For Athletes Unable to Compete in Sports, the Mental Struggle is Real

Athletes are uniquely qualified to handle the mental issues of this pandemic.

As a life-long athlete, I can tell you that it is both a state of mind, and a way of life. When you get involved in competitive sports from a young age, it conditions you to crave the camaraderie of a team, the freedom of being outdoors, and the achievement of reaching fitness goals. When you throw the world into a worldwide lock-down, it is bound to have adverse effects for people who have spent their entire lives in a routine heavily influenced by sports.

It’s one thing to not be able to play sports personally, but we can’t even watch them on TV anymore!

As you can imagine this can create all sorts of mental struggles for athletes, from anxiety, to depression. This can in turn lead to weight gain, a lack of motivation, and an overall loss of self. Long story short, this lock-down is incredibly hard for lifelong athletes.

But it doesn’t have to be.

As anyone who has ever played a sport knows, you have to know how to pivot. Yes, this quarantine is terrible, but athletes are actually well-equipped to deal with something like this, even if they don’t realize it. Here are three ways athletes can use their knowledge of sports to get through this difficult time.

READ MORE: Mental Health Benefits of Sports for Adults

Camaraderie. One of the biggest benefits to athletics is being part of a team. When you are on a team, you all support each other, pick up the slack for others, and make decisions based on what is best for the overall team. Right now our team is humanity. The elderly and immuno-compromised are our teammates. We help them by staying indoors, and social distancing when necessary.

Switchups. In sports, you often have to change your tactics at a moments notice. The same can be said of this quarantine. As athletes, we HAVE to stay physical. Since we may not be able to play our favorite sports, now is a great time to try new ones. Specifically, sports that don’t require a team. You may actually learn something about yourself by trying a new sport during this time. Teaching our kids the importance of flexibility is also a great lesson to pass on.

Mindfulness. Right before a big game, the most important thing you can do is get your mind right. You have to focus on the task at hand, and put all your other problems out of your mind. That kind of willpower and determination is difficult, but ultimately necessary. So if we keep our mind on the prize (defeating Covid-19), it becomes much easier to self-reflect and compartmentalize all our other problems.

We are all struggling during this time, and self-reflection is key. If you have spent your life using sports as a way to evade your mental issues, maybe now is a time to face them. Just be gentle with yourself, and keep in mind that this situation isn’t ‘normal’, so your mental health may suffer. It is all temporary however, and if there is one thing athletes are known for, it’s endurance.

We play to win. So stay in the game, and keep your eyes on the prize!

Together we can beat this pandemic.

Published by karenmsutton

HSS Orthopaedic surgeon in sports medicine | Mother of 4 amazing children | Team physician for USA Women's Lacrosse | ACL injury expert

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