Keeping a Positive Mental Attitude during Injury
Recently, a rock climbing friend opened up online about her struggle with depression after being sidelined by injury. She cited a study that found that anxiety and depression can make healing from surgery harder.
This is a cycle I am very family with. After my first athletic injury, I was devastated. I lost my outlet, my community, and my identity in one swoop.
But, multiple surgeries, and countless injuries later, I learned to adopted a different attitude. Here are some of the ways I (attempt) to keep a positive attitude through every injury in the book:
Figure out what you love about your sport, and take that with you. I like running/climbing because of the challenge, but I love it for the community. So when I can't meet my community on the track, I make them come to me. When I am injured, I become the social captain of my tribe, inviting everyone to movie nights and brunch. This keeps me engaged while keeping my spirits up.
Get competitive about recovery. Remember when I got competitive about ankle circles? Yup. Coping strategy. Recovery is the new running/climbing/hockey/whatever. I channel all of my energy into crushing injury like a pro- which satisfies my need to compete and gets me back to my sport faster and smarter.
Use this time to try something new When I am healthy, I'm overloaded with training plans, group runs, and climbing trips. So, I try to look at injury downtime as an opportunity to try things I wouldn't have time for. I have baked (it didn't work out), knitted (also terrible), painted up a storm (much better), and wrote poetry (I'm a genius). Have fun with it!
Get sad, feel all the feelings Being sidelined is hard and it can feel like the worst. In my experience, it is best to just feel it. When I'm angry and sad about an injury, I go all in. Feel all the feelings. I'll cry, throw a tantrum, drink a whole bottle of wine while watching Reel Rock. Get it out so you can move on.
You are not your pace, grade, or sport. I've written a bit about letting go before, but your identity is not wrapped up in a sport or a performance goal. Climbing v12 doesn't make you a better person, and walking a whole race doesn't make you a lazy one. So, I stopped beating myself up for crushing v0s when I used to crush v5s. The point is, you are trying, and a "challenge" is marker that moves depending on where you are in your life.
Hope this helps anyone struggling with an injury! Keep your head up!