Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being. All people, including athletic trainers, face challenges in life that can impact their mental health, especially during a pandemic; and prevention is an effective way to reduce the burden of mental health conditions.
There are practical tools that all people can use to improve their mental health and increase resiliency. Mental health conditions are real and prevalent in our nation; and with effective treatment, those individuals with mental health conditions can recover and lead full, productive lives. Each business, school, government agency, health care provider, organization and citizen share the burden of mental health problems and has a responsibility to promote mental wellness and support prevention and treatment efforts.
ATs Care acknowledges May as Mental Health Month, and calls on athletic trainers to commit our community to increasing awareness and understanding of mental health, the steps ATs can take to protect their mental health and the need for appropriate and accessible services for all people with mental health conditions.
The following are seven self-care tips from ATs Care and Mental Health America, an NATA liaison group. Access more Mental Health Month 2021 resources through Mental Health America’s “Tools 2 Thrive” initiative and visit the ATs Care webpage to learn more about the services available to athletic trainers and athletic training students.
Members can also learn more about mental health in the May NATA News.
Self-Care Tip 1 – Prioritizing Self-Care
When we have a lot on our plates or we are facing mental health challenges, it can feel easy to push our own needs to the side. However, making time for ourselves is essential to our overall well-being. Use the following resources to help you better understand what is holding you back from taking time for yourself and your needs.
Self-Care Tip 2 – Adapting After Trauma & Stress
We all face trauma, adversity and other stresses throughout our lives. When people think of trauma, they often think of things like abuse, terrorism or catastrophic events (big “T” trauma). Trauma can also be caused by events that may be less obvious but can still overwhelm your capacity to cope, such as frequent arguing at home or losing your job (little “t” trauma). Trauma of any kind can be hard on your mental health, but working on becoming more resilient can help you feel more at ease.
Self-Care Tip 3 – Practicing Radical Acceptance
Many times bad things happen and we have no control over the situation. We can’t change people’s behaviors or the reality of what is happening, and these experiences are painful. Radical acceptance is a practice that helps us evaluate situations and work to reduce the emotional burden of the reality of the situation such as resentment, anger, hatred or shame.
Self-Care Tip 4 – Getting Out of Thinking Traps
It’s easy to fall into negative thinking patterns and spend time bullying yourself, dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It’s part of how we’re wired – the human brain reacts more intensely to negative events than to positive ones and is more likely to remember insults than praise. During tough times, negative thoughts are especially likely to spiral out of control. When these thoughts make something out to be worse in your head than it is in reality, they are called cognitive distortions.
Self-Care Tip 5 – Dealing With Change
Change, both good and bad, is an inevitable part of life. By taking time to think through the change you’re facing, you can work to make both the change and the emotions around the change more manageable. Use these resources as tools to process an existing or upcoming change that you are facing.
Self-Care Tip 6 – Dealing With the Worst Case Scenario
Going to the worst-case scenario (aka catastrophic thinking or thinking the worst) is one of the most common thinking traps we fall into. Thinking about the worst-case scenario can help you feel like you’re preparing to protect yourself from getting hurt in the future or to imagine what is the worst thing that can happen so you know you can survive no matter what. Unfortunately, problems come up when you have worst-case scenario thoughts and you’re not aware of them enough that they control you, versus you controlling them. This pattern of thinking can result in circular thinking (or ruminating) in ways that pull you into a rut, bring your feelings down, make depression worse, cause you to avoid your responsibilities and increase anxiety.
Self-Care Tip 7 – Processing Trauma & Stress
After a traumatic experience, it can be helpful to get your thoughts outside of your head. Writing down your experiences can help you gain perspective about your situation and help to reduce how distressing they are.