Seven Ways for Athletes to Cope During COVID-19
Updated: Apr 18
Over the past few weeks I've had several conversations with colleagues in the area of athlete mental wellness. Through those discussions, themes have emerged around how athletes can best cope with the circumstances of COVID-19. I've summarized some of those themes here. Give this list some consideration as you develop your plan to manage and even thrive through this challenging time.
Maintain a regular routine
You don’t need to have every single hour scheduled, but give yourself anchor points of activity each day. This can include wake-up time, meal time, workouts, meditation, check-in with friends and family, and bedtime. Netflix and social media can be part of a healthy day too, but be intentional about when and how long you use them.
Be thoughtful about how you consume and handle media
It’s good to stay informed about spread of the virus and the societal and political ramifications. But be thoughtful about where you receive your information and how much time you spend ingesting the news. Also consider how you communicate your experience on social media. This is a global event and different people are experiencing it in very different ways.
Pay attention to your emotional status
Just as people’s experiences vary, so do emotions around the circumstances. Uncertain times often produce fear and worry, but there can also be other feelings like irritability, anger, disappointment, and grief. Also, you might feel positive emotions like relief at being safe and healthy, and gratitude for the chance to rest, reconnect, and focus on other aspects of your life. It can be helpful to talk with trusted friends or family about your emotions, to write about them in a personal journal, or to process them with a mental wellness professional.
Don’t let physical distancing lead to social disconnection
This can be an opportunity to foster healthy connection with family, friends, and teammates. Check in via text, video chat, etc. At the same time, you may need to take planned breaks from people in your household (and they from you!). Likewise, it’s important to keep healthy boundaries with extended family or others who may detract from your progress and wellbeing.
Recognize your skill set as an athlete, and how it applies now
Although the COVID-19 event is unprecedented, your experience in sports gives you capacity for perseverance, patience, thinking on your feet, teamwork, goal setting strategies, and mental flexibility. Trust yourself to make use of those skills in this new situation.
Use this time as an opportunity to explore complementary aspects of your identity
This can be an excellent time to explore reading, cooking, art, spirituality, and other interests that take a back seat during the course of a busy season. Of course you need to maintain your physical conditioning through this time, but get in touch with aspects of your identity beyond the athlete role.
Develop your mental approach to your sport Now is also a great time to hone mental performance skills like imagery, positive self-talk, meditation, mistake rituals, body language, and centering techniques. That’s where a sport psychologist can help!