Mental health for swimmers

Mental health for swimmers

Courtesy: Amanda Sovik-Johnston, Ph.D.

Have you ever spent hours dissecting breakups from your last 1000? Or do you feel guilty about eating a lot more than your friends at lunch? Or are you even afraid that your friends won’t love you unless you hit your relay split? If so, join the millions of athletes who struggle with the stress and pressure associated with really good performance. This level of anxiety often drives us to the best of times; however, it is becoming increasingly clear that we must think about our overall mental health in order to achieve our sports goals. Here is our list of the 10 best ways to take care of how a swimmer feels like a person (who is NOT connected to performance, but can help him!):

1. You are more than the best of times.

As a person who spends a lot of time in the pool, it is normal to feel the ups and downs associated with how you are doing. You wouldn’t work so hard if you didn’t care so much, would you? And while your times are important, they’re definitely not a measure of who you are as a person. While fast swimming may seem like it’s for you, your parents, your teammates … your times aren’t really the most important thing in the world. What are your true values? Kindness? Hard work? Entertainment? I promise you that all of these are more virtuous than how fast you can swim 50 for free. At the end of the day, think about your REAL values ​​and measure yourself, not the pace.

2. Your feelings of anxiety and depression will disappear – as soon as the reduction begins.

Research shows that swimmers actually feel worse in the middle of an intense training cycle. That makes sense – there is less time left for friends, family or any semblance of balance. But research also shows that once it narrows and your mastery ends, feelings of stress and anxiety disappear. They can even lead to joy, pride and fun when you celebrate with your teammates. So if you identify with these minima, remember that they will soon fade away and be replaced by other, more positive emotions. There is certainly much hope for you now and in your future!

3. Find out what you enjoy swimming EXCEPT swimming.

Being a swimmer is a huge part of your identity. It’s WHO you are. But there are many parts of swimming that you enjoy and that are not real swimming, and these parts of the sport will also tell you who you are. Do you like coaching the summer league? You can be great with kids. Are you happy in the team? You are quite sociable! Do you like setting goals and achieving them? You can be an entrepreneur. The goal is to find out the different parts of swimming that make up you, so if the swimming part doesn’t work the same way, you’ll have a lot of other parts of yourself from which you can pull.

4. Eat as you go for swimming training.

It can be difficult to be in a swimsuit and be surrounded by a swimsuit all day. The shapes of the human body – and the shape of your body – can sometimes feel more important than what you do with your body. But this is actually the opposite of the truth – you will practice swimming because you want to swim fast and feel good and you should eat in a way that supports these goals. Remember that if you don’t get enough calories, or even eat too much, you won’t give your body the fuel it needs to build muscle and maintain the gains you gained from training. And undermining contributes significantly to anxiety. Do your research, talk to nutritionists and find out what other elite athletes are eating … it will only increase your performance and make you feel better. And if this paragraph makes you feel anxious, it might be worth talking to an adult, coach, or therapist.

5. Give your body a chance to recover … SLEEP!

Everyone knows how much WE WANT to sleep at night, but sometimes it’s hard to reconcile school work, friends and just relax. At least eight hours gives our body time to recover, and more importantly, it gives your brain time to encode the gains from daily exercise into your memory. So if you run into a new pace or finally get your elbows a little higher, give yourself the opportunity to maintain that feeling by gaining a full 8 hours. Lack of sleep also significantly affects feelings of anxiety, depression and even your ability to pay attention!

6. Make your swimming friends your real friends.

The most important task of teenagers and young adults is to develop an identity that is separate from their families. Identities include what interests us (swimming) as well as our relationships (friends). You simply don’t have enough time to spend three hours a day by the pool and have a full social life outside the pool (most non-swimmers don’t go to bed at 9:00). So to protect your identity / mental health, prevent burnout and improve your performance, put a little energy into making a good friend of your teammates. It will only help you become a healthy adult who will be good at both your job and your relationships!

7. Decide what your goals are based on you as a whole person.

Sometimes achieving our swimming goals can come with stress and pressure. It is easy to forget that WE can dictate the pressure we feel based on the types of goals we set. If you don’t want stress (which is COMPLETELY OK), you don’t have to set aggressive time goals. You can set goals around having fun, making friends or just enjoying the season. It may seem strange to you when a lot of adults tell you to “do your best”, but in the end it’s you who carries the burden, and these adults would rather be healthy than swim fast, I promise. If this resonates with you, talk honestly with your parents or coaches about goals that support your mental health.

It will take courage to start this conversation, and developing this bravery may be the most important goal of your season.

8. Think of the process, not the outcome.

We often think of goals as the times we want to hit in a big meeting. This type of end goal can lead to increased stress and pressure during the season, as it all depends on one swim in the future. Instead of focusing on the outcome, focus on the process of getting there – and be specific! You may decide that you will have to swim six times a week, have a protein shake after your workout, and sleep for eight hours to reach your goal. Feel proud of the days you put into work! When you focus on the process, you will be able to rest on a big meeting because you know you have reached your goal for the day. Plus, when a big meeting comes in, you don’t have to worry so much about knowing you’ve put your work into it. Ultimately, consistent job implementation is a much better measure of who you are than how fast you swim. So work out a healthy process, follow it and take a moment to be proud of it every day!

9. Leave your swim in the pool (which may mean creating a swimming notebook).

When you put so much of your physical and emotional energy into one activity, it’s normal to think about it all the time. However, the best athletes know that there must be a balance in your life in order to be mentally healthy and to stick to it for a long time. To be a full-fledged person, you have to think about friends, family and TV shows! This means that you should limit the time you spend thinking about swimming when you are not by the pool. One of the easiest ways to stop the stress cycle is to create a swimming notebook in which you write down for five minutes a day. In Notepad, you can think about your process goals, the times on the main set, and how you felt emotionally and physically. After those five minutes of thinking, close the workbook and don’t think about it again! If five minutes isn’t enough for you, give yourself ten, but don’t overdo it. You have other important things to do!

10. Identify moments of pure joy and relive them!

Make no mistake, swimming is a tough sport. It is easy to forget why we chose this when we are exhausted, angry at bad practice and hurt. The best cure for these feelings is to create a consistent minute window every day, in which we reflect on the moment of joy that swimming brought to our lives. Get out of the memory of a great swim, a good workout or even something funny that happened in the locker room. Big laughter is as important as big swimming. Remember what you saw, heard and felt in your body. This is your reminder of why you crossed 6,000 yards and went to bed early, so make a routine to keep EVERYONE focused on those heights. SINGLE. DAY. I promise you that there is a lot of joy in this sport and if you make room to relive the good times, you will be happier, healthier and faster.

About Amanda Sovik-Johnston, Ph.D.

Amanda Sovik-Johnston, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with highly successful athletes and teenage girls. He is currently training at the Masters Swimming Nationals in August this year. For more information about Amanda and her services, visit her at or Instagram at Virginia Family Therapy, or email them at [email protected]

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