Everyone learned the hard way how devastating a pandemic can be. Since it disrupted almost everyone’s lifestyle, people are urging others to stay active and healthy. But then, another sensitive topic worth talking about is how it managed to mess with our mental health.
When it comes to athletes, maintaining good mental health can be quite challenging. With all the social distancing imposed and the postponement of competitions and training, this only added to the mental pressure athletes has to face daily.
Mental Health Issues Athletes Were Facing Before the Pandemic
Many athletes have already been struggling with their mental health even before the pandemic. For one, many have been struggling with anxiety and depression. The intensity of their training, the high expectations of their families, team, coaches, and supporters can be enough to stress them out.
Many athletes tend to show signs and symptoms of a personality disorder. They want to showcase their skills that they tend to show their perfectionist and narcissist side, especially during training. Others have a hard time focusing, learning, concentrating, and sustaining attention, often leading to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.
Eating disorders are also common to athletes who wanted to maintain a desirable weight and physique. These are common in athletes whose sports judge their aesthetics. This can include gymnasts, swimmers, divers, distance runners, and wrestlers.
Substance use is common to athletes, but more so with student-athletes. Most are into caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, stimulants, performance enhancers, and opiates. Athletes often use these substances as a means to boost their confidence, push themselves further, and as a way to cope with the pressures associated with fulfilling their duties as athletes.
Injuries can also reveal or even trigger an athlete’s mental health problem. Athletes who get injured can feel depressed, anxious, and burned out thinking their injury will stop them from getting a competitive advantage or even end their career in the process. Aside from sports physiotherapy services, athletes should focus on improving their mental health with the support of their loved ones and a professional.
How the Has a Taken a Toll on the Mental Health of Athletes
The pandemic postponed the biggest athletic event, which is the 2020 Olympics. Even smaller competitions were canceled altogether as an attempt to control and minimize the spread of the virus. This is totally different from knowing when a sporting event will take place and with athletes knowing exactly what to expect.
Most athletes live for sports. They plan their whole life around contests and would pursue their sporting career even if it meant sacrificing important life experiences like building a family or saying yes to another career opportunity. But thanks to the pandemic, their plans were disrupted, competitions were put on hold, and they fear they won’t be in great condition before the next event opens up.
Some athletes are also experiencing financial insecurity during the pandemic. Not all have the luxury of being born in a well-off family. They may be affected economically which means their basic needs are unmet which also affects their mental state.
Athletes also miss their training partners, coach, and teams. Since they are mostly training on their own back home, they feel lonely and depressed. Their routine was suddenly non-existent, making it hard for them to cope with the new normal. Some athletes can feel a lot lonelier if they have been training in another country or state and are now self-isolating while being away from their loved ones.
Add the fact that millions got infected while more than a million already died only add to an athlete’s stress. Some had family members who died from the virus while others have partners or teammates currently fighting Covid-19. This puts a toll on the already mentally-stressed athlete’s mind.
How Athletes Can Start Caring for Their Mental Health During the Pandemic
The first step is to recognize the fact that even athletes are susceptible to mental health problems. There is no shame in admitting you are not okay and that you are battling depression, anxiety, eating disorder, or any other mental health issues. Admitting the fact that you too are struggling in your own ways is a good sign that you are willing to seek and find help.
Athletes should reach out to professionals and their loved ones. Having a good support system is crucial when battling any mental health issue. Athletes should eat nutritious foods on time, stay active, and get enough rest and sleep.
They also need to take some time off to take part in activities that relax them and make them happy. A hobby outside of their sport can be a good way to ease their stress and anxiety. They will also benefit from creating a checklist and new routine to keep them in check and give them a feeling of accomplishment.
Athletes have been living off of a strict routine before the pandemic happened. This basically put their mental balance out of scale. Athletes must take time in keeping themselves physically and mentally healthy during the pandemic. Create and maintain a new healthy routine and reach out to others and professionals as needed. Engage in activities that make you happy and know that many other athletes are going through the same thing during these challenging times.