As the Holidays Approach, Maintaining Good Mental Health Becomes a Priority

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As the Holidays Approach, Maintaining Good Mental Health Becomes a Priority

The holidays are always a tricky time for swimmers.

Practices are usually interrupted due to school breaks, coaches are pulling out their favorite sets, and the in-laws are coming.

However, this year is very different from those of the past. COVID-19 has added a new stress to swimmers’ lives as practice times are being changed and travel plans are being restricted. Flying home may not be an option for athletes who may be in college or training away from home, which can add a new layer of “seasonal depression” to the mix.

And, as any good swim coach knows, mental toughness and motivation are the secret weapons to having efficient swim practices. A swimmer can be in the best shape of his or her life, but without the proper mindset, their performance will fall flat. Staying mentally tough is one of the biggest obstacles athletes of all kinds face – it’s the invisible hurdle one has to constantly jump.

So, with the cold winter months setting in and the holiday season arriving, it is imperative that swimmers focus not only on their physical training, but their mental training as well. According to the Mental Health Foundation, there are several useful ways to tackle a deteriorating mindset:

Eating and Drinking Well 

This may seem like an obvious one, but the power of a healthy diet should never be underrated.

Just like the good ‘ole car analogy, our bodies need proper fuel to run efficiently. You wouldn’t put diesel in an SUV. Or, at least, you shouldn’t. Eating too much sugar, for instance, can tear down your immune system and lead to illness and low energy levels. Most swimmers know the pain of going to a morning practice feeling more tired than usual, which often leads to having a more negative attitude.

Instead, eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts not only help stimulate energy but also mental health as well. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day also flushes out those toxins and can help with soreness too!

Because feeling physically good in and out of the water correlates closely to mental health, treating your body right is a direct way of taking care of your mind as well. With all sorts of delicious holiday meals coming up, it’s still very important to make sure you’re not just feeding your appetite, but constantly advocating for your own well being too!

Reaching Out to Friends and Family 

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of relationships.

Being socially distant and far apart from the people we love can be incredibly hard, but now more than ever with the holidays arriving. This holiday season, take the time to call or Zoom with close friends and family who you don’t get to see every day. The Mental Health Foundation stresses how important quality conversations can be. Getting an outside perspective on your situation, joking and laughing, and being able to feel loved are all a part of maintaining a healthy mindset. Talking to people we’re close with releases the serotonin that gives us a boost of happiness and energy, which can also lead to better sleep. And every swimmer loves that.

During these times, especially for those unable to travel home or spend time with their families, keeping in touch is a simple way to stay uplifted. Sometimes, a simple phone call can be the best part of your day and keep you going when you need it most.

Doing Something That You Enjoy

One of the biggest stressors in anyone’s life is often the feeling of being out of control.

Being an athlete, this is especially true, as a meet might get cancelled suddenly, or schoolwork hits you from left field without warning, or coach tells you to swim a 200 fly for time. The feeling of not knowing how to handle a situation is stressful within itself, but living through these trying times has especially left us all feeling unsure of what’s to come.

So, a simple way to feel accomplished, even in a small way, is to do something that you are good at. Swimmers are never only swimmers, and everyone has hobbies outside of the pool. Whether it be drawing, reading, watching a new show, taking a walk outside, or knitting a scarf for Mom, doing something for yourself every day is key to maintaining that feeling of productivity.

Training during the holidays can often feel tiring, demanding, and mentally challenging, so doing something that you love and are good at is very useful for keeping your spirits up, even just a little.

Overall, because this holiday season will prove to be one of the most challenging in many ways, swimmers should stay mindful of their mental health in the same way they do physical training. Ignoring an issue can lead to injury, and the brain works in the same way. So, for the upcoming holidays, remember these useful tips to stay healthy and to make the most of your holidays and seasonal practices!

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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