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Mental Health and Athletics

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Hello! My name is Mikayla DeMichele and I will be a junior student-athlete at Muhlenberg College in the fall. I have participated in many sports throughout my life and as I got older, I really noticed the significance of mental health in athletics. I know from my own personal experiences as well as those from my friends how big of an impact games, practices, lifts, conditioning, meetings, and everything else leave on overall mental health. It is important to acknowledge that issues exist and for coaches, trainers, administrators, etc. to learn how to positively handle them.

Physical activity and athletics are widely recognized for their positive impact on mental health. Numerous studies have shown that exercise effectively reduces stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. Furthermore, engaging in athletic pursuits can bring about additional mental health benefits. Athletes often form a deep connection between their sport and their sense of identity, achievement, and purpose, leading to a heightened sense of pride, confidence, and self-worth. This connection can contribute significantly to overall mental well-being.

However, it is crucial to recognize that athletics can also have adverse effects on mental health when approached in an unhealthy manner. The challenges of everyday life are compounded by the demanding mental and physical dedication required in sports. An athlete’s mood and emotions can undergo drastic fluctuations based on their performance in various sporting arenas, be it on the field, court, track, or elsewhere. Not only do athletes often subject themselves to personal stressors, but external factors also contribute to this overwhelming sense of stress and anxiety.

Athletes often encounter various types of stressors, namely competitive, organizational, and personal stressors, which can significantly impact their performance and well-being. Competitive stressors encompass factors such as injury and performance pressure, both of which can have a profound impact on an athlete’s mindset and physical abilities. It is crucial to recognize that athletes respond differently to these stressors, and it is essential to identify signs of overwhelming stress in order to provide appropriate support.

Organizational stressors are another category athletes commonly face, involving aspects such as coaching and training methods, as well as the demands of frequent traveling. These factors can contribute to additional pressure and challenges for athletes, affecting their ability to cope with the demands of their sport.

Personal stressors, on the other hand, are stress-inducing factors that arise from an athlete’s personal life. Examples of personal stressors include significant life events, financial difficulties, and lifestyle changes. These external factors can disrupt an athlete’s emotional and psychological well-being, potentially impacting their performance on and off the field.

Recognizing and addressing these three types of stressors is crucial for athletes’ overall well-being and success. Coaches, support staff, and the athletes themselves should be aware of the signs of stress and implement appropriate strategies to manage and alleviate the stressors. This may involve seeking professional help, employing stress management techniques, and fostering a supportive environment that promotes mental and emotional resilience.

Student-athletes experience a specific type of stress due to the balance of academics and athletics. 

“According to the American College of Sports Medicine, around 30% of female and 25% of male student athletes report suffering from anxiety and only 10% seek help from a mental health professional.”

Kindbridge Behavioral Health

These individuals, who are dedicated to studying, training, and traveling, among other activities, often face a demanding lifestyle that can have a significant impact on their mental well-being. The rigorous nature of their daily routine, coupled with the pressures related to lifestyle, diet, and physical performance, can lead to heightened levels of anxiety, stress, and other mental health challenges.

In order to overcome these recurring problems and difficulties, it is essential for anyone experiencing mental health issues to actively seek assistance from those who can provide upliftment and support. Reaching out and receiving help from qualified professionals and a strong support system can play a vital role in improving and resolving these challenges.

By seeking support, individuals can gain access to a range of resources and strategies tailored to their specific needs. These may include therapy, counseling, mindfulness practices, stress management techniques, and lifestyle adjustments. Engaging with these tools and support networks can empower individuals to develop coping mechanisms, enhance their overall well-being, and navigate the unique challenges they face.

Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a courageous step towards self-care and personal growth. It is important to prioritize mental health and well-being, as this ultimately contributes to a healthier, more fulfilling life.