Have you ever been the lone participant in a “pity me” party after an injury?
I hope you know that you are not the only one.
I’m sure you’ve sat there and asked yourself:
Injury recovery is no joke, both physically and mentally.
After an injury, athletes often waver through the five stages of grief. These include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Oftentimes, athletes switch directions progressing and regressing along the grief continuum. It’s not uncommon for athletes to struggle with the process.
Remember, emotional ups and downs post-injury and during recovery are normal. Biochemically, our bodies undergo a change. Neurotransmitters relating to excitability and positivity become depressed due to decreasing activity levels. During recovery, they will wax and wane contributing to emotional lability. So, just know, a lot of it is normal.
What is not normal? Remaining in a depressed, fearful, and frustrated state upon recovery. So how do you help combat the negative emotions associated with injury? Here are five tips to help you develop mental fortitude as an athlete.
As I’ve already said, grief is real after injury. If you are struggling with your emotions, do not ignore them! Make sure you do reach out for help, and realize much of what you are feeling is completely normal. Athletes often experience an identity crisis after injury. This does cause feelings associated with loss of self-worth and lack of true identity. Mental health is important after injury, so do not ignore it! If I could, I would make all athletes I work with see a sports psychologist!
Goal setting should be at the forefront of injury recovery! Goals must be clear and realistic based upon rehabilitation timelines. If you are unsure how to set goals, work with your healthcare provider to help you. Remember, no one rehabilitation process is alike! Your timeline is your timeline. Make sure your goals allow you to own it!
Focusing on the now is one of the most important things that you can do during rehabilitation. Looking too far backward or too far to the future can be detrimental to your recovery. Make sure you are achieving your “present” goals! Place emphasis on your mental health where you ARE in your recovery instead of where you were or are going to be. Allow yourself to daydream, but don’t do it too much! Yes, it is important to look to the future, but battling the present will only propel you there.
Although you may feel that isolation is best post-injury, I can assure you it is not. Make sure that you are reaching out to your inner circle when needed. Surround yourself with individuals or things that help you keep a positive mindset. If you have questions or concerns about your injury status, do not hesitate to reach out to your medical providers! Making sure that you have a great care team is of utmost importance. Ask for help and support when you need it!
Keeping a positive outlook even at the dimmest of times is imperative after injury. Although things may not always go smoothly, look at the big picture! Live in the present and hit your short-term goals. Don’t let the little setbacks ruin your comeback. There will always be something for you to strive for in the end, no matter how big or small your injury.
So, folks, I hope this helps.
Although these tips may seem like common sense, they are often forgotten about. Don’t let your injury take you down. Listen to your body, live in the moment, hit your marks, and stay positive. You’ve got this!