Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Trip to the Beach...don't forget to relax a little.

Contributed by Robin Burton, MS, ATC
Drug Free Sport Staff member

Aaaahhhh…the beach…white sand, the sound of ocean waves, tropical birds calling in the background….all attainable from my urban, climate-controlled, somewhat noisy, 6 x 8 office cubical.  Lucky for me, all I need for a nice mental break, to escape the stresses and demands of the world, is a good imagination.  Imagery is used in a variety of settings, and from personal experience in a couple of dental office chairs.  Student-athletes are no exception and in fact can use imagery in all aspects of their sport: the mental preparation for the game, the drowning out of crowds, the mental imagery throughout a race, or imagining the next moves of the competitor.  This mental game can quickly work against you if you don’t know how to control your thoughts.  Relaxation can begin a number of ways, and taking a mental vacation to the beach or a simple change of routine can be a start.  Focusing on the rewards of your hard work, i.e.: improved test grades, great practices, or a high-scoring game can help ease daily pressures.  Remember, you are only human and want and deserve a break every once in a while, so don’t feel like you can’t take a break.  Let’s focus on the positive side of the visualization tool as well as some other things to help provide relaxation to you, the student-athlete.

You haven’t come this far in school or athletics without being good at it, but there’s always room for improvement right? 

Imagery:  More than just “be the ball,” mental imagery can take you through any circumstance.  It can be a mental walk-through of the “what ifs,” the “1 out, bottom of the 9th, 2 men on base,” or “how will I remember the steps of my chemistry experiment?”  This is a free practice run!  It can provide a way to improve your concentration and control your emotional responses on the field or in the classroom.

Breathing:  Simple, quick, easy!  Take a few moments to breathe in inner peace and exhale your anxieties and worries….aaaahhhhhh.

De-clutter:  Subconscious clutter and chaos can affect your state of mind and productivity.  Tidy up your living space and create a pleasant environment; my dorm room was never cleaner as it was during finals week!

Prioritize:  Unlike procrastination, prioritizing is systematic; tackling one thing at a time can help you feel less stressed and get things done more quickly.  If you have 30 stepping stones creating a path across a river, jumping over 6 or 7 may seem faster, but isn’t taking one step at a time guaranteed to get you across?  Completing projects and moving through tasks methodically can provide you with a sense of accomplishment and reward.

Positivity:  Developing a positive attitude can help ease inner tensions.  Encourage and help others with your thoughtful words.  Reaching out to others with an outgoing, optimistic attitude can attract the same in return for you.  Seeking spiritual help can provide you with words of advice and ways to help deal with stress and mental health.  These are not new concepts people.  Working to empower yourself and to not depend on the opinions of others can release the burdens on your mind.  Subconsciously, when we work only to please others and not to improve ourselves it can be impossible to relax.  Developing a detachment to praise and criticism can lead to relaxation and inner peace by decreasing the importance of others’ views.  As a wise man once said, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Sleep:  Get enough restful sleep to take on your day!   

Wait, forget all of this!  Beer relaxes you right?  Ok…for who, how long and why?  For a non-athlete or a non-student who could care less how many rebounds he grabs in a game or what score he receives on a Physics exam, drinking may relieve some stress.  So he thinks.  What use is alcohol or other drugs to a student-athlete looking to compete and complete a degree in 4 years?  Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t alcohol use addictive, dangerous, and prohibited on most college campuses?  Doesn’t drug use kill brain cells?  The same brain cells you need to study, finish the game, as well as relax?  Using alcohol or medications to cope with stress or to relax eventually creates further stress, causes the body to forget how to cope and to free yourself of anxiety, and thus contributing to a vicious and harmful cycle.  Bottom line:  Alcohol and other drugs can impair your athletic performance, causing you more stress and more anxiety.  What does that do for you?  A little counterproductive if you ask me…

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