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Taking part in sports is often about pushing yourself to be your best. Unfortunately, for all its benefits, this drive to be your best can also be stressful. With the right stress management activities, you can channel your stress and anxiety into healthy outlets which allow you to keep pushing yourself physically, without overly taxing yourself mentally.
As with all things in life, athletic endeavors are about balance. When you push on to reach new heights as an athlete, this also includes new levels of stress and tension. If you find that you’re struggling with the pressures this new level of achievement brings with it, don’t worry, it’s totally normal. You simply need to improve your self-care plan like you did your athletic plan.
Stress in Sports
Taking up a sport is a valuable source of stress relief for many people, but also generates stresses of its own. When an upcoming match or competition is on your mind, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of doubt or anxiety. When dealing with stress in sports, your mental unease also carries negative effects over to your physical performance. No sport is a purely physical endeavor, and to be at your best on the field, it’s essential to be in a good place mentally, as well.
Benefits of Stress Relief
When you’re stressed out, it affects every part of your life. Whether it’s outside stresses interfering in your athletic efforts, or concerns about an upcoming match causing you more stress in your daily life, it’s important to identify the sources of your stress and seek to address them.
Stress and anxiety take their toll on your body. When your anxiety gets the better of you, it’s common to feel exhausted all the time, and like you can’t think at full speed. You can also feel physical stress in your muscles, and lack of proper rest lowers your body’s recovery after exercise.
It’s hard to be at your best when your mind is not 100 percent on the activity you’re doing. When you take proactive steps to lower your stress levels, you go into your next game with less on your mind. Combined with feeling physically fresher, this increased focus translates to better results when push comes to shove. Using stress management activities to mitigate your anxieties is an integral part of performing at your best.
How We Chose the Best Stress Management Activities for Athletes
To find the very best stress management activities for athletes, we consulted many sources to find the best suggestions. We chose only activities which have been found to be time-honored and widely successful. As no individual’s mental duress is identical to another’s, there is no silver bullet cure, but these activities are excellent options for seeking self-improvement.
The Cost of Stress Management Activities
The best thing about managing your mental health with stress management activities is that you don’t need to spend a cent to do it. While some activities, such as yoga classes or talking to a therapist, may cost money, much of the best available solutions require nothing but your time. If you’re going down the paid route for classes, expect to spend between $10 and $50 on a yoga class. For therapy, a session can cost as little as $30 per hour or as much as several hundred dollars per hour. Insurance with mental health coverage may lower these costs.
The 9 Best Stress Management Activities for Athletes
The best way to find a stress management regime which works for you is to try a lot of different things in the beginning. Everybody is a unique case, so the only way to find the best outlets for you is stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things. It is likely that the best course of action for you will include a combination of several of the activities listed below.
Rest is key
Improper rest is one of the most common causes of stress and anxiety. It may seem counterintuitive, especially if your stress comes partially from not feeling like there’s enough time in your day for everything you need to do. But getting a full night’s sleep is an essential part of a healthy mental state. When you are under-rested, everything else in your life is affected.
If you regularly require an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, you are likely not getting enough sleep. This creates problems for you not just mentally, but physically. If you find that you are constantly tired, and are dealing with stress, try increasing your sleep hours by sleeping in or getting to bed earlier. When properly rested your body feels better, and your mind is freer.
Mindfulness is one of the most useful stress management activities available to athletes. With mindfulness, your focus is on maintaining awareness in the present. If you’re struggling with anxiety or negative thoughts, a mindfulness routine could have the answer to your struggles.
Find a quiet location where you can relax without being disturbed and assume a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes and gently relax the muscles in your body until you’re in a peaceful state. Breath as you normally would; do not take exaggerated deep breaths. Focus on each breath, noting the steady in-and-out flow. By keeping your attention focused on your breathing, you deny your brain the chance to obsess about your other stressors.
Visualize positive results
One of the biggest issues individuals with high levels of stress deal with is negative visualization. When you focus on the ways that an upcoming match or personal activity can go wrong, it’s bound to make you worry. Often these negative thoughts trigger a downward spiral. The more you think about things going wrong, the worse you imagine them going. That leads to even worse thoughts, and so on until the situation appears hopeless.
If you find yourself dwelling on negative outcomes, take a break to reassess. Think positively about the upcoming event. Determine what has to go right for a successful time, then focus on ways of making it happen. By visualizing the ways your day can go right, instead of the ways it can go wrong, you are more prepared to seize opportunities for positive results, and you avoid dwelling in the stress and worry.
Relax with yoga
Yoga remains one of the most popular stress management activities in the world because it’s so effective. While a yoga class may seem like just standing around from the outside, it’s different on the mats. The stretches and poses of a yoga class are often quite demanding, which is the key to yoga’s success. With so much of your brain devoted to finding the right form and the strain it puts on your muscles, you don’t have the available mental bandwidth to dwell on negative thoughts.
Every yoga class is an opportunity to shut out the outside world for a period. With just the yoga to focus on, outside stress melts away. Yoga is also of great physical benefit to athletes, as increased flexibility is good for your health. The more flexible your muscles are, the less susceptible you are to injury.
Try new sports
Sometimes the best way to set yourself up for success in an athletic endeavor is not to do it. If you’re stressing about an upcoming basketball match, the last thing you may feel like doing is shooting hoops. Instead, pick up a football and throw it around with a friend, or play a round of golf.
Using outside sports allows you to relax while still serving as a competitive outlet for nerves, as well. It’s tempting to pour all of your free time into practice when preparing for an athletic event, but too much focus can backfire. If all you’re doing with your free time is focusing on your primary sport, it opens the door to obsession which drives stress through the roof. A brief change of pace may be just what you need to clear your mind.
Find outside hobbies
While playing another sport is a great outlet for stress, sometimes you need to step away from athletics altogether. It’s important not to let athletic pursuits take over your entire life. Maintaining non-athletic hobbies helps to keep you well-rounded as a person. This balance is important in fighting stress and anxiety.
There’s no magic formula for finding the right hobbies for you. Stress management activities can include just about anything you enjoy doing. By finding something that is fun and occupies your mind from time to time, you avoid over-focusing on the activities causing your stress.
Speak with a therapist
Professionals are professionals for a reason, and if your stress is causing you problems you can’t solve, seeking the help of a professional could be just what you need. Speaking with a therapist allows you to put your stresses and anxieties into words in a safe setting. Therapists aren’t there to judge you and are sworn to keep what you tell them confidential. This allows patients to share worries that they can’t get themselves to share with anyone else. Keeping your fears and negative feelings bottled up often leads to them growing stronger. With a therapist, you get an outlet for those negative thoughts.
If your anxieties are limited to your athletic pursuits, get in contact with a sports psychologist. The stresses you face in your athletic life are different than those of a day job. Sports psychologists specialize in dealing with those anxieties and have techniques to work on them and improve your athletic performance.
Plan your days
Getting overwhelmed by everything ahead of you is one of the most common sources reported for daily stress. A simple counter to this problem is planning. Whether you prefer a very detailed agenda for the day or a few simple bullets you need to get to, daily planning helps to break your day into a series of manageable tasks. Planning also helps to keep you on target for goals. Falling behind on tasks is bound to lead to more stress in your life. By keeping focused and using a plan to keep yourself on target for your goals, you don’t give yourself any new reasons to be stressed out.
Turn to your team
The most important thing to remember when it comes to stress management activities is that you don’t have to see to them alone. Your support team is a crucial part of maintaining your mental health. Your team can include your physical sporting team, whether it’s other members of a baseball team or training partners at your martial arts dojo. Those aren’t the only people on your team, however. Your friends and family are also on your metaphorical team. They’re there for you when needed, and you should not hesitate to lean on them for help.
Carrying all of your stress and anxiety alone is hard work, and unnecessary. Humans are social animals. It’s our biggest strength as a species, yet so many people would rather ignore that fact. If you’re stressed about an upcoming match or something in your personal life, talk to the people on your team. Maybe somebody has tips that can help you out. Even if not, just talking about it with someone else often helps. From venting your anxieties to developing a plan of attack, outside ears and helping hands are useful tools.
How to Choose the Best Stress Relief for You
The ideal stress management activities to add to your schedule are the ones which work. While one person may see huge benefits from yoga and positive visualization, another needs to practice mindfulness and take updrawing to ease their mind There is no wrong way to try to work on your mental health. To get started, pick a few of the items on this list that sound most appealing to you, and try them for a few weeks. Once you have some experience, you can assess which seem to be helping and which aren’t. Continue trying new treatment activities and replace those that aren’t helping if you don’t enjoy them. In due time you’ll have developed the perfect set of stress management activities for you.
What do you think of our list? Have you tried any of the activities we listed? Do you have other ways of dealing with stress which might help other readers? Let us know all about them in the comments.