by Danielle Snyder
Over my years of being an athlete, therapist and coach, I have come to see the tremendous connection between an athlete’s mental well-being and their athletic performance. Further, I have witnessed the make-or-break impact that positive self-talk has on training outcomes. The program I designed focuses on building mental resilience and confidence in athletes. This, in turn, can provide athletes with resiliency during competition, training and recovery, and even translate into their lives outside of athletics. At times, it may seem that the mental training is secondary to the physical conditioning of athletics. But research in the field of mental health shows that resiliency is a key predictor of success. In my own experience as a coach and athlete, I witnessed how a resilient perspective sets up athletes for greater success, confidence and improved outcomes. Overcoming excessively critical thinking of oneself and negative self-talk turns good athletes into exceptional ones.
So often, athletes are provided a message to ignore pain (physical and emotional) and “soldier on.” However, research continually concludes that stress (positive and negative) impact our ability to perform as athletes (and as functioning individuals in society!). There are skills that can be adapted and learned to manage stress and cope with changes once individuals start to acknowledge that emotions should not be ignored and instead welcomed and processed. Although this seems counterintuitive, I have notice athletes as being an underserved population due society’s belief that athletes “should” be tough. Being tough and resilient doesn’t mean ignoring challenges but learning how to grow from them.
After witnessing the need for athletes to learn how to manage their mental health and injuries, I created a program called Inner Drive Athlete (https://innerdriveathlete.com). My program works with athletes to cultivate within them a resilient mind-set and an ability to find solutions in the moment of crisis, transition, or self-doubt. Learning a set of tools to approach crisis or doubt significantly improves success in all area of one’s life. When athletes have the inner resources to call upon in difficult moments in training or competition, they find themselves able to overcome insurmountable odds. By cultivating a mindset of success, I can help clients close the gap between their struggles and their goals. It is quite possible that what is limiting ones success in life and athletics is not merely fitness but instead self-doubt and a lack of belief in ones self.
You have the power to say, “This is not how my story will end.”
You are an athlete. As an athlete, injury will happen (this is not an if, it is a when). If you are in touch with your body and listen when injury pain starts to rise, you’ll be able to respond quickly and lessen the amount of injury time. However, sometimes injuries happening are completely out of our control. So, what do we have control over when we get hurt?!
Learn about your injury!
- What is the prognosis?
- What is the treatment?
- What type of movement can I do?
- What will speed up recovery?
- What can hinder recovery?
- Are there symptoms I should look for that indicates my injury is getting worse?
Take a trusted friend or family member with you to some appointments and write down the information. It is common we feel overwhelmed and forgot pertinent information.
So often our social life is connected to our sports and exercise. We may be feeling lost or depressed after an injury. Challenge yourself to connect with friends, a coach or teammates despite not being to participate in the sport.
Seek even more support from a trained professional.
- The body holds stress and makes us more vulnerable to injury and longer recovery. A professional can provide specific tips on how to manage these stressors. You can also talk with this trusted individual about how athlete identity and how injury impacts this.
- Positive self-talk and imagery can actual increase recovery rates. The mind is a powerful tool. Working with a professional on imagery can help cell regrowth.
Set daily goals for recovery.
- Make it your goal and job to take recovery and rehab as serious as you take your sport.
- If you focus on what you can do (rather than what you can’t), you will feel more in control.
- Make longer term realistic goals.
- Goals should be less based on time-line and more based on progress (I.E. I will be able to stand on my injured leg for this amount of time, etc.)
- Focus on what you do have control over!
Acknowledge the negative emotions surrounding the injury AND don’t let them control you. Allow yourself to be sad/ angry/ disappointed and then work on that positive attitude.
- Take responsibility without blaming yourself. (What this means is taking control of recovery rather than blaming yourself for the injury).
- Think and remember times you have been injured in the past how you overcome it.
Be curious about what you are learning about from your injury. Ask yourself what resilience skills can be taken away from this experience.
- Often injuries can come from a place of muscle imbalance, stress or overtraining. Allow yourself to find how to come back from the injury stronger.
- Eat right.
- Sleep well.
- Engage in self-care.
- Be kind to your healing body.
Keep it in perspective
- How can you still enjoy life and find gratitude?
- Most injuries can be rehabilitated and these feelings will not last forever.
- You are not alone.
- You are more than your sport.