Emotional Well-Being: Next Level Tips for Athletes

Emotional well-being on the court, playing field or pro level is an important skill for athletes to pursue. Too often, athletes fall into patterns of negative self-talk, doubt and anxiety. Build time into your schedule to practice stress management techniques, learn how to be resilient and generate emotions that lead to good feelings.

Practice challenging a negative thought pattern to improve your emotional well-being. Learn how to wrestle the following emotional traps, which can cause emotional discomfort and/or anxious thinking:

  • All-or-nothing thinking: Looking at life through an extreme lens of “that is the best of all time!” or “this is the worst ever” with no middle ground is mentally exhausting.
  • Overgeneralization: Don’t view a single negative play, decision or event as a persistent cycle of defeat. Just because you failed at something before doesn’t mean you will fail again.
  • Mental filter: Be aware of the setting on your mental filter if you hyper focus on negative things and become unable to think about anything else. Use your mental filter to sift negativity out and focus on more positive developments.
  • Disqualify the positive: Don’t disrespect the positive developments in life. Give them space to grow in your emotional thinking.
  • Jump to conclusions: Avoid the urge to go straight to a negative conclusion especially when there are few or no specifics to back up your flawed analysis.
  • Mind reading: Never assume someone is responding to you in a hateful or negative manner especially when you don’t know what they are thinking.
  • Fortune-teller error: Don’t anticipate or predict future troubles and then proceed as if your fortune-telling is an already-established fact.
  • Catastrophizing: When you use words like “horrible” or “terrible” to describe an event, problems suddenly seem bigger than we can handle.
  • Emotional reasoning: Feeling something doesn’t mean it is accurate or true. Too often, our emotions do not represent reality—especially if an individual is depressed, manic, angry and/or anxious.
  • Should statements: Guilt is the emotional result of using words like “should” and “shouldn’t” or “must” and “ought to.”
  • Label and mislabel: Using demeaning language to describe or label ourselves or others is a lose-lose situation. Also, step away from mislabeling, which can involve using language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  • Personalization: Avoid assigning blame to yourself or others for a negative external happening in which you had no part.

Do you recognize any of these as traps? If so, ponder whether or not 1) there is actual evidence for your thinking, 2) if you are giving too much weight to feelings and not enough to fact and 3) if others might interpret the same situation you face in a more positive light. When you learn to more easily recognize pitfalls in your thinking, you will gain confidence in your ability to pivot to a healthier mindset.

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