People who expect a great deal of themselves, whether that be in sport or business, can put themselves under an awful lot of pressure to perform. So much so, that the mental health charity, Mind, recently did a study that addressed the issue of mental health problems in elite athletes which had become so serious that professional sports people were actually being driven to the point of suicide. As mindset and focus are so important in sport, even less severe levels of mental health problems like depression and anxiety can affect performance and can grow into larger issues if not addressed properly.
Why is Mental Health Such an Issue in Professional Sport?
We’ve all heard commentators say, after a footballer misses the goal during a penalty shootout, that the player ‘buckled under the pressure’ but people aren’t so aware of the constant pressure high level sportspeople are under to perform well. Mind’s study showed that worry about leaving the sport is one of the main things that damages sportspeople’s mental health as they are highly aware that one slightly less than optimal performance could see them dropped from the squad. Although all athletes experience this pressure, most fear that talking about it will be seen as a sign of weakness and threaten their position even more. This feeling of isolation on top of the pressure is a perfect storm to bring about mental health issues. It’s very much the same problem in high level business where bosses have such important decisions to make and don’t want to show any vulnerability in front of their staff.
Why is Having Good Mental Health So Important in Sport?
Another compounding factor is the way having the right mindset and a high level of focus is essential to success in all sports (and business) and mental health problems like anxiety and depression can make this very difficult. Struggling to retain focus alongside all the other rigours of high level sport increases stress even more and it’s easy to see how it becomes too much for some people who don’t have the support or strategies to help them deal with mental health problems before they become too severe.
What Help is Available for Mental Health Problems in Sport?
Very sadly, it took the suicides of a professional footballer and rugby player to make these sports realise that they needed to help look after their players’ mental health but there are now initiatives out there through the Professional Footballers Association and Rugby Players Association to teach coaches and sports teams to support their players’ mental health and provide confidential counselling services for those having difficulties. Lots of sportspeople also find yoga helpful in supporting their sports careersas it helps them improve their physical performance through better balance, strength and flexibility whilst making injuries less likely but also helps them to focus and alleviates stress and mental health concerns through meditation to calm the mind. Olympian Carl Lewis also used floatation to help with his focusby using visualisation techniques which he found to be particularly affective if he practised them while floating. It’s also an effective way to relieve stress and tackle anxiety and depression.
As so much of sport performance is in the mind, we at The Float Spa offer yoga, floatation and massage because they provide so many benefits for the mind as well as the body. We help a number of local sportspeople enhance their performance by looking after their mental wellbeing while addressing physical niggles. We even have our own ex-professional cricketer teaching sports yoga, Lewis Hatchett. If you’d like to any advice on supporting your mental health in general or if you’re thinking of trying yoga or floatation to improve your performance in sport or business, call 01273 933 680 and we’ll be glad to answer any of your questions.