“As I ran to get that ball, a push sent my body flying and took the wind out of me…and yet, as my body hurt -my only thought was how to put up a brave front and not tell my coach my ankle hurt real bad. As I worked to heal my ankle, I had missed healing my mindset and that showed when I went back after two weeks…”
Nobody likes being injured, even if they’re the world’s biggest couch potato — but if you’re an athlete, injuries have a particular sting. Not only does an injury mean you can’t do what you love the most, but it can also affect how you see yourself and lead to fears that you’ll let others down.
Yet, the psychological and mental impact of injuries is not something that gets discussed very often in youth athletic circles, and that needs to change.
Work on your mindset
It doesn’t matter whether you’re struggling with a minor sprain or if you need reconstructive ACL surgery — no injury is too big or too small to get you down. Many athletes feel they need to live up to an idealized notion of being “tough” or remaining “positive” through thick and thin, but forcing yourself to maintain a facade will not help anyone- not yourself and definitely not your team!
Here are few tips that will help you work on your mindset as you heal physically after an injury.
Accepting that it’s normal for injuries to affect your mindset is the first step to improving your feelings.
Use the growth mindset principles to reframe your situation.
Remind yourself that what you’re going through is just a temporary setback that might even help you by offering an opportunity to step back and reflect. It certainly isn’t a reflection of your ability.
You can also look after your mindset by ensuring you get enough sleep, follow a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water. Yes! surprising but true- Diet also affects mindset- don’t binge on those icecreams because you are sad or hurt!
Seek help from your community
If you’re feeling lost, worthless, and upset because of your inability to participate in sports, your natural reaction is probably to withdraw. But don’t succumb to your fears — even if you think that your coach and team will be mad at you for getting injured, the reality is most likely they want to help you.
Boost your morale by continuing to socialize with your friends and teammates throughout your injury. Do not hesitate to take help from professionals if need be. Remember- you want to get back healthy both physically and mentally! Just as you would go to a Physical Therapist, seek out folks who can help you with your mindset – even if that means talking to a parent, friend, coach, professional.
Return to sport gradually.
Given the psychological impact of injuries, it’s only natural that most athletes will want to return to their sports as usual as soon as possible. You feel that you are letting down your team or coach (even if it is all in your head!!). But if you haven’t figured this much out already, we firmly believe that your physical health isn’t the only factor you should consider. Pay attention to how you feel and ensure you’re mentally and emotionally ready to return to training — especially if you’ve spent a long time away.
You’re more than just your body.
Most athletes go through multiple injuries throughout their sporting careers, so there’s no need to feel like a failure when it happens to you. Be kind to yourself.
At Inside Athletes, we know that sport is about far more than just your physical abilities and health. As mental health is gaining more attention, we believe it’s about time the youth sports caught up and recognized the link between how we feel and how we perform.