Article Written By: Taylor Valentine
Asst. Coach, Centre College
Top Mental Health Tips For Athletes
When looking for the best mental health tips for athletes, you have a lot of different resources that you can use to help prepare yourself for competition. If you enjoy reading, there are a lot of great books that I like.
1) Peak Performance: Elevate your game, avoid burnout, and thrive with the new science of success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
2) Endurance Performance in sport: psychological theory and interventions by Carla Meijen
3) Mental Toughness: The mindset behind sporting achievement by Michael Sheard
4) Mind Gym: An Athlete’s guide to inner excellence by Gary Mack and David Casstevens
5) The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train and Thrive by Jim Afremow
These books are great as they give you some good perspectives on tips that can help you as an athlete.
Types of Mental Health Tips
The mental health tips that I want to look at for athletes are:
- focus on technique
- understand how stress can benefit you
- visualize your performance
- pick the right pre-event environment
- practice positive self-talk and self-awareness
1. Focus on Technique
If you think about winning or losing, you’ll get distracted from the physical actions you need to perform. Ignore the factors you don’t have control over, such as weather or terrain. Instead, focus on the details you need to execute during the competition. Identify the individual steps you need to take to get there.
2. Understanding How Stress Can Benefit You
Heading into the competition, you may feel stressed. Recognize stress as something that can work for you or against you. A small amount of stress can help benefit your performance by energizing you and giving you a rush of adrenaline. What’s important is not letting stress consume you or turn into anxiety. Instead, learn to accept the presence of stress and use it to your advantage.
3. Visualize Your Performance
Many talented athletes practice visualization before a competition. They envision potential scenarios they could encounter and determine how they will respond. This helps athletes react quickly when presented with the same design on the spot.
This is consistently practiced at college id camps, college showcase camps, and showcase events for athletes.
4. Pick the Right Pre-Event Environment
Some people like to get pumped up by listening to loud, fast-paced music. Others feed off of encouragement from their fans. Finally, some choose to find a quiet space, listen to calming music, or meditate. Find out which method works best for you, and create and replicate that environment for yourself before the competition.
5. Practice Positive Self-Talk
The narrative in your head before competition should be mindful and purposeful. Set yourself up for success by talking through the event being positive and uplifting, as a coach would motivate their team.
It’s good to be in touch with yourself. Understand how you respond to stress triggers and create a plan for dealing with them. If it helps, you may want to keep a journal with you. You’ll also be able to review the thought processes you’ve written.
Resilience is something else that is important when it comes to mental health tips. Resilience is the ability to confidently face challenges, embrace change, recover from setbacks and bounce back from adversities. In today’s fast-paced environment, increases in stress levels, absenteeism, and lack of engagement require organizations to rethink their approach to supporting and developing their leaders, managers, and staff.
Individual Resilience: Bounce back from difficult circumstances, thrive in adversity, perform effectively under pressure, adapt to sudden change, manage overall health and wellbeing, cope with emotional upheaval and achieve good outcomes despite severe threats to adaptation or development.
Comfort, Growth and Crush Zone
Another good way to look at this for mental health tips would be in three different areas: 1) Comfort Zone, 2) Growth Zone, and 3) Crush Zone.
Comfort zone: Easy, convenient, least resistant, status quo, and fearful of change.
Growth zone: Emotionally resilient, calloused mind, crave discomfort, inviting mental/physical challenges.
Crush Zone: Pressure-filled, anxiety-driven, panic, overwhelmed, and self-doubt.
When looking at these three zones, you can ask yourself a few questions: Consider an aspect of your life (student, athlete, other).
What zone do you spend most of your time in? What are the benefits of performing in that zone? What are the drawbacks of serving in that zone? Are there internal hurdles that prevent you from moving into the grow zone? Are there external sources that prevent you from moving into the growth zone?
These are all great questions you might ask yourself as you try to find the growth zone. You can’t hurt me, accept your flaws, and dismiss excuses (internal and external).
Standards and Expectations
You need to have some standards and expectations for yourself:
Represent yourself and your family in a positive light
No excuses and no transfer of blame
Compete in everything you do – on and off the field
Treat all people with courtesy and respect
Be on time for everything
Handle adversity. Continue moving forward with confidence and positivity
Remain positive and energetic in all you do. Do not allow negativity, cynicism, or complaining into your daily routine
Seek and find outside counsel. Collaborative learning will shape your time
Know your “Why?”
I like the last point in knowing your “why” because it has to be self-driven by yourself to be able to get something done. Knowing why you’re doing something sets forth a good mindset and gives you a goal to complete the task. Seeking and finding outside counsel is something athletes struggle with because they don’t want to share things with other people. Going to someone and asking them for advice doesn’t make you weak; it shows that you care about your well-being as a person.
In conclusion, it’s about putting in the training ahead of time, both physically and mentally. Preparation can make all the difference when it comes time to compete. If you think something is good for you, do it, and don’t let anyone stop you.