How to Protect Your Mental Health as an Athlete – by Marie Miguel

From childhood to college graduation and on into adulthood, athletics can play an important role in your life. It gives you great opportunities to improve and expand your physical capabilities. It gives you a chance to practice teamwork. What you might not realize is that the challenge of engaging in a sport can put a strain on your mental health. The good news is that you can treat yourself with greater kindness by taking care of your mind and emotions every day.

Start with the Physical

If you’re involved in sports, you’re probably getting the exercise you need to stay healthy. That’s great! But physical fitness is about more than running around a track or doing pushups. You also need to take care of the other aspects of your physical health.

Make sure you get enough good quality sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at around the same time every day – even on weekends. And, put your electronics away an hour before you hit the sack. Make sure your bedroom is good and dark. Then, listen to a guided meditation or do deep breathing exercises to calm your mind for a peaceful sleep.

Eat healthy foods. Eat foods high in Omega-3s, like salmon or trout, to help reduce anxiety. Have some berries for their polyphenolics, which help improve memory, attention span, and mood. Yogurt can help reduce stress, and whole grains can increase serotonin to make you feel happier. Avoid high-sugar foods, which can cause mood fluctuations.

One more thing to consider on the physical side of mental health. Your trainer or coach has probably already advised you against using drugs and alcohol. Listen to that advice. Drugs can cause all kinds of mental health issues. But even alcohol can disrupt normal sleeping, impair cognitive function, and bring on depressed feelings.

Attend to Your Mind and Emotions Directly, Too

Athletes are typically under a lot of pressure to do well in their sport. They may suffer from performance anxiety, panic attacks, or generalized anxiety disorder. Dealing with these problems immediately doesn’t just make you feel better. It can also improve your ability to do your best on the field or the court.

One thing you can do for performance anxiety is to do the work it takes to prepare for the event. Next, use visualization techniques to see yourself crossing the finish line or scoring a goal. Then, when the time comes, focus on the immediate task you’re doing in the moment. Rather than thinking ahead to what the outcome will be, just keep your mind on the task at hand.

Then, there’s depression. Depression can come after a loss or failure. It can also come with the letdown after a winning season is over. Whenever it strikes, it can set you back bigtime. The best thing you can do is deal with symptoms of depression as they happen. Mood apps like Happify can help for mild mood disturbances. If the problem still troubles you, talk to a counselor locally or through BetterHelp.com to resolve the issue more quickly.

Think of taking care of mental health as a crucial part of your training regimen. When you do it, you’ll not only be a stronger athlete, you’ll also be better prepared to deal with all the other issues in your life.



Marie Miguel Biography

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.



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