In recent years, there has been a growing awareness around the importance of mental health for athletes. It’s important for athletes to realize that physical ability is only one part of their overall performance. Mental health plays a crucial role in athletic success and should be given the same level of priority as physical training. The pressures that come with professional sports can take a toll on an athlete’s mental wellbeing and can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues if not addressed. By prioritizing mental health, athletes can learn effective coping mechanisms and techniques that will help them manage stressors both on and off the playing field. It’s time we recognize that taking care of one’s mental health is just as essential as conditioning our bodies for optimal performance.
Let’s talk about 10 reasons why athletes should prioritize their mental health.
1. Because athletes are humans, too.
It’s no secret that athletes are often put on a pedestal in society. But the reality is that they are humans just like the rest of us, with all the complexities and imperfections that come with being alive. They struggle with health issues, family problems, personal setbacks, and everything else that goes along with being a person. Being an athlete does not exclude one from experiencing mental health issues.
2. Because athletes are at risk for burnout.
Athletes often push themselves to the limit in order to achieve success, but this determination can come at a cost. Athletes are at risk for burnout due to the intense physical and mental demands of their sport, as well as outside pressures from coaches, teammates, and fans to perform at a high level. It is important to recognize the warning signs of burnout and take steps to prevent over-exhaustion, including taking breaks, seeking support from friends and family, or talking about their experiences with a therapist.
3. Because it will boost confidence on and off the field.
It’s natural for athletes to experience self-doubt and uncertainty from time to time, whether they’re struggling with performance anxiety or stress about balancing sports with other responsibilities like school or family life. However, prioritizing mental health and seeking the help of a licensed therapist can provide them with the tools they need to boost their confidence and cope with challenges in a healthy way. Ultimately, by taking care of their mental health, athletes can unlock a new level of self-confidence that will serve them well both on and off the field.
4. Because it will strengthen skills for stress management.
When athletes prioritize their mental health, they not only feel better emotionally but are also able to manage stress more effectively. Mindfulness practices, healthcare strategies, human therapy can all lead to stronger stress-management skills, which serve to help people maintain well-rounded and successful athletic careers while promoting healthier lifestyles overall.
5. Because better mental health is connected to better physical health.
The mental state of an athlete can have a direct impact on their physical health. When an athlete is mentally stressed, fatigued or anxious, it can lead to physical exhaustion and injuries, which can prevent them from performing to their full potential. By prioritizing mental health, athletes can avoid these risks, and consequently, maintain their physical health.
6. Because they will have stronger relationships with teammates and coaches.
Neglecting mental health can often lead to mood swings, aggression, or depression that isolate athletes from their peers and hinder team cohesion. By taking time to address their mental health needs, athletes can show up as more active participators and better problem-solvers for themselves and others. This ultimately leads to healthy relationships built on mutual respect and engagement, making it easier for players and coaches to trust each other and work together effectively.
7. Because it will allow for better life balance.
Particularly for student athletes, such as those in high school and college, pending balance in life is highly difficult as they navigate a complex web of challenges that demand careful attention and thoughtful management. From rigorous training schedules to team and class schedules, these individuals must possess strong time-management skills. By prioritizing mental health and guarding against anxiety, depression, and other concerns, athletes will be more likely to keep up with their demanding schedules and find better life balance.
8. Because it improves their focus.
If you’ve ever watched an athlete, you know that their focus is unparalleled. They can tune out distractions and hone in on the task at hand with incredible precision. But when mental health symptoms interfere, it’s very difficult to maintain strong focus. Athletes who prioritize their mental well-being have been shown to have better focus and concentration on the field or court. When athletes manage their stress levels and address signs and symptoms of burnout, they are better equipped to stay present in the moment during games or competitions.
9. Because it will enhance emotional regulation skills.
Athletes with better mental health tend to have stronger emotional regulation skills, which can be a game-changer on and off the field. By being able to manage their emotions effectively, athletes can respond calmly to stressful situations, stay focused under pressure, and bounce back quickly from setbacks. Additionally, they are less likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse or aggression.
10. Because it will inspire other athletes to also prioritize mental health.
Athletes who prioritize their mental health set an important example for others to follow. By normalizing mental health and seeking help when needed, they help to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourage others to do the same. Ultimately, by valuing and prioritizing their own mental health, athletes can inspire others to do the same and contribute to a more supportive culture of wellness in sports and beyond.
Overall, athletes must prioritize mental health as it affects their entire well-being, performance, and success. It’s critical to seek necessary support when dealing with mental health struggles, just like they would for any physical injury. When athletes prioritize their mental health, it sets them on a path to be the best versions of themselves, not just on the field, but also in their day-to-day lives. Mental health is not something to take lightly, and for athletes, it should it be a priority. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please reach out to us. At River Oaks Psychology, would be honored to walk alongside your journey and help you maximize your potential for success in all areas of your life.
Written by Lauren Presutti