Physical rehab is great, but what about my mind?
Short and long-term injuries are constant factors in elite sport. This will forever be the case. However, the suffering and hardship which often arises with injury and time out of the game are also essential for growth as a person and a player. Throughout life, hardship will strike each and every one of us, athletes are no different! As a result, here are 6 useful strategies to help you on your mental and physical journey back to action. You might only find a few useful to you personally, but even a few positive actions will help make the recovery process something to thrive in.
1. Acceptance and commitment to meaningful action
It is brutal, unfair, frustrating, scary and anxiety-provoking – but the sun will rise and set again. Accepting this harsh yet empowering fact is an important step to help move forward with poise and meaningful action. You will have bad days and even weeks, your mind will give you unhelpful thoughts and feelings of helplessness, low mood and anxiety. That’s ok – you’re normal! Realise this is all part of the human experience. Choose a positive attitude, cherish the little victories, and dive into activities meaningful to yourself and those which will contribute to the people around you.
2. Master your injury
Take full responsibility for your injury and getting back to playing. Learn everything you can about it, and present on it to your team-mates and support staff: the reasons, the different ways of rehabilitation, and how to come back better than before. Understanding the complete picture will provide you with a genuine sense of control, leaving less room for worry to occupy your mind.
3. Talk and Diarise
Holding onto thoughts and feelings can often create stress, negative thought patterns and
a lack of perspective on your current situation. To help work through more challenging days, talking to someone you trust and disclosing anything and everything often releases unwanted negative energy, leaving you feeling more relaxed and with a better perspective on things. Keeping a diary also acts in a similar way – as getting words down on paper helps you to see that unhelpful thinking is just that, unhelpful words, and not your reality.
4. Be aware of the potholes!
Often the hardest times during injury layoffs are when you have time to yourself and time to start ‘over thinking’ – driving in the car and the time before bed are classic examples. Being aware of this will help you to plan ways of keeping your focus spotlight on more helpful and positive things – enjoyable podcasts, a funny book, a good series – all of these will help you keep focused on more enjoyable pursuits.
5. Practise Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a great way to improve your relationships with your thoughts and feelings. Becoming more mindful will stop you reacting mindlessly to negative thoughts and anxiety, and help you respond more mindfully to life’s challenges. A great way to start this is by trying the free Headspace app: https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app. It doesn’t take much time, and also has the added benefits of helping you relax, as well as improve your ability to focus on the present moment, which can only enhance your rugby when you’re back playing!
6. Develop your identity
You will often have been told that if you don’t commit all your time to rugby, you cannot have a successful career. This is not the case! By spreading your wings and developing other skill sets, you will provide yourself other valuable sources for meaning, fulfilment and self-worth in your life. Whilst injured, this is a fantastic opportunity to get stuck in to other exciting and enjoyable endeavours, such as finding a trade, studying a degree, or gaining valuable working experience. The more responsibility you create in your life, the more fulfilling and meaningful it will be.