Athletes need more than just physical prowess to become true champions. Willpower and fortitude are just as critical to performance as muscles and agility are, and the only way to maintain peak fitness is to train the mind as much as the body.
The best wellness trends to follow this year all point to this being the case. Slowly but surely, an increasing number of aspiring athletes are being taught the equal importance of mental strength and physical capability.
So why is mental health so important? How does it impact your athletic ability? Let’s find out by first taking a look at what mental health means and some of the most common misconceptions surrounding it.
What is mental health in sports?
Many athletes believe that mental strength equates to not showing signs of weakness. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sharing your struggles and admitting when you’re not coping are skills that should be mastered as early as possible.
Not being honest with yourself and others is the quickest way to compromise your physical and emotional wellbeing. A weak mind is vulnerable to intrusive and negative thoughts, and an athlete who loses the will to fight is of no use to anyone, no matter how strong their physical condition may be.
Mental challenges aren’t like cuts, bruises, and broken bones. They can’t be fixed with casts and plasters, and that’s why it’s incredibly important to be able to communicate as openly as possible about any issues you might have.
A strong mind is resilient through honesty and integrity, not a false sense of bravado. The latter mentality is best left precisely where it belongs – gathering dust in the annals of history. Fortunately, most athletes finally realize now how dangerous it is to ignore mental fitness, and how beneficial it is to optimal performance.
Benefits of a healthy mind
From regulating negative emotions to better self-esteem and confidence, good mental health has a clear and definitive impact on athletic performance. It provides all the tools you need to deal with struggle and loss, and it can often be the difference between giving up and achieving a last-minute victory.
Mental benefits aren’t achieved by being positive all the time. You have to be accepting of all thoughts and emotions for good mental health, no matter how difficult those feelings and ideas are to deal with or process.
With a healthy mind comes a healthy body. A strong mind helps you to understand how far you can push your body, gives you more focus, and puts you in tune with your physical self. This is only possible with honest communication between your mind, your body, and the outside world.
Listening to your inner voice may seem like a statement that belongs on a gift card, but no matter how cheesy it sounds, there’s no denying the power held by that voice inside your head. Listen to it, and you won’t regret it. The alternative is to ignore it, but all that will do is lead you down a path of ignorance, severely hampering your chances of achieving the best version of yourself.
The stress of competition
Concentration will always be affected by stress. Stress comes in a variety of forms, ranging from minor issues to life-changing obstacles, and dealing with these stressors properly is essential for maintaining a steady focus and a resilient outlook.
Anxiety and depression are two of the most prevalent issues affecting society today, and athletes are just as susceptible to them as other people. Stress is a significant factor in the onset of these illnesses, especially when it isn’t addressed timeously or managed effectively.
Back in the day, mental health resources for athletes were few and far between. However, the situation has improved significantly in recent years, and sports institutions around the world have finally begun to implement programs that can assist athletes with any mental health issues they’re experiencing.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a list of resources on mental health, as do other organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Institute of Mental Health. Essentially, all the resources you need are available at any time.
The biggest threat to your mental health is the stigma associated with admitting you have faults. If you embrace your shortcomings instead of casting them to the back of your mind, your overall athletic performance will improve dramatically in time.
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