Lara Stalder: Beyond The Ice | Issue 3
by Ameeta VOHRA|22 NOV 2023
photo: © Valentin STUDERUS
Life has been a roller-coaster lately.
After weeks of grueling schedules of games, practices, sponsorship events, and learning the ropes of new responsibilities at work, I felt like I was running on empty and losing my centre.
I was not at my best, with my energy resources all tapped out.
It started to hit me about four weeks ago. I was putting so much passion into the projects I was working on. I have a hard time saying no, which means trying to be everywhere and doing everything all at once.
My positive energy motivated me to keep working hard for the first couple of months. I was a workaholic, but I was savouring the honeymoon phase of my new projects because they were (and are still) amazing.
Before the start of the season, I would train in the summer from Monday to Friday and then have weekends off. 
In hindsight, I probably should have taken some time off before the season. As each week blew by, my schedule became a little busier.  The intensity and pace picked up, and I kept moving along.
Then, we began the on-ice season with games on the weekends and participate in sponsorship and community events here and there.
It all caught up to me. Suddenly, I felt that I was at my lowest point.
I would start thinking negatively, making uncharacteristic mistakes and could not control my emotions or fight back the tears.  That had never happened to me before.
However, I put up a good personal front, hiding it from my teammates. I had to keep going because I am a professional.  I had a job to do and didn’t want to bring them down emotionally with what I was going through or have it become a distraction. I was trying to be there for my teammates.
The task at hand was the semi-finals of the EHWL SuperCup (European tournament). We lost in overtime. Typically, I would be satisfied with that result because we were so close to winning. 
This time, something was different.  My reaction was much different. I felt I should have been at my best, which I was not at all.  My energy was gone. It was another weekend with two games and no breaks in sight in my schedule.
Everything affected me emotionally, including my new job, home, hockey, and life. I felt lost without the balance I had achieved in the summer. At that time, I was able to have a better work/life balance, including a social life, seeing friends, and spending time with my family.
It was new territory for me with no light at the end of the tunnel.  When I play hockey, I am always able to recognize my limits.  If I do not get to rest for a day or two after playing, then I am more prone to get sick or injured.
That is when I recognized I needed a break to recharge my batteries and centre myself.  I was no good to others if I could not look after myself. If I had not recognized that, I would have fallen apart.
It takes a lot of courage, strength, and resilience to recognize the power of knowing your limits and saying no.
For example, if you have too many things on your mind, you do not sleep well, and it becomes an ongoing circle that gets worse. You have to listen to your body and yourself, learn those signs, find a way to handle everything, and not let it to you. 
You should know when to turn off buttons, stop looking at emails, and recognize when you need a break.
Knowing my limits and the power to say NO is an ongoing learning curve.  We are always going to experience roller coasters in life, and I know it will not be the last time I go through a low point. I'm going to have highs again, accepting where you're at and how you're going to get through it is the key to balancing it all.
I have learned many lessons and am already implementing changes for the better. In the future, I plan to take some time off in August before the start of the next season. I have been meditating for 10 minutes in the evening to help me fall asleep. One thing I learned from a meditation podcast on World Kindness Day was to be kind to myself.
Throughout this experience, I kept thinking about my mother and what she would say to me.  “Hey, you need a break.” Mothers are intuitive and they know best, especially when it comes to their children.  She also said, “Life gives you a backpack that you can carry." It is relevant to what I have experienced these past few weeks.
I also appreciate the support of my coach and mentor Daniela Diaz.  She was there every step of the way, listening, giving guidance and helping me get through this time.
When I told my teammates what I was going through, I was overcome with emotion by their reaction. They were very supportive and there for me.
After my break, I have a renewed energy, optimism, and purpose. I am at the point where I am ready to help others again. Adversity has made me stronger, but this is an ongoing process and not a quick fix.
Hockey is home for me, so I missed the ice.  I feel free when I am on the ice for a couple of hours. I am not thinking about anything. It truly is my happy place.
Now back in my “home," ready to take on the world, there is much to be excited about in the coming weeks.  On my return, the Finnish champion, Helsinki, came to visit us.  We learned from one another, did some bonding, and used the exhibition game as a measuring stick for our program. It was an invaluable experience for our newly formed team in Zug.
Looking ahead to the Swiss Cup, we are gearing up to play in the round of 16.  We hope that we can advance to the quarter-finals because we can have the opportunity to host in front of the hometown crowd in December, right before the Christmas break.
photo: Valentin STUDERUS