Strategies for dealing with a sports injury

 In Coaches, Injury, Professional & Olympic Athletes

sports injuryI’ve written and talked about the psychology of injuries for years. Injuries really do stink but what can make the process easier is to not only deal with the physical aspect of the injury but the mental.

Coping with an injury isn’t much different than coping with any other ‘unexpected’ situations: your brain goes what the heck happened and then you immediately start looking for a way to fix it; cope with it. Similar to many other unexpected events in our life that we don’t know how to deal with, we go into automation mode. In automation mode our unconscious coping skills kick in. The majority of injured athletes get anxious and have a lot of worries, doubts and fears. A much smaller percentage of athletes move through the process taking into consideration what needs to happen to deal with all the physical phases of an injury: getting injured, being injured, recovery and returning as well as the mental phases of injury: being ripped away from the one thing they really love, being separated from the team, losing their physical ability, not being as good when they come back, dealing with the length of the injury cycle, loss of confidence, etc. The latter way of coping is obviously the most ideal but if that’s not your response how do you get there?

One way is to realize how you’ve coped with injuries in the past (if you’ve had one) and to think about how you can go about it differently. For example, if you get anxious about being injured chances are, that anxiety will build and any number of not-so-good-things will happen. The worst being that the recovery process will take longer and be harder. See if you can notice the anxiety (some is reasonable) and figure out why you are getting anxious? Maybe you’re thinking about how long it’s going to take you to get back on the field. Depending on where you are in the injury cycle getting back on the field may be days, weeks or months away. Instead of thinking so far out try thinking about today. What can I do today to prepare for when I do go back? This slight change in mindset pulls you out of what seems like an unreachable moment and puts you in control of the moment. The same holds true whether you’ve had previous injuries or not.

This is just one example of how to retrain your brain to think about your injury. There are many others. Some of what you deal with that’s injury related may be a macro problem. For example, if you are struggling with anxiety around your injury, you may struggle with anxiety in your sport. What a great time to develop your mental skills for sport, life and injury.

I understand that recovering from an injury can seem like a lifetime but that’s (usually) not the case and it can be turned into an opportunity. I often tell my athletes, this is a great time to not only work on developing mental skills but to figure out how to have better balance by enjoying ‘other’ activities outside of sport & school.

After multiple injuries, if you haven’t dealt with the mental stuff there becomes a build up of it which makes it more and more difficult to deal with and more and more frightening.

I can help you through all of this. To do that, send me an email to set up a free strategy session:

Have a great week!

Dr. Michelle

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