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Athletes and Mental Health: How to Stay Mentally Strong in Sport

Sports give us a chance to compete, improve, and learn how to be mentally tough, but can also cause extreme stress on athletes, oftentimes leading to depression or other serious mood disorders. Research has shown that a third of women student-athletes have mental health problems, with many of these mental health problems being caused directly from sports. The pressure that athletes face while training, practicing, or in a game situation can take a serious toll on athletes. In order to keep yourself mentally strong, it’s important to recognize the ways that you can help yourself de-stress as a competitor. Here’s a list of tips on how to take care of your mental health as a hard-working athlete:

Tip 1: Take Care of Your Body

This one may seem obvious, especially for athletes, but the recovery process after a big game or a hard training session might be more important than you realize. Staying hydrated is crucial, as well as fueling your body by eating good foods, icing or stretching your sore muscles, and getting a good night’s sleep. Taking care of your body by giving yourself time to rest and recover will also help take care of your mind, as injuries and feeling overworked can take a serious toll on your mental health.

[For more information on how to become a happier, healthier you the natural way, take a look at our previous blog by clicking here.]

Tip 2: Learn How to Balance

If you’re an athlete, it can be extremely difficult to balance your sport with other factors like your school life, work life, or social life. Finding what works for you in terms of scheduling, like the best time you can get your homework done during the day, or when in the day you can meet up with friends will help you maintain your other priorities as well. If you feel overwhelmed by your sport, realize that it’s okay to slow things down, as over-training can be a real danger to your mental health.

Tip 3: Recognize if You’re Overtraining

This one might not be common for athletes to hear, as stigma often encourages the idea of elite athletes pushing themselves to perfection. Overtraining syndrome occurs in athletes who are training hard for competition and not allowing their bodies time to recover. Some of the symptoms of overtraining syndrome include feeling drained of energy, insomnia, severe muscle soreness, loss of enthusiasm for the sport, and a significant decrease in training performance. The best ways to cope are to rest and allow your body to recover as much as possible, to hydrate yourself, and to treat your body to massages and stretching. Overtraining syndrome should be taken seriously by athletes, as it causes severe effects on an athlete’s mental health and can often lead to depression.

Tip 4: Realize That It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Athletes are often expected to be strong, intense, and perfect in the minds of others. Due to this, athletes feel as though needing help is a sign of weakness. Many athletes don’t seek mental health help because of this stigma, so it’s incredibly important to realize that as an athlete, it’s okay to not be okay. Your performance is not worth jeopardizing your mental health. Help us at VictoryLab™ end the stigma surrounding mental health and sport, and encourage individuals to seek help when they need it.

[Interested in learning how to maintain your mental health while under high levels of stress? Check out our blog on this topic by clicking here.]

Sport plays an enormous role in the life of an athlete, and can sometimes take over every aspect of their life. Learning how to keep yourself mentally strong while playing a sport can help prevent serious mental health issues, like overtraining syndrome or depression. Sport should be a positive thing in your life, not something that impacts your body or your health negatively. Put your mind and body first, and always pay close attention to your mental health. Good luck!

To find out more about how VictoryLab can help you as an athlete, or your team, click here.

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