Stress management: What you need to know
Stress is a normal part of life, but it’s also something that can significantly hinder day-to-day life and athletic pursuits. While stress can be beneficial in responding appropriately to dangerous scenarios, it can also be extremely overwhelming and at times cause negative consequences to your performance.
Stress is something that is incredibly subjective and impacts each person differently, therefore the symptoms of stress aren’t finite. However, through awareness of your mental and physiological stress indicators, you can better manage your responses and get back to training and performing optimally.
What are indicators of stress?
Some indications that you may be stressed include:
- Fluctuation in sleep habits – either too much or too little
- Constant feelings of fear, worry and panic
- Loss or increase in appetite
- Lack of motivation
- Avoidance or withdrawal from activities that you usually enjoy
- Tearfulness and crying
- Dependence on alcohol and drug use
- Increased heart rate
- Excess sweating
What causes stress?
There is no single cause of stress as it can be triggered by a multitude of things, and as a high performing athlete it is common to find yourself dealing with pressures that the average person wouldn’t experience. By being aware of what is causing you stress, you can work with your team of health professionals to implement functional ways of managing the circumstances that arise.
Some stressors may include:
- Expectations around performance
- Comparison to others
- Workplace – changes to your role e.g., beginning or losing a job
- Time pressures
- Traumatic events
- Breakdown of relationships
- Balancing all of your commitments
How can I manage stress?
There is an array of methods that help manage stress. When in the throes of stress some management and relief options may include:
- Prioritising activities to focus on only what needs to be done at present
- Mindfulness of how various events and activities make you feel
- Journaling about the situation
- Speaking to a family member or a friend to help rationalise the problem
- Engage in self-care activities such as having a warm bath, walk in fresh air, yoga, and massage
Often, prevention of stress is more effective than dealing with it in the moment. While this isn’t always possible, there are a number of things you can incorporate into your routine to keep stress at bay. These things may include:
- Counselling and/or therapy
- Participation in things you enjoy and make you feel relaxed
- Meeting your nutritional needs
- Socialising with the people you love
- Enforcing healthy sleep habits
- Practising mindfulness through meditation
If you find yourself struggling to cope with stress or notice it has impacted your life and sporting commitments, we strongly encourage you to seek help from your doctor, a counsellor or psychologist. With their support, you can learn effective management techniques so you can combat stress and get back to doing what you love most.
To learn more about how to care for your mental health and wellbeing, visit our Mental Health and Wellbeing page.