Taking care of yourself is important for your wellbeing and overall health. It involves getting the balance right on a number of elements; from nutrition to sleep, exercise to personal care.
As a sports professional, there’s a number of ways in which you can help boost your mental health, here’s just a few important steps to consider as part of your athletic programme:
Challenging negative thoughts
Sports professionals have to deal with pressure on a regular basis. From competitions to staying fit and healthy. Often this pressure can build up, leading to anxiety.
It’s ok to experience negative thoughts and it’s important to acknowledge them. However, a coping mechanism is to approach this as ‘problem solving’ – trying to overcome obstacles and finding positive solutions to them.
Seeing challenges as part of the learning process, and understanding how to problem solve can be beneficial for your wellbeing.
There’s lots of evidence to show the benefits of talking to others. As the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and can help with boosting mental health.
The NHS advise that having good relationships with family, friends and our wider communities is important for wellbeing, since we are sociable creatures by nature.
We thankfully live in times where mental health is taken seriously, both in the workplace and at home. As such, today it’s actively encouraged to share our feelings with others.
There are small actions we can take to increase our sociability; why not organise coffee with a colleague, a day out with a friend, or maybe even just give someone a ring you’ve lost touch with.
Take time for yourself
The most important part of wellbeing is taking good care of yourself and this starts with self-love. This means learning to put your needs first, eating a well-balanced diet, taking part in daily sport and being kind to yourself.
The simple act of mindfulness is one way to schedule regular time for yourself to reflect and relax. Another important factor is making time for what you love to do; whether it’s a walk in the park, meeting up with friends, going for a sports massage or eating food you love.
A sports coach might encourage goal setting as part of your training programme. In doing so, you have something to work towards which can be motivating in itself. This is also important, since small goals can allow you to track progress step by step.
Along the journey it’s important to reflect back on your achievements with pride. This is valuable towards developing a healthy outlook and can improve your self-worth and wellbeing.
If food is fuel, then what you put into your body is even more valuable as an athlete. We know that it’s important to look after your body and there’s plenty of research that illustrate the benefits of a well-balanced diet.
The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham is one of many organisations that has outlined a number of benefits of a good diet, these include; increased energy, improved sleep quality, improved mood and mental wellbeing.
Work with a nutritionist or qualified sports coach to help develop an eating plan that is complementary to your exercise regime; rich in the right vitamins, protein and nutrients.
Regular exercise is known to help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as boost our mood. Even just walking has notable benefits; exposure to fresh air and daylight is great for Vitamin B levels which help body function, as well as regulate our circadian rhythm.
As an athlete, you may be getting plenty of exercise, but if this is seen as ‘work’ and not leisure, then it may be beneficial to take part in another sport in a non-competitive environment. Many professionals, for instance, consider golf as their second sport – it’s calming and sociable benefits are said to help reduce stress and anxiety and like all sports, can also boost mood.
If you work in a pressurised environment such as sport, it’s useful to learn coping strategies for stress in order to support your mental wellbeing.
There have been various studies on the matter, showing that females use a variety of problem-focused strategies such as; planning, communication and technique-orientated coping, more frequently than males. While groups of athletes reported using; planning, blocking and visualisation as coping mechanisms.
There’s numerous ways to approach coping strategies, work closely with your coach to find out what works best for you.
It can be all too easy to get consumed in work and forget about the importance of oneself. Personal care and taking the time to relax and unwind can help boost your mental health.
Much like having a sporting routine, try and find time each week to relax. Perhaps try mindfulness or yoga or even meditation. There’s no one size fits all – it’s what works best for your personal needs.
Eight to ten hours a night – that’s the amount of sleep professional athletes including Usain Bolt and Rafael Nadal need; while others like Roger Federer can demand up to 12 hours. Maria Sharapova is in agreement, admitting that “I love to sleep, it’s my hobby.”
Known for its restorative properties, sleep clearly matters.
Mind, the mental health organisation believes there’s a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Too little or too much can impact our state of mind and beyond. They advise establishing a nightly routine and trying to relax before going to bed. They advise creating a relaxing environment for sleep, and being conscious of how food, drink, technology and exercise might all impact on a good night’s rest.
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