Why do athletes get stressed?
If you are a sports fan, who might’ve bet on platforms such as, maybe you remember the last Olympic games. There were two situations that I want to share with you today. First, there was Tom Dayle (gold diver winner, Tokyo 2020) sitting on a bench, knitting. And on the other hand, there was Novak Djokovic (one of the best tennis players in history) beating his racquet up to the floor until it broke (Tokyo 2020). What happened? Both were dealing with stress due to the competition. What is the best way to deal with stress? Why do elite athletes get stressed?
You can find the answers to these questions in this blog.
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s natural response to pressure or danger. Many different situations or events can cause it.
Stress starts when we perceive danger. It doesn’t matter if the threat is real or imaginary, it will still stimulate the fight-or-flight response.
How does stress affect the body?
Our body produces an automatic chemical response to stress. As a result, you may notice these effects on your body:
- Your heart-rate will increase
- Your breathing will quicken
- A rise in your blood pressure
- Repeated headaches
- Chest pains
- Stomach ache
- Muscle tension
- Low energy levels
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Dry mouth
- Ringing in the ears
- Unnerving changes in your behaviour
- Changes in appetite
- Increased procrastination
- Increased use of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes
All them are an indicative of the potential for underlying stress issues. If you suspect you are suffering from chronic stress, it is vital that you do not ignore the signs and look for help. Longer term, chronic stress can have serious consequences. These might include any of the following; skin and hair problems, eating disorders, gastritis or menstrual problems. In the worst cases, it can lead to cardiovascular disease, depression or serious mental health issues.
What are the causes of stress in athletes?
Stress in athletes is often triggered by something (stressor) that threatens their sense of self or when they feel they have little control over a situation(same happens with us). Some of the most important causes are:
- Injury -injury recurrence- returning from injury
- Pressure due to expectative on the competition or their own performance
- The opposition
- Competing for a raking place
- External pressure- coach, fans, family
- Over training
- Environmental stressors
- other training issues-schedule, content, etc.
- Conflicts with the coach, competitors or teammates
- Lack of support from the team, club, family, coach, etc.
- Family issues
- Traumatic events
- Tension situations
- Other responsibilities or commitments (sponsors, publicity, etc.).
- High levels of pressure during long periods of time.
We used to look at elite athletes as superheroes that never rest, stop, quit, fail or give up, but they are as human as you and me, so, why don’t we treat them as they deserve, as talented people that also have needs and help.
It is important to remark that a situation or symptom that is not treated on time may turn into a pathology. So, if you have a friend dealing with stress symptoms, help him/her to seek professional help.
How can I notice stress in athletes?
Stress in athletes as in any other person may look like:
How can athletes deal with stress?
First of all, they need to recognise the problem and look for help to identify the stressor or trigger factor. These advices may help too:
- Coaches, clubs and teams should create protocols to identify these symptoms and treat them as soon as possible.
- Introducing sports massage and relaxing massage as part of an athlete’s routine, it will improve their mental health, reduce stress, but also will improve their performance.
- Support and create a follow up program or protocol when the athlete is facing a difficult situation.
- A psychologist should always be part of the staff (he/she is as important as the coach).
- Improve relationships with teammates, competitors and staff.
- Work with the “ego”
- Introduce meditation, yoga and mindfulness as part of their routines.
- Add a list of charities specialised in mental health.
Athletes need to train their minds as hard as they train their bodies. It is important to always be prepared not only for winning, but most important for losing.
A final word…
Do you know someone who is dealing with stress issues?
We hope this information is useful. If you need advice or have any questions about our treatments, please contact us. You can find us in Mill Hill Broadway and Islington. We are always glad to help. If you like this blog, please share!