While it’s no secret that we are in unprecedented times, and our way of living has changed dramatically, we must not let our athlete’s sit back and take a rest. We are now at a point where this pandemic has been around for quite some time, so it’s important that we are monitoring our athlete’s emotional and mental well-being, now more than ever. Your athlete’s emotional and mental state must stay sharp for their journey to continue on a positive and successful path.
You can help them, and show them, how to monitor, identify, and manage stress levels so they can continue to maximise performance and opportunity. This blog is going to give you some of my tips and strategies on how to keep your athletes stress levels at a minimum. They will emerge from this pandemic as the athlete who continued to work hard, stay focused, and show the true signs of a professional athlete.
The key to effectively deal with stress, and especially all the added pressure our athletes are under right now, the uncertainty and feelings of being lost, is to teach them how to navigate through those feelings. Educate them on the art of dealing with stress in a way that allows them to still function at maximum capacity. They will know how to deal with stress so it doesn’t affect their academic and sports abilities.
Monitoring stress levels are key to promoting good health and well-being. Teach your athlete now and they will know how to deal with the many pressures that come with playing college sports.
An effective way to monitor your athlete’s stress levels is to keep a stress diary or reflective journal. They will get a lot more down on paper about their feelings than they will talking to a parent. Have a mini questionnaire they can fill out each morning and evening. When they are training and studying heavily, have them record how they are feeling after each session.
Record heart rates and recovery heart rates. These will all give a very good indication as to where a problem is, and what may be causing it. It allows you to deal with the problem before it becomes a bigger problem.
Sleep & Nutrition
You should also be monitoring your athlete’s sleep patterns. Athletes need to have a solid sleep every night for effective recovery and regeneration to occur. If your athlete is going to bed late, having broken sleep, or even sleeping too much, they will soon begin to see changes in their stress levels. Sporadic sleep patterns can be extremely hard to break.
It’s just as important to monitor your athlete’s nutrition. Poor nutrition will affect performance levels, motivation, energy levels and so on. Let your athlete know unless they eat high-value nutritional meals, they will essentially be sabotaging their college sports chances because they won’t be able to perform as a college athlete is expected. Help them devise a high-value nutritional meal plan and hold them accountable to stick to it.
I also suggest monitoring your athlete’s caffeine intake. Energy drinks are full of caffeine so I recommend staying away from them. High caffeinated drinks can lead to high heart rates that can cause stress both physically and mentally. They can be a contributing factor to a change in your athlete’s stress levels and therefore you need to be monitoring their caffeine intake. Coffee and Energy drinks are my two big no-no’s for athletes.
You also want to monitor self-esteem levels. A diary will help with this. Encourage them to be true to themselves when they are making an entry. They will need to be accountable for their own health and well-being at college, so it’s an advantage to prepare them now.
If they are not honest, it will be hard to properly monitor stress levels and identify any problems. This will only have an affect on them. Not you, not me, not their coach, but them. The earlier we can help them realise that, the more honest they will be when reflecting on their feelings.
Communicate with Coaches
Having your athlete monitor their stress levels and record them each day, will enable their coach to keep a professional eye on stress levels also. Most of the time, coaches are trained in monitoring, identifying, and managing an athletes stress, so keep communication lines open and your athlete’s coach updated. They will know how to help you deal with a problem before it get’s out of hand.
Watch for any signs of burnout and fatigue. The coach will want to know if your athlete is overtraining or under-training as part of the monitoring process. Both can be an indicator of changed stress levels. The same goes for study sessions. Are they studying too much, or have they lost their drive and not studying enough? Again, these are indicators of stress.
Those are a few of the major areas you will want to be focusing on when it comes to monitoring your athletes stress levels. So now that you have those, how can you identify an increase or decrease in stress levels?
Identifying a change in your athlete’s stress levels can be a little trickier then monitoring them. This is because of the many different factors that can contribute to stress.
Stress can be caused by a big upcoming event, a hard training session, or a personality clash with another student or team mate. A disagreement with a coach can have an impact on stress. Right now, in these very dire times, your athlete is experiencing a huge lifestyle and routine change.
Study and training methods have changed, and the freedom to roam around in the fresh air is now very limited. Time to hang with friends, train with team mates, and study with other class members has come to a halt.
Perhaps, as teenagers, they are isolated from their first love or their best friend. These are all going to have an effect on your athlete. They need to know how to effectively deal with each individual situation, and not allow it to affect their performance.
What are the Identifiers?
Certain identifiers can include emotions and feelings of anger, fear, overwhelm, confusion and loneliness. They may be experiencing a lack of motivation, loss of concentration or poor memory function.
Poor training performance and co-ordination, and longer rest and recovery times are all big identifiers of your athletes stress levels changing. Gaining or losing weight rapidly without explanation, experiencing consistent headaches and vision problems, are stress indicators also.
If you begin noticing your athlete is feeling quite apprehensive, or they seem to be withdrawing from normal routine, I recommend talking to them, and their coach. High stress levels in a young athlete can create a sense of looming danger, fear, and overwhelm.
Indicators to Record
Further indicators can include, increased heart rate, sweating, shaking and trembling, and feeling weak, tired, and lethargic. These are the points you want to have your athlete recording every day. Write them on a questionnaire with a scale of 1-10 for each point. Looking for these indicators, and identifying them early, will help your athlete deal with them efficiently and effectively.
You now know how to monitor stress, and I have given you a few indicators to identify changes. Now, I will give you a few strategies on how you and your athlete can manage high stress levels so they don’t affect athletic and academic performance.
When you and your athlete have a handle on how to monitor and identify stress levels, you can look at how to manage challenging situations, and navigate through them without letting it have a major affect on sports and academic performance. There are many strategies for managing stress. At the end of the day, it all comes down to rest, relaxation, recovery, breathing, nutrition and mindset. Following are a few simple strategies you can use to help your athlete manage their stress.
Healthy Meal Plans & Consistent Sleep Patterns
A healthy diet and sleep routine are paramount to effectively dealing with stress. Without a high-value nutritional meal and consistent sleep pattern, your athlete will have poor management of their stress levels. They need energy, motivation, and focus. They can’t have those things without a healthy diet and adequate sleep. If they don’t have energy, they won’t be able to maintain the required mindset to overcome challenges.
Deep breathing is another element you should be focusing heavily on. Help your athlete to adopt proper deep breathing techniques. Air is free, your athlete can breathe in as much as they like. Have them practice these techniques regularly, not just through stress, training and study, but through all areas of life. Deep breathing helps with relaxation and release, both great for managing stress.
Mindset strategies are gold. It can be easy to lose focus when we are in dire times, feeling lost and uncertain. It’s more important than ever to begin looking for mindset strategies that will work for your athlete. There are many out there, but you should just focus on what works for your athlete.
The key is to tell yourself, the stress you are feeling doesn’t exist, its conjured by you, and you can sweep it away. Imagine everything being released from your body and watch it leave for good. It is vital, that your athlete knows good mindset strategies in order to effectively deal with stress.
And Don’t Forget
Some other strategies for managing stress are rest, relaxation, fun, and visualisation. Your athlete will need to have adequate recovery time after each training session, and they should be using a muscle relaxing exercise, or a soak in the tub with a muscle recovery oil.
Please remember to let your athlete have fun, even in quarantine. Give them that extra TV time, or an online shopping spree, to allow them time to detach from all the serious stuff. Your athlete needs to have something other than sport and education. A new hobby is a great idea to keep their mind busy.
For visualisation, I suggest a nice big vision board or a book they can keep reflecting on. Something that holds all of their hopes, dreams, goals, and desires that they can look at each morning and evening to remind themselves of why they are working as hard as they are. Visualisation techniques help keep us focused on our ‘why’, and can have a tremendous effect on stress levels.
Please be aware of your athletes study and training times, and ensure they are taking adequate breaks. Some sessions can be physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging. If your athlete is not taking adequate breaks, these sessions will slowly break them down until they can’t do anything at all.
Please, please watch their break times. Communicate with coaches and teachers so you understand how long your athlete should break for between each session. Have those schedules going so you can plan everything out, but make it realistic. There is no point trying to cram 9 hours into 5, however, it needs to be consistent. A regular and realistic routine will ensure that stress doesn’t strain success.
Accountability & Ownership
An important thing you must not forget, is to hold your athlete accountable. Accountable for their own journey and accountable for their health and well-being. Let them lead and take ownership. You just need to support and keep an eye on them. Keep communication lines open with each other, and encourage your athlete to lead their own journey.
Try to encourage positivity with consistent praise, and encourage your athlete to stay connected with coaches, team mates, and study buddies. Hold virtual bootcamps and study sessions, or online relaxation summits where they are practicing Yoga, pilates, and meditation. All of this assists the effective management of changing stress levels in your athlete.
The valuable thing to remember, is don’t put too much pressure on them. They don’t need it added to the mountain of pressures they are feeling right now already. Just help them to stay calm, relaxed, positive, and focused. Don’t overload their schedules, but maintain a consistent and steady routine.
Some stress is healthy, however, too much can be very damaging to our young athletes with their mind and body still growing. If we can teach them how to navigate through feelings of stress now, they will have all the tools to effectively manage it when they attend college. Too much stress will affect mental and physical performance, and we don’t want that for your athlete.
If you would like to chat further about helping your athlete monitor, identify, and manage stress, I have opened a couple of consults on my calendar over the weekend. If you would like to book a complimentary 30-minute consultation, just follow the link through to my calendar to book a time that suits you https://peainternational.com/free-consultation-call/
This week over in my sporting community, I am discussing this topic further with our members, and hold twice-weekly live sessions where you can ask questions and have them answered in real-time. If you would like to join my group of parents and elite athletes, we are waiting with open arms to welcome you into our family. You can find us here http://www.facebook.com/groups/PEAinternational
Not a Facebook person? Iv’e got you covered. You can check out my podcast at https://anchor.fm/brooke-hamilton and my Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLxIJ12pvRvJZq34ivBa4tfzwzGw9FvM9g and we are on all social platforms. No matter what your preferred method of learning is, we are there. I hope to see you soon and until then, take care. Yours in sport and education, Brooke Hamilton.