Being strong physically is sometimes mistaken for being strong mentally. Many people think that because athletes have strong and resilient bodies, they aren’t susceptible to depression and mental stress. But they are human and humans are known to freak out when things don’t go as planned. For the case of professional athletes, the common cause of emotional breakdown comes when they sustain career-threatening injuries. These are people who count on their body being at their physical peak in order to earn their living; in order to do what they love to do, what they live for.
But, unfortunately, it is almost impossible for an athlete to avoid sports-related injuries. That is why if you are an athlete, your main focus should be on how to recover mentally and physically after a serious injury, not so much on why and how you got injured. We will help you with the mental recovery part. Here are 7 tips that will help you recover fast mentally after a sports injury:
- Learn about the injury
Talk to your doctor, conduct your own independent research online, talk to your fellow athletes, and read books to learn as much about the injury as you possibly can. Know the type of injury you suffered, its diagnosis, expected recovery time, which treatment options you have, what to do and not do during recovery, and the warning signs to look out for if the injury gets worse. That knowledge will help you set realistic recovery goals so you don’t freak out or get anxious when the process takes longer than you’d want.
- Accept your condition
Accept that you are injured and that the situation is as good as it could be under the prevailing circumstances. Own your responsibility for self-care and treat your body right. Don’t beat yourself up for not preventing the injury or for getting in the line of danger at the time you got injured. Make a conscious effort to forget what happened back then and instead listen to what your body needs here and now. Honor your body’s need to rest and regain strength and ability. It is okay to allow yourself to get emotional about the injury, but try not to let frustrations consume you.
- Only worry about what you can control
Forget about the things you cannot control and instead put all your energy towards controlling what you can. You can, for example, control what you eat and drink in order to keep fit. You can control how you exercise without aggravating the injury. A leg injury, for example, should not prevent you from exercising your upper body, just like an arm injury shouldn’t prevent you from exercising your glutes, hamstring, and lower legs. Bottom line: Be in charge of your life and your body throughout the recovery process. Control what you can and control it for the benefit of your body.
- Set smart recovery goals
Keep your progress achievable and avoid the temptation of pushing yourself too hard. Let your goals be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). After you heal, don’t get out there and start exercising in full swing. Start by riding electric bikes in order to strengthen your arm and leg muscles. Start making small runs in the backyard. Allow yourself to recover from injury at your own pace in order to avoid the frustrations that come with unmet expectations.
- See the positives
Stay positive that you will recover eventually no matter how long it takes. Consider the things that injury has brought to your life; the people you have had a chance to spend time with during the recovery process. Think of the books you’ve read and the movies you’ve watched. It sucks to be injured and separated from your team, but it sucks less if you think of the exciting things that a small break has allowed you to do.
- Follow your rehabilitation program
No! You cannot speed things up by deviating from the rehabilitation routine your doctors, physical therapists, and coaches have set out for you. Trust the professionals and do what they say.
- Seek moral support
Don’t isolate yourself from the team. Some people make the mistake of hiding in shame because they feel like the injury has made them weak and vulnerable. No, it hasn’t. Athletes go through what you are going through all the time. Don’t shy from seeking moral support from the coach, family, and even your teammates.
This is just the first of the many minor and major injuries you will suffer over time. That is the small price you will have to pay if you are to excel in sports. So, take everything in your stride and keep moving. You shall overcome!
Written by Lisa Mottins.