Coping with a Sports Injury?

Injuries are no fun, especially when you love to train and rely on exercise to maintain your overall wellbeing. The physical pain and limitations that come with being injured can be hard to accept. However, the psychological impact of an injury is often the hardest part for us to handle. In this post we will focus on a few key points that can help us to maintain a positive frame of mind on our recovery journey.

First of all, when we get injured it is perfectly normal to experience a variety of emotions such as disappointment, frustration and fear. In fact, it is healthy to allow yourself to feel such emotions in the short-term. However, it is also important to keep this mourning period brief. The quicker we dust ourselves off and focus on our recovery goals the better.

To help us to move on from this phase, it can be extremely helpful to view the road to recovery as a ‘challenge’. A challenge that we can play an active role in by seeking information or professional advice and following a structured rehab programme. Taking hold of a challenge in this way gives us back an element of control, which our brains like.

As with most challenges, it won’t be plain sailing. Setbacks are often part of the recovery process and in this sense are to be expected. The same goes for the negative thoughts and moods that we will experience from time to time (injured or not). These experiences are normal – the important point is that we are ready to fight back.

We can prevent setbacks and negativity from derailing our progress in many ways. However, the following sentence is especially worth remembering:

Thoughts trigger emotions. Emotions drive our actions.

Thought: “This isnt fair!”

Emotion: Anger

Action: Ignore rehab advice and train too hard

Result: Injury flares up and recovery pushed back

Thought: “I’m so stupid, why didn’t I listen to my physio?”

Emotion: Sadness

Action: Eat loads of ice cream

Result: Sugar crash (Dip in mood and energy). And so on!

The critical point here is that while we can’t control the thoughts that pop into our heads or the emotions that arise as a result, we can control how we respond to them. So, when negative thoughts (and their corresponding emotions arise) give yourself a moment by taking two full deep breathes. This will give you a chance to mentally stop and choose a response that will move you towards wellbeing and recovery – instead of unconsciously generating further negativity and hindering your progress.

Finally, it is also really helpful to stick to a healthy routine when injured. In short, this means eating well, getting good quality sleep, going easy on caffeine, alcohol etc. Exercising regularly within the limits of your rehab programme and in nature if possible (walk, cycle, swim etc). Meeting with friends and family in person and again outside in nature if possible – stay physically and socially active (especially when you don’t feel like it).

There is a lot more that can be said about this topic but for now, remember that there is much you can do to influence the recovery process. This is true even if your injuries are chronic or if a full return to fitness is not possible (I speak from experience). A relaxed and optimistic outlook primes our bodies for healing, helps us to enjoy our lives more and benefits those around.

In this sense, the only rational response is to keep your chin up and face injury with a positive attitude!

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