Caring for your mental health as a student-athlete can be challenging.
5 Tips to improve your mental health as a student-athlete
Many student athletes today are struggling in ways that aren’t talked about enough. It’s common to talk about how sore your body feels after a game or workout, but most athletes don’t talk about how they’re feeling mentally and emotionally. Angi Steffen, Director of Sports Medicine at Concordia University Wisconsin, said that the topic of caring for mental health as a student-athlete has become more popular over the past ten years. She stated, “Since the pandemic, this topic has become even more prevalent.” Fortunately, we have a few tips on how to care for your mental health as a collegiate athlete.
Get help if you’re struggling
Before you dive into these tips, remember that these are suggestions for helping you deal with the highs and lows of life as a student-athlete. Concordia University Ann Arbor’s director of the CAPS program is Lauren Allison, MA, LPC. Allison reminds us that, “Mental health is just as much a priority as physical health. In fact, mental health can affect your physical health. We must focus on our mental health because it’s essential when maintaining our physical health.” If you’re experiencing anything more serious, reach out to CAPS on campus. CAPS stands for counseling and psychological services and it is offered to anyone on campus looking for help. Allison can be reached here.
Tip#1 Prioritize getting ahead in your schedule
One of the best feelings as a student is knowing you don’t have anything due last-minute. Some students like to procrastinate or have a hard time starting a task right away. (I, myself, struggle with that.)
Once I started planning out each assignment for each day of the week, a weight was lifted off my shoulders as a student. I felt more happy with myself, I went to bed earlier, and I became more involved in my school work.
Getting ahead and knowing what you need to do everyday really helped me, but not only as student, but an athlete as well. Coming home from practice, workouts, or even games became so much easier because I wasn’t stressed about still having something left to do. This can greatly helped my mental wellness as a student-athlete.
Tip #2 Try to stop multitasking
Along with procrastinating, multitasking is another cause of extra stress. As a busy student, multitasking seems like it would be smarter. After all, you’re doing multiple things at once. When you multitask, it puts your brain and body into rush-mode. You’re trying to get all of your tasks together in time for something, all the while you’re just getting more stressed.
Multitasking is also bad for your brain. The human brain is designed to do one task at a time because our short term memory can only hold 7 bits of information at once while doing a task. According to Boston Evening Therapy Associates, multitasking almost always adds more stress to an individual. When a task is divided into multiple tasks, more mistakes are prone to happen. This is because information is easily forgotten when we focus our short term memory on different tasks at the same time. Overall multitasking seems like a loop hole for student athletes, but it will only leave them more stressed.
Tip #3 Set aside time for breaks
Breaks are very important for everyone. Working too hard can make everyone feel burnout. According to nata.org, “burnout is a response to chronic stress of continued demands in a sport or activity without the opportunity for physical and mental rest and recovery.”
As a student-athlete this response is easy to encounter because of daily routines. By adding a mental break somewhere in your routine, it can help you breathe a little. These breaks can be anything you enjoy like lunch with friends or just relaxing by yourself. This can make a huge difference in your mental health and gives you something to look forward to.
Tip #4 Remember your why
When you’ve been playing the same sport for many years, you start to forget a lot. You don’t forget things like how you play, for example. But, you might forget why you’re playing in the first place or reasons why you’re still playing. This can help calm you when you’re feeling stressed. If you truly didn’t care or like your sport, you wouldn’t still be playing it.
Playing a sport, especially in college, takes a lot of responsibility and independence. There are a lot of obligations you have as a student-athlete and there will be days when you hate it. I have days when I want to quit and just be a student, then I remember how much I love my sport. It gets hard doing practice year-round, and the off-season isn’t always fun if all you do is train. Reminding yourself that it’s not about if you win or lose, it’s about the experience and helps remember your why.
Tip #5 Find a mentor
The best way to help your mental health is talking about it with people you trust. It can be hard to be vulnerable and seek help, but in the end it really helps. Opening up and getting advice from your peers will have you feeling so much better about your stress or mental health.
Lonnie Pries is the Athletic Director at Concordia University of Ann Arbor, and he sees the importance of his student-athletes finding mentors. Pries stated: “When facing a challenging time, try not to isolate yourself and not talk about what is going on. Reach out to a mentor, coach, parent, sibling, teammate, or friend, and talk to them about what is going on.” You don’t have to struggle by yourself.
Student-athlete mental health: take care of the whole you
Do these tips resonate with you? Talking about your mental health and making some lifestyle changes can be hard. Even stepping out of your comfort zone can be hard. But, in the end, you may find it helped you. Together we can end the stigma of mental health and better each other. If you want to know more about life at Concordia University Ann Arbor, visit us here.
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