The Genius Way To Mentally Overcome Injury
They come when we least expect them. They appear without warning and immediately grasp control over our lives. They are inevitable as an athlete.
They are the injuries that sideline us from what we love.
When an injury pops up in the life of an athlete, we are hurt physically AND mentally. We question ourselves and who we are without the beloved sports that we center our lives around. Our world has been turned upside-down in an instant.
Often times, we only speak about the physical battles faced in an injury, when the hardest part is the toll an injury takes on our mental states. Sports are often athletes’ stress relievers … our way to get a break from life’s struggles. An injury voids this remedy that is key to our daily life.
As athletes, we are just so used to things being planned, organized, and efficient. Yet, injuries are never subject to an exact time frame. We often will try to set our own timeline for an injury, even though our bodies have the upper hand. We have this physical and mental battle within our own bodies.
The journey is not a straight line from injured to healthy. There are many ups and downs to our recoveries.
So . . . how do we deal? How can we cope? How do we get through all of this?
There are some things that can ease the mental journey . . .
Find our inner-athlete drive . . . Injuries often seem to strip us of our athletic identities. We feel we are separate from our sports, disconnected from what we love - by something entirely out of our control. However, the drive within us, that makes us such amazing athletes, is the key to recovering. Think of the injury as a new challenge to conquer - we CAN and WILL get through this. Just like anything we have fought for in our sporting careers, we can fight this injury. Remember who we are - it will carry us past this journey.
Set goals for ourselves . . . that are attainable and in our control. While we cannot script out how fast our bodies will heal, we can do actions that will set us up for success. Goals such as setting aside time for our physical therapy exercises every day and making sure to eat well to fuel our bodies so they can heal themselves are simple ways for us to feel like we are doing all we can to get better. Making mini check-lists that we can cross off can be empowering and very fulfilling.
Use our support systems . . . at times we may feel alone with our injuries. Often times it puts us on the sideline. We do a lot of watching from afar, and often feel a distance between ourselves and everyone else. While alone time is wonderful - we need support and encouragement right now. Reach out to family, teammates, friends, and coaches. They are cheering us on and are there for us. We are not alone in this journey. Staying connected to our loved ones will help us stay sane.
Motivate . . . use this injury as motivation for when we return. This time away from our sport can be vital to our careers. Often times, those who face injuries come back stronger and better than before they were ever injured. The extra physical therapy and strength training builds our bodies to be at their prime. However, it is the time away that can create a hunger - a desire - a need to be back out and playing. This passion that transpires in our recovery journeys will bring us to new levels in our sports when we return.
Continue to Improve . . . while it may be enticing to just crash on our couches and sit in our sorrows of our injuries, it is best to put those beautiful brains of ours to good use. Keeping our minds active is key. We should fill up our free time with self-help. Whether it be watching film to see what we can improve upon, to studying the skills of other professionals, to reading a book on mindfulness . . . learning and keeping busy can lighten the mental load our injuries are weighing on us. Distracting ourselves from the negatives with fuel for our brains is an incredible way to outlast the strenuous time.
Remember our PMA . . . a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) is key for our mental health within our journeys to physical health. It will be very difficult to attain one at the beginning of our injuries, yet if we can stay positive throughout our injuries, everything will be easier. While the immense amount of rehab will be horrible at times, we need to remember to be grateful that we have the opportunity to rebuild our bodies. While being on the sidelines suck, take these moments as time to give back to others who have supported us when they were hurt. Try to make the best of every situation. This is not an easy feat, but it is important to surpass the toughest of days. There is always an upside to seek out of the bad times.
This injury is a way for us to grow. We will get through this, as we have any other challenging time. We must stay true to ourselves and remain strong when in times of doubt.
We need to use the fire inside of us to overcome this. We CAN and we WILL.
We are fighters.
We have faced adversity before and persevered.
We are full of grit and passion.
We are female athletes.
About the Author: Shea Connors
Shea played four years of Division 1 soccer at St. John’s University in New York, and is currently playing professionally in Iceland. She has faced many injuries over her career. The worst injury came at the end of her freshman season. Shea had an emergency bilateral fasciotomy to save her legs from a rare form of acute compartment syndrome, leaving her with four long scars on her lower legs. She was told she might lose her legs before surgery, and that she might never play … or even walk again. Thanks to her amazing team of doctors at the Hospital of Special Surgery in Manhattan, her surgery was successful. Shea made a complete recovery defying the odds that were stacked against her. Many that have had her surgery do not play their respective sports ever again. She faced a difficult recovery, but worked her way back to prime in time for her next season at St. John’s. Shea has had more injuries over the years and has continued to fight back after each one.