NATALIE BURTON OLY
The past few weeks have seen the abrupt end to almost all competitive seasons for athletes (apart from you, AFL), for at least the next month. Our dreams, goals, hopes, and even livelihood have all been put on hold as the world navigates unknown pandemic territory. With this postponement comes high levels of uncertainty about when and if we can return to our sport. And for a group of people who are used to working towards clear goals and feeling in control in our daily rigid routines, this period of uncertainty will most likely challenge us mentally and physically.
It is more important than ever that we stay on top of our wellbeing during this time. With the absence of our normal routine, setting up a new one will help you adjust and perform healthy daily habits.
The temptation to sit and watch Netflix all day every day is going to be real, especially in the first few days. But I can guarantee from personal experience of living in a foreign, non-English speaking country, this will get old incredibly fast. And it also feels crappy. Wake up at the same time every day and loosely plan out your workout times, meal times, relaxation times, and productive times.
Don’t have any current studies to keep you occupied? Allow yourself to pursue whatever your intuition guides you to pursue. You don’t have to write the next best-selling book or paint a masterpiece during this abundance of free time. Just embrace your inner child and allow yourself to explore, play and create as you wish.
Here are some recommendations of potential explorations:
If this time has highlighted the fact that you have no plan set up for life after sport, and you’re looking for some direction in your own career development path, please let me know. I am currently completing my Cert IV in Career Counselling and am happy to offer my services to you so that I can get some practice while at the same time helping you out.
Now if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone recommend mindfulness practices to athletes…you know where I’m heading with this. But seriously, if you want to stay on top of your mental health right now, you have to be implementing some form of daily relaxation practice. Mindfulness can be as easy as 10 minutes a day and there are hundreds of apps out there. I will put some recommendations up on my Resources page.
I also encourage you to keep a daily gratitude journal to highlight the good amongst the change.
Motivation to workout may be challenged while separated from your S&C coach and teammates. My teammates actually took the initiative with team spirit at heart and have organised weekly workout sessions over Facetime. One of us will lead the workouts and everyone else will follow in their own back yards, with everyone wearing our team jerseys just to increase the camaraderie a little.
Obviously, it is not only athletes who are experiencing upheaval and change during this time; everyone will be challenged. This is a perfect opportunity for athletes to give back to their communities. Use your social media platform and status to remain a constant presence amongst your network. Promote connection with each other to combat the side-effects of social-isolation and reach your followers through messages of support and inspiration. This is what the internet was made for; connection without proximity. Let’s use it and engage with each other.
I will be using my extra free time to serve my community in any way possible. I’m making myself available to anyone who needs a chat, for whatever reason. Whether you’d like advice on careers, mental wellbeing, hobbies, or just to say hi and listen to my funny jokes, just send me a message and let’s sort something out.
I will also be writing more posts with ideas to stay on top of your mental wellbeing during this period of uncertainty. If you would like more information on something in particular please let me know.
We don’t know what the next few months will hold for us, but we do know things will change. And that’s ok. Use this opportunity to do things you wouldn’t usually do, explore new interests, and think about how we can change our way of life in the future for the betterment of our society and the environment. We need to use our unique skill set which has been naturally sharpened throughout our journeys as athletes. Your leadership skills and knowledge of how to work cohesively in a team will be of great use, along with your hard work ethic and ability to adapt to change. Your resilience will be tested, but your ability to bounce forward will be needed.