Athletes: Managing uncertain times as we battle Covid-19

Unprecedented travel restrictions and event cancellations due to coronavirus Covid-19 pose challenging times for focused athletes, especially those who may be on their last hurrah.

With the worldwide spread of coronavirus Covid-19, and so many variables in play, athletes are dealing with unique times. Global sporting events may have to join the list of national and international meets that are shutting down every day around the world. Competitive seasons are coming to abrupt ends, and so too are the dreams, and in some cases the careers, of many elite athletes.

While we hope for a swift return to sporting normality, there is a high chance that it could be a few months away yet. So what can you do, apart from continuing to physically train, to see you through this challenge in a safe and constructive way?

Manage your mental health

You may be understandably stressed about what may or may not happen. Athletes are used to working towards very clear and focused goals, and feeling in control of their results, so this lack of certainty may challenge your mental health in a way it hasn't been before.

Look after your mental wellbeing by:

  • continuing to engage with your mental health professional. In most cases, you can still do consultations via Skype or phone.
  • educating yourself on how to improve or maintain good mental health in challenging times. You can start by reading our fact sheet.
  • continuing with your mindfulness practice. If you've never meditated or practiced mindfulness, then this app is a good place to start. You may have the time to do it now!
  • staying engaged with your team, staff and support group.
  • looking after your digital health and not spending too much time going down online rabbit holes. Rather than obsessing about the Covid-19 news, which can negatively impact your mood and your performance, try to:

Remember you are more than your sport

With events cancelled, you may have a lot of time on your hands to think about, or keep working on, your dual career efforts and building your life outside sport. Times like this, similar to periods of injury, can really bring it home that a sporting career is fleeting. Having goals and dreams outside of sport are very necessary.

Some of you may use the time to finish university modules and get further down the path you are already on. If you are an athlete who has yet to discover your path outside of sport, thinking about other motivations, passions and goals is a really good way to use your time. It will help decrease any anxiety you may have about what this year will bring in terms of your sporting career.

You can start by engaging with your career development advisor (most of you have one), or if you don’t, you can access one via our sister organisation, The Athlete Advantage (TAA). TAA’s program begins with an assessment, followed by a chat with a qualified person to build a picture and a plan of what life outside sport could look like. There are also short online courses to guide you on your way. Check out the TAA website to find out more.

Take time for transition

If you are an athlete who may be facing retirement early because of Covid-19 restrictions, seek help early and often:

  • Engage with a mental health professional who understands your world.
  • Access helpful resources through this website and other sources of information from your institutes or sport. You can start with these fact sheets.
  • Talk to or listen to other athletes who have walked in your shoes. Peer-to-peer support and learning has been proven to be extremely effective in this space. You can start by checking out our podcasts.
  • Spend time on identifying, or working on, your new passion and purpose. A successful transition involves finding joy in another pursuit. It can take a bit more time than most expect. Be curious.
  • Stay connected and communicative with those who matter to you. Family and friends are very important but they can also suffer through this time with you.
  • Engage in sound mental health practices (see above).
  • Identify helpful behaviours (such as staying active) versus unhelpful behaviours (such as drowning your sorrows) and try to stay on the helpful side as much as you can.
  • Start to build your network. You can easily start doing this online. Work on your LinkedIn profile and connect with people who may help you with your future career.

There is no doubt that this is a stressful time for everyone, but to pull through a crisis we require strength, commitment, focus and team work - and as an athlete, you have plenty of all four!

This article was originally posted on Crossing the Line

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