How to Improve Mentally in Sports: Relaxation and Injury Recovery
The road to recovery from an injury and the importance of relaxation
We are continuing today to look at one of the ways to help in the recovery process of an injury. While the concussions have been the main topic and the biggest injury discussed in sports today, this information applies to all injuries. In previous post we discussed goal setting as a necessary part to the recovery process. An athlete needs to have an idea of where they are going and take some ownership on the road to recovery. Today we look at the second important sport psychology principle that plays apart in the process.
Relaxation is another good technique to use to help an athlete come back from a concussion, as it addresses two key components of the rehabilitation process, which is dealing with muscle tension and helping with stress and anxiety associated with the injury and the job that needs to be performed afterwards.
There is a fair amount of stress, tension and anxiety that goes along with an injury. One reason for this is not even the injury itself but the fact that the athlete no longer has the outlet of their sport. Many athletes use their sport as an outlet for dealing with many things, one of which is stress. If that is taken away then not only is the situation stressful but the way in which the athlete usually uses to help deal with stress is not there for a period of time. This is why relaxation can be very important.
Learning to stay relaxed and calm through the process will help reduce stress, anxiety, and tension, as well as help with the speed of healing. Stress causes inflammation, and so the more stressed one feels the more inflammation in their body. If we can help them manage the stress and reduce it, the overall inflammation in the body can be reduced which will help increase the rate of recovery. It also allows the body to focus on recovery and not the stress.
A few techniques to help with relaxation are:
a. Meditation – it has been proven that the benefits of meditation are far reaching and one main area is that of helping people to relax and be able to reduce their overall stress levels
b. Mental imagery – can also help an athlete out, seeing themselves recovering and doing the skills that are required of them as they did prior to the injury. This not only helps with relaxation but also in keeping them mentally ready for their return, reducing the recovery curve coming back.
c. Neutral self talk – is also necessary, as many negative thoughts will occur for the athlete as they work through their fears and frustrations. When an athlete is injured the anxiety and nervousness associated with it, will lead to their attention shifting to internal stimuli, such as the sensations of the injury. With concussions, the athlete sometimes is just waiting for their head to to start hurting. Once medically cleared it is about helping the athlete shift their focus of attention back to external stimuli that will help them get back into doing what they are supposed to be doing.
d. Support: Finally, an athlete needs a lot of support through the challenging time of rehabilitation, from coaches, teammates, friends and a sport psychology consultant. Helping the athlete see the need for the support and ask for it is a big step as often it is difficult for them to ask for the help. Receiving support helps tremendously in helping an athlete deal with the stress and stay relaxed. Especially if they can find people who know the process of recovery and find the ability to trust them, and lead them back to where they want to go.
Relaxation is extremely important and a necessary aspect of recovery. There are no right or wrong ways to stay relaxed, but make sure you find something that does work. It can often be beneficial to find a professional whom can help you through the process. Someone to lean on and guide you.
To your success,
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Kate Allgood Masters Sport Psychology (with distinction) Masters General Psychology (with distinction) Sports Hypnosis Certification Mindfulness Certification
TAIS Assessment Certified