by Christoffer Lowenhielm, PLPC
In the past years there have been multiple instances where mental health and sports have been the talking point in their cohesive relationship with one another. Some recent events that come to mind are Simone Biles at the Summer Olympics, Damar Hamlin after his scary injury on the football field, and most recently National Hockey League banning pride and cancer awareness warmup jerseys. These are just some of the major reasons why I want to bring awareness to the mental status of sports, so we can help athletes understand their mental health can impact their
overall performance on and off the field.
The reason why this topic is so important to me is that I used to be an athlete who struggled with mental health, which impacted not only my growth as an athlete but my life outside of sports. I demonstrated signs of depression, low confidence, anxiety, and low self-esteem. After I retired from hockey, there was a part of me that wanted to investigate how to better my own mental health and help other athletes improve their confidence and mental health. I found four important areas to focus on when looking to improve an athlete’s mental health.
First, focus on things you can control, which is my attitude and my effort. When focusing on myself and not worrying about the past or future, the results will take care of itself. Other individuals' actions will not change what drives me forward.
Second, dream big, ignore those who doubt you, and never give up on a dream. Only yourself can decide your dreams. They can be fulfilled with hard work and a clear mind without distractions.
Third, choosing to have faith over fear. Let the heart carry the dreams and confidence in the abilities you worked so hard to master and achieve. Continuing to master the skills you want to be great at will shadow any fears or doubts you may have.
Fourth, loving what you do and attacking the day with a smile, joy, and enthusiasm. If there is a
passion deep in your heart for what you are doing, you will be able to climb mountains. Focusing
on that joy and the reason why you feel in love with what you are doing will help overcome even
the hardest of days.
by Angela Kuhns, MA, LPC
For a moment consider the role safety plays in your life... in the life of others...in our world...
Our safety and sense of safety impacts every aspect of our lives. Our health, relationships, careers, quality of life... all heavily rely on our safety and sense of safety. When we experience a painful emotion or a problematic pattern repeating in our life we often jump into “fixing”, attempts to rationalize our way out of it, or some form of avoidance, none of which create deep and sustainable change. Safety however, creating and building safety and a felt sense of safety can lay the foundation for profound change.
There are real dangers in life that need to be acknowledged and addressed. If you don’t feel safe, this is a call to take an honest inventory and start moving in the direction of safety. Safety and a felt sense of safety are not created by judgement. If you find yourself saying “there is no reason for me to feel this way” or “logically, I am safe,” it is time to get more curious. Rather than trying to convince yourself, try to practice noticing, staying with, and being curious about what is actually coming up for you. We want to build more understanding so that we can start addressing
safety concerns and underlying needs.
Keep in mind what feels familiar or maybe even comfortable is not the same as what is safe. This can get pretty muddied up. When we are having trouble knowing the difference, it is helpful to think of a baby (human or animal) or a seedling. We protect these small beings from threats by being with them, not by locking them away from life. We handle them with care, gentle and slow with our movements. We talk softly. We don’t allow predators or harmful people to have access to them. We make sure their needs are met. Moving towards safety might mean we create distance between ourselves and someone who is causing us harm, start challenging harmful conditioning, practice setting boundaries, and begin engaging with self-compassion. It is hard work and sometimes the question of “What would I want for a little one, beloved pet, or best friend?” can give us the clarity we need to do the hard things.
As a practice, we can think about moments we have felt truly safe or attune to safety in the present moment. We can notice the conditions that are necessary for and contribute to our sense of safety. We can recognize that safety is a bodily experience and deepen our felt sense of safety by paying attention to the sensations that arise in our bodies. We can breathe into the sensations and experiences, letting them expand and get as big as they need to. Maybe we notice a softening or release of tension. Maybe there is an openness and relaxation in our posture. Maybe our breaths are a little slower and a little deeper. Maybe we feel a warmth especially around our heart. These are just examples, pay attention to what comes up for you.
If you can’t think of a time you actually felt safe, know that you are not alone, it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, and I assure there is a reason. While working towards understanding those reasons and creating greater safety it is still possible to engage in building a felt sense of safety. We can use our imaginations like in Safe Space Guided Imagery and engage similarly to what is described above.
May we all know greater and greater safety.
In memory of the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tina Turner. What a beautiful and extraordinary example of what reclaiming safety and living fully looks like.
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!