It’s no secret that athletes are pushed to their limit, both mentally and physically, on a near-daily basis. They are expected to always be at the top of their game or at least working hard to get there, but they are certainly not immune to injuries, both physical and mental.
In fact, mental illness is often ignored by professional or elite athletes but is quite prevalent. There is an enormous amount of pressure to perform in their sport as well as in their personal lives, which can take a huge toll on a person’s mental health over time. Taking care of your mental health is a necessary part of staying healthy, just like how it’s crucial to be mindful of any physical injuries that could occur and healing them when they do.
Here is a guide to caring for your mental health as an athlete.
Recognize the signs of mental illness
It’s easy to spot a physical injury because of obvious signs like pain, but mental illness is much harder to acknowledge as an illness because it’s invisible and its symptoms can often get ignored, especially in the athletic world. The stigma for athletes often encourages over-training so they can be the absolute best they can be, pushing themselves to perfection, and always trying to outdo one another. When an athlete pushes themselves too hard, symptoms of poor mental health can begin to appear, so it’s important to recognize what they are and realize it’s
okay to not be okay sometimes.
Seek treatment when it’s needed
Only 10% of college athletes with mental illness seek help for their issues – a startlingly low statistic. When left unchecked, mental illnesses in elite athletes can manifest in harmful ways like stress, depression, and anxiety, as well as dysfunctional behaviors like eating disorders. Although athletes are expected to perform at high levels both in their sport and in their everyday lives, an illness is an illness regardless of its nature and needs to be addressed in order to heal from it. Ignoring mental illness will not make it go away, and it will only get progressively worse over
time, impacting various aspects of the athlete’s life.
Thankfully, there are plenty of treatment options available for a number of mental health issues. Psychiatric issues like anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be treated with therapy, self-care, and medication. Problem behaviors like eating disorders can be treated with the help of a professional or by seeking out and visiting an Eating Disorder Treatment LA facility, where a team of professionals can create a personalized treatment plan and monitor progress.
Take a break
As an athlete, it can be incredibly difficult to balance your training, performing, work or school, your social life, and your personal time. It can all become overwhelming and daunting, so finding a good balance and working out a schedule that works for you is necessary in order to maintain your busy life.
It’s also critical to recognize when it’s time to slow down and take a break to recharge. Over-training and verworking yourself can be detrimental to your mental health, so allowing yourself time to step away from your rigorous schedule can help you in the long run.