The journey that starts from your physical but lands to your mental health

Release Date: March 4, 2021

Everybody loves a good comeback story- especially in the world of sports, right? Like, be it Tiger Woods’s recovery from his back injury or Tom Brady’s revival from a torn ligament only to make multiple wins at the Super bowl. These comebacks bring along the tales of determination and mark the resilience of mental and physical recovery. But behind the scenes, there are endless hours of hard physical and psychological work for every moment of glory that a fan sees.

Physical injury & a mind-body connection

The first sight that comes to our minds when we see someone getting injured is the physical impact. You know- all the not-so-fun details like the official diagnosis, whether or not the patient needs surgery, and how long it will take them to recover.

However, an often-overlooked but unavoidable side effect of injuries is their adverse impact on patients’ mental health. Athletes aren’t the only ones who are affected. Anyone dealing with long-term injuries is vulnerable to cognitive responses, like

  • Depression 
  • Problems with sleep
  • Insufficient inspiration
  • Irritability
  • Frustration  
  • Disengagement
  • Appetite fluctuations

My body could stand the crutches, but my mind couldn’t stand the side-line

Michael Jordan

The mind and the body may appear to be two distinct commodities, but they are more integrated than we realize.

A lot of people use movement as a stress reliever or a natural way to relax, whether it’s running or Pilates. When you lose your ability to do this due to an injury, even if it is only for a short period of time, it can significantly impact your mental health.

Everything aside, there’s an internal sense of helplessness and frustration that comes with not being able to do the things you used to.

How to Maintain Your Mood while you are healing the injury

A visit to the orthopaedic doctor and a couple of scans can tell what is wrong and how bad the injury is. And honestly, nobody expects you to stoprandomly crying for a whole 72 hours after finding out the official diagnosis.

Getting an injury would definitely disrupt the everyday lifestyle and the things you love to do- but worse, it can temporarily put you out of work. 

Being an athlete who is unable to perform your tasks due to physical limitations will make you an emotional wreck. But, hey! Time flies, there are still good days and bad days, and there is a lot to learn during the recovery process.

So, here are 6 strategies for improving your mental health and mood when recovering from a physical injury:

1.    Be Optimistic and channel your creativity.

Physically losing the ability to exercise or engage in sport can be psychologically debilitating, whether you’re a professional athlete or someone who enjoys 10-mile jogs “therapy.” When we are confronted with significant life challenges, our minds will become clouded by negative thoughts. On the other hand, our enthusiasm for exercise is often motivated by the sense of release it provides.

By channelling your inspiration during your downtime, you can achieve this release. Do you have any hobbies you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t had the time? Find a creative outlet, whether it’s painting, photography, or learning to play an instrument. And set a mantra, maybe on your mirror or in your wallet. When doubts arise, read it and repeat it to yourself. Positive affirmations will also be successful.

(Think of Muhammad Ali’s “I Am the Greatest” refrain.)

2.    Focus on what you can control and set a realistic goal.

It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of wondering, “But why did this happen to me?” Trust me; it happens to all, too. Every second of every single day, people get injured.

Instead of concentrating solely on your injury and what you can’t do, concentrate on what you can control to reclaim your strength. You are natural goal-setter as an athlete. Concentrate on holding yourself accountable to go to physical therapy and improve your health. Concentrate on your diet and how much sleep you get. If you keep focusing on what you can’t change, it will only make the healing process more difficult.

3.    Honour your feelings but stay in touch with loved ones

If it’s a huge part of your life, it’s OK to be discouraged by your inability to engage in sport (as a hobby or a career). You may be missing your teammates, friends, or the sense of achievement that comes with scoring a goal or winning a game.

When you have this experience, it’s easy to become a hermit and isolate yourself.

However, keep in mind that your loved ones want to be there for you. They simply may not understand what you’re going through or what you require right now. Whether it’s asking someone over to watch a movie or schedule a meet, do your best to keep in touch with friends and family.

4.    Focus on the present and celebrate the small wins

When you’re recovering, it’s easy to get caught up in how much time you have before you’re back in shape. It won’t happen tomorrow or the day after, no matter how you recover. It will happen at the moment, one step at a time. Instead, celebrating small victories will be in your best interest.

Example: Even though you were a runner and were in your best shape before your injury. But now, you need to appreciate every time you take a step faster than the previous one. 

5.    Accept help and support.

After receiving a diagnosis, the first step is to look at other people’s experiences with similar injuries. Surprisingly, there are a plethora of YouTube videos, blog posts, and Instagram communities dedicated solely to the recovery of the injury.

You’ll be able to interact with people suffering from the same injury all over the world, which will make you feel a lot less lonely.

During what may feel like a lonely and isolated time of life, finding valuable resources and a nurturing community can be extremely beneficial.

6.    Take control. 

An injury will make you feel helpless, which is one of the most frustrating aspects of it. While you may not be able to heal a fractured bone or a torn ligament on your own, you can make conscious decisions about when to rest and when to push yourself. By taking control of your situation, you can ensure that your injury has no power over you.

The Final Thought

Injuries are known to intensify feelings of loneliness, anger, anxiety, and even depression. It’s impossible to predict what barriers you will face or how you will deal with them. You should always do your best when you’re on the field or the couch.

Looking back, you’ll see that tearing a ligament or fracturing a bone, as well as dealing with this serious injury, were all part of the process. Your recovery is as much a physical as it is an emotional process, and if you really want to recover, you must prioritize self-care.

Physical and mental injuries are also devastating. It is, nonetheless, entirely possible to make it through and emerge stronger on the other side.

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