I am currently a student in university in Canada. For the last two years, I have played on my schools’ field hockey team. Before university, I played both high-level field hockey and swam competitively.
Being a student of any age is mentally draining in itself, and being a student-athlete on top of that can be incredibly tough. Athletics often come with intense highs and intense lows. As someone who has been a student-athlete most of my adolescent life, I know firsthand how easy it is to put your athletic career and your grades ahead of your mental health.
To gain some insight into how myself and other athletes can improve our mental health, I talked to a few athletes I know personally, who in my opinion make smart choices when it comes to their mental health.
The first person I talked to is one of my teammates. She sent me a list of things she tries to do to help her mental health. Reading her list, I was surprised she had included do your laundry and make your bed. Next, to these items she had a lot more ideas that seemed to focus on relaxing to destress. But I was and am intrigued by this relatively new idea of being productive, even in a small way, as a way to reduce stress. I think it can make you feel a lot better to do something productive like a household chore and then relax after.
The second person I talked to was my sister. She is currently a Division 1 NCAA athlete in the United States.
Something she said with the same idea of being productive while taking care of yourself that she says she does is baking. Baking can be a huge stress reliever and it totally is productive because afterwards, you have something delicious to eat. Putting on a playlist of your favourite tunes and jamming out while baking sounds like the perfect way to destress to me.
I know everyone is busy, student-athletes especially, but that’s why you have to tell your inner self-critic that what you’re doing is a productive, and then maybe treat yourself to a less productive way to relax after like re-watching your favourite movie.
On a bigger level, I know my sister when she was really struggling got involved with something she’d always been interested in but never had time for. She started doing martial arts. At the time, she was struggling a bit in her main sport, which she was training daily, and she told me taking up a sport as a hobby where there was less pressure helped her feel better and improve her mental health.
I’m optimistic that adding productive routines into my daily life is going to improve my mental health. And I hope that what I was told can possibly help other people struggling with similar things.