If you have not tuned in to my 3 Part Blog series on the connection between Mental health and Recovery please do so! Why Failing to Prioritize Recovery is Impacting Your Mental Health is a detailed look at how recovery and the mental health of an athlete are intimately linked. This will also help you understand the type of nervous system shift we are looking for and explain what the Parasympathetic (Ventral Vagal) Nervous System State is (Referred to as PNS in this Blog).
If you have not downloaded my Free EBOOK: The Athletes Holistic Guide to Recovery, this can be a great place to start!
I am a full advocate of explaining the “why” behind things before giving an athlete or coach solutions or answers. I find that the “WHY” is often what empowers an athlete to step into taking care of themselves more efficiently.
The recovery process will be unique and individual for every single athlete. When working with an athlete or a team I...
If you haven't tuned in to Part One and Part Two of this Series I recommend starting there.
Part One: The role of the Nervous System in both Mental Health and recovery
Part Two: The link between Recovery and Mental Health
But the impact of failing to prioritize recovery will also be a foundational piece of how an athlete performs.
Impact on Performance
For those of you who have gotten this far, THANK YOU. But alas, we have one more element to also consider.
Although I believe that there is NOTHING more important than the overall well being of an athlete, I also know that sport is competitive. Although we are moving in the right direction with mental health in sport there are still MANY athletes and coaches who prioritize performance and winning over overall health.
Performance is a critical piece to sport. But mental health is the foundation for performance.
Many athletes come to sport with goals and...
If you are just tuning in make sure to go back and read Part One. This will give you look at how the Nervous System is going to be central to both Recovery and Mental health. Now let's look at the link why we cannot talk about Athlete Mental Health without thinking about Recovery.
Recovery and Mental Health
Now lets see WHY an athlete needs to be prioritizing and making MORE of an effort to make this intentional down SHIFT in their nervous system after recovery. This is where we begin to link Recovery and Mental Health.
Have you ever looked at a typical college athlete’s life?
If not, let me paint a picture for you:
As a Mental Health therapist and Mindfulness and Performance coach I have worked with countless elite high school, college and professional athletes. More often than not the athletes and coaches I work with are driven, competitive and meticulous about their training both on and off the field. Yet, these same athletes and coaches fail to be as meticulous and prioritize recovery in the same way.
Athlete recovery is directly linked to mental heath and well being. We are moving in a time where mental health across many environments, including sport is gaining the attention it deserves yet athlete recovery is an absolutely CRITICAL piece to the athlete mental heath equation. This 3 part blog series aims to clarify the connection between the two.
Elite performance requires elite recovery. Hopefully through this series you will see why.
The Nervous System and Mental Health
The Nervous System is the foundation of our health and well being....
When we experience rejection and failure it is NATURAL to think about it. We are going to want to process it and as you have seen from my other principles I am a big fan of this. We need to process and we need to think. But what many of us experience post rejection and failure is actually rumination and THIS can be tough.
What is rumination? Rumination is when our thinking becomes a bit more obsessive, persistent and repetitive. Generally rumination has a negative tone and it creates anxiety for us. For me, it evokes physiological symptoms like an increase in my heart rate and feeling on edge. Rumination can be exhausting. But what differentiates rumination from processing is that it’s not really processing. You’re getting stuck. I love this description from Elizabeth Scott PhD (2020) “What distinguishes rumination from productive emotional processing or searching for solutions is that rumination doesn’t generate new ways of thinking, new...
“The motivation of self compassion arises from love, while the motivation of self criticism arises from fear. Love is more powerful than fear.”
Self Compassion is hard and it is very counterintuitive to how we typically operate as humans. Simply put, we’re a negative species. We have a negativity bias that serves us well up until a point. Oftentimes what happens when we face rejection or failure our self criticism kicks in. It can be quite addictive and spark a spiral of very critical self talk and rumination. If we failed it means we did something wrong so let’s beat ourselves up so that we can be better next time. If we get rejected, let’s critique ourselves as to WHY we weren’t enough.
Been there. Done that. It doesn’t work. In fact it makes things infinitely worse.
Especially in sport, there is definitely an attitude that if we fail we need to get back to the drawing board so we can figure out how to...
Here is a common human experience: We have a feeling or emotion. We don’t like it or judge ourselves for said feeling or emotion.
I can’t tell you how many times I have gone through failure and rejection and then beat myself up because I am taking it so hard.
“I shouldn’t be this sad”
“It’s not that big of a deal”
“I should be over this”
“It shouldn’t bother me”
“I should be more positive”
Anybody been there? We place so much judgment on how we think and feel. We are a judging species and although we will never NOT judge we can help ourselves out.
In his book “Wherever You Go There You Are,” Jon Kabat-Zinn describes what it might be like to not judge. “Imagine how it might feel to suspend all your judging and instead to let each moment be just as it is, without attempting to evaluate it as “good” or...
Self Care. What a buzz word these days.
The National Institute of Mental Health (2020) defines self care as “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health.”
But to me that doesn’t really give us a direction for our self care. What does self care mean?
With COVID especially there has been a shift and A LOT of talk about self care. It’s no surprise that when we are dealing with hard things we NEED to take care of ourselves. In speaking with one of my closest friends last week about what I am going through she mentioned that “we have to have heightened self care when things are tough.”
Failure and rejection are tough.
But at the same time I feel like we’ve morphed self care into many activities, “acts of love” and pampering that aren’t actually taking care of ourselves. Great example, pouring yourself a glass of wine or making yourself...
“If we don’t express our emotions, they pile up like a debt that will eventually come due.”
-Marc Brackett, PHD
Feel all the Feels.
We get clear on WHAT we’re feeling and we accept what we’re feeling but we have to actually do the feeling.
Unfortunately this is where more often than not we have to sit with our emotions and discomfort and allow time to heal. So. Freaking. Hard. But I promise this is THE only way.
Being Well with Dr. Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson is an incredible podcast that I highly recommend. In a recent episode on navigating failure they described how the sooner we attend to our feelings when we face failure and rejection the better. Why? Because this is what both the mind and the body need. In order to move through and “regulate” our emotions in an efficient way we have to honor them and give ourselves permission to feel however we are feeling. Easier said than done.
“The attempt to escape from pain, is what creates more pain.”
Accept vs Resist.
Let’s start with Resistance to our experience.
As Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer explain in their book The Mindful Self Compassion Workbook (2018) “what we resist, persists.”
What does it mean to resist our experience? We run from our emotions. We don’t like our experience. We deny our experience. We avoid, numb and block out what we actually feel. For me, resistance can look like trying to “rationally” or “logically” explain my way out of a feeling. Oftentimes I find myself adding more things than I can count to my schedule and running on “go go go” mode so that I don’t have TIME to stop and feel. I find myself avoiding being alone because when I am alone that means I actually have to be with myself and my feelings. I get irritated, I’m on edge and I find myself...