The mental challenges you endure after an injury can often be more frustrating than the physical pain. Recently, I wrote a post challenging our community to avoid injuries. Injuries can still happen, however, so this post focuses on the mental challenges of having them and the process of channeling their effects productively.
You’re injured. Even with the best training, strategies, and perfect form, it happens. You can’t change it; you can only move forward. But how?
For me personally, moving forward begins with patience, determination, and valuing what I have. Focus on what you CAN do, not on what you can’t. Injuries can feel like nightmares, because most are not easy to cope with. They can be constant reminders of our new weaknesses, naturally leading to feelings of anger and frustration. However, once you refocus and take control of your overall outlook, you will already have taken a huge step in making the most of your recovery.
Have patience with your body, but also have patience with your mind. It’s okay to feel sad. Allow yourself to mourn and feel whatever loss you are experiencing. While feeling is an important part of the healing process, it’s also important to stay as positive as possible. Be patient with the process while maintaining your determination to become better and stronger. Use this opportunity to rebuild the foundation of your body and strength, and come back even better than before!
I strongly believe your mental attitude is everything when dealing with an injury. When positive, your attitude can speed up the healing process and lessen your emotional pain. I also firmly believe that negativity will slow down the rehabilitation process, making you miserable. (I don’t have any scientific research to quote here, just my own experience.) As a lifelong athlete with more than my share of sports injuries, believe me when I say that it’s all up to you. Negativity about your situation will only bring you down and possibly worsen your symptoms, while patience and determination will reward you every single time.
Practice your skills and/or routines mentally. On a daily basis (only 5 to 10 minutes at a time), use mental rehearsal to see, hear, and feel yourself performing in your sport, executing each movement flawlessly with perfect timing. Regular mental rehearsal of your skills will keep your neuromuscular connections activated, ensuring a quicker and easier transition back into your sport when you are able to actually begin physical practice again.
Similarly, try daily to spend 5 to 10 minutes imagining your body beginning and continuing to heal. “See” in your mind’s eye a healthy supply of red blood cells surrounding the injured area and facilitating the mending process. Again, I can’t scientifically prove that this will speed up your healing. I can promise, however, that you’ll feel less helpless, more in control, and much more positive. These attitude changes in themselves will speed up your recovery.
Lastly, please be conscientious about your physical therapy and follow your doctor’s advice closely. Your physical therapy will actually work in conjunction with your mental recovery. Remember that healing is a process, so don’t cut corners, looking for the quickest exit. Work just as hard during your rehabilitation as you do in your training. You’re still an athlete.
And don’t forget to talk to us, your coaches and your community. We are here to help.