Why Failing to Prioritize Recovery is Impacting Your Mental Health: Part Two

 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: 

  1. Training every day (1 off day mandatory —- is it ever really off?) 
  2. Many teams lift in season so add at least 1 lift (maybe more) on top of training 
  3. Anywhere from 1-2 games per week (baseball is an anomaly) 
  4. Outside of practice film review or individual sessions with coaches 
  5. Team activities, community service, team bonding: things that many teams factor in or include weekly 
  6. Full course load (anywhere from 4-8 classes pending school requirements and individual preferences) which often come with hours of studying / work per night 
  7. No chance most athletes are getting 7-9 hours of sleep (or let’s just say adequate hours of sleep) 
  8. Fun/Social Life: I wasn’t born under a rock - most college kids go out at some point and consume alcohol
  9. Outside lives: O yes, athletes DO participate and try to engage in activities, clubs, hobbies OUTSIDE of sport!  
  10. Are you an athlete navigating an injury? Whether significant or smaller and nagging, this will play a role! 
  11. Reminder - they are humans and have families, significant others, social media and just life stress 
  12. Not to mention our student athletes who are minorities are more likely to experience trauma and discrimination which negatively impacts well being 
  13.  Don’t forget social context! Mental health and stress are often individualized.  We cannot forget that the social structures in which an athlete is raised in and spends time in will impact mental health and well being! 

All of the above is depleting mental, emotional and physical capacity. 

We have to remember that playing sports (especially at an elite level) is stress on the mind-body system and overall nervous system health. This, on top of ALL the other LIFE stressors an athlete faces in their day to day impact an athlete’s overall health and well being. Stress is cumulative.  Recovery and regeneration of the mind-body system is what allows us to “reset”. 

Almost every single athlete and team I work with emphasizes their training regimen, strength and conditioning and technical (or skill) work. Most of the athletes I work with are meticulous about this. Every aspect is completely dialed in. 

Except for their recovery. 

When we don’t prioritize or even HEIGHTEN recovery an athlete is always going to be operating from depletion.  What I often find in my athletes (college in particular) is that they are showing up to practice, lift, and games ALREADY depleted. Now, take this weekly gauntlet and multiply it by 3-4 months for an entire season (whether it’s “in” season or “out” of season). 

In the years I have been doing this work I often find that roughly half way through a college season is when we see an increase in athletes getting sick, injured and hitting burnout. This makes perfect sense. 

Too many athletes are operating from a deficit and the mind-body system and nervous systems ability to function properly will be impacted

This means that your ability to…. 

  1. Think and focus clearly
  2. Navigate self talk 
  3. Be aware of self and others 
  4. Navigate emotions 

…will all be impacted. This is your mental health. 

As stated in Part One of this series, your nervous system controls your mental health. All of this is impacting your mental health. If we fail to prioritize recovery and help our nervous system make the necessary shift to restore the mind body system, we are failing to prioritize our mental health

In a time where Mental health issues, especially for our athletes are at an all time high we cannot afford to overlook this. 

In short:  Your Nervous system is the foundation of your mental health.  Your nervous system is also the foundation of your recovery. Your recovery is absolutely critical for your mental health. 


Check out Part Three of this Series HERE


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