For so many athletes, their sport of choice is not just a passion but a part of who they are. It can become a significant piece of your identity, and in some cases, it might even be your profession. There are a ton of wonderful things about being an athlete; many sports provide you with a sense of community, and of course, if you love what you do, athletics can and often do serve as a source of joy and confidence. However, no one is immune to struggling with their mental health, including athletes.
Athletics And Mental Health
There are a number of unique concerns that have the potential to put an emotional strain on an athlete. These include but are not limited to:
- Feeling as though they need to hide emotional pain, stress, or burnout to be seen as capable athletes or team members. Sometimes, this comes from within, where other times, this may come from external sources.
- In the case of a student athlete or a professional athlete, someone may have financial dependence on their sport. For example, a professional athlete may make all of their income from the sport, and a student athlete may rely on their sport for tuition and scholarships.
- Injury, which is often devastating for an athlete. In some cases, someone will become injured and recover, where others will not. If someone is unable to play, particularly for a long period of time, this can lead to somewhat of an identity crisis, and someone may face depressive symptoms as a result of an injury for a number of reasons.
Comparison to others, the pressure to perform, burnout, overwhelm, and perfectionism can also impede on an athlete’s emotional, psychological, and social health. Especially in the case that someone has a high number of compounding responsibilities, which is true for a lot of athletes who not only engage in their sport but also attend school or care for their family or have other commitments, it can be stressful to cope with it all at once. Many athletes also struggle with feeling as though they have to suck it up or be strong and feel as though they can’t spend time on their mental health, or even their feelings. On top of this, like anyone else, athletes have the potential to face mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, BPD, schizophrenia, and more. If this is the case for you, or if you think that you might be living with a mental health condition but aren’t sure, make sure to reach out to a medical or mental health professional who can help.
Self-Care For Athletes
Athlete or not, self-care is crucial. Here are some tips for self-care as an athlete:
- Rest. It is crucial to prioritize sleep. Research shows that missing even 1 to 2 hours of sleep per day puts you at a higher risk of getting into a car accident, and there are many other physical and mental health implications of a lack of sleep to consider as well. To prevent injury and prioritize self-care, make sure that you rest.
- Have self-soothing activities to turn to when you are overwhelmed. These may include walks outdoors, yoga, talking to a friend, art, or something else.
- Use positive self-talk. It can be easy to be hypercritical of yourself, but self-compassion goes a long way and can actually be far more advantageous than criticism. Positive affirmations and reframing negative thoughts are two great places to start when it comes to cultivating a more positive internal dialogue.
Additionally, having a support system is vital. Remember that, no matter what you’re facing, whether it is pressure related to athletics or something else, you don’t have to go through it alone. A mental health provider is a crucial part of a support system for many people. You can find a mental health provider such as a counselor or therapist in a number of ways, including but not limited to asking your doctor for a referral, seeking on-campus resources if you’re a student, using an online directory, conducting a web search, or using an online therapy platform.
Online therapy is an excellent option for anyone, and it can be particularly appealing to those with busy schedules. Unlike traditional in-person counseling or therapy, there’s no commute involved to see your provider. Using an online therapy platform like MyTherapist allows you to see a licensed provider from anywhere with a reliable internet connection, and it’s often more affordable than traditional in-person therapy or counseling is in the absence of insurance. Therapy gives you a safe space to talk about anything that’s on your mind. Whether you see a mental health provider for concerns related to athletics, interpersonal relationships, familial issues, stress, sleep, a mental health condition, or something else, therapy can be a serious game-changer, so don’t hesitate to get started. Regardless of if you see someone remotely or near you, you deserve to get the support that you need.