three years, he has worked as a Mental Performance Consultant at his own firm, Kostka Performance Consulting, working to help athletes, teams, and corporate leaders develop optimal mindsets in pursuit of performance and cultures of excellence.

During our conversation, Mike shared the best methods for getting out of mental slumps – and they are much simpler than you would think.

When individuals get into slumps or periods of performance anxiety, we tend to forget our mindset and actions when we were performing at our best. For example, “Many of my clients will come to me in their slumps and tell me how they haven’t scored a goal in the past month of games. I tell them to focus on a time when they were performing at their best, like their highest scoring game or when they won a championship. Did they sleep better those nights? Did they eat a hearty breakfast those mornings?” Whatever conditions allowed you to perform at your best is what Mike recommends you try to recreate when you’re at your worst. This type of mentality allows you to discover within yourself the best version of you and the concrete things you can do, that allow you to show up at your best. Utilizing your past to shape a better future is essential when getting yourself out of a slump.

The first method is addressing poor sleeping habits and understanding just how important sleep is to how we feel and function. In most cases, we struggle to sleep when our lifestyles are too sedentary and we’re not active enough during the day. In other cases, we can’t sleep because our minds are racing, and we’re not able to manage our thoughts. Whatever the issue might be, identifying the root cause and developing techniques to create better sleeping habits is key.

The second method is meditation, or what he calls a “re-set routine.” This involves selecting a focal point, which can be, for example, your own breathing or the beating of your heart and training your mind to focus on whatever feeling, moment, or memory you want to focus on. People soon realize just how out of control our minds can be – and that’s normal – but we need to understand that it is within our control to train our minds to do things differently. Meditating for even one minute a day can create a lasting impact. These small changes can lead to improvements in mental performance and function.

We truly appreciate the opportunity to connect with Mike here at MacPhie, and we know that we will take these lessons in mindfulness and self-knowledge forward as we move into the tail end of 2021 and beyond.

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