As former student athletes, we know that combining sports with academics can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. But it’s also true that the rigors of modern-day athletic competition create specific mental health challenges for student-athletes.
According to an NCAA student athlete study, 38 percent of women and 22 percent of men reported feeling mentally exhausted constantly or most every day. Rates of mental exhaustion, anxiety and depression have nearly doubled since before the pandemic. And only 10% of student athletes with known mental health conditions seek help from a mental health professional, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
That’s why the Southland Conference and Thrive Global have partnered to promote student-athlete mental health. As the NCAA’s first athletic conference to take Thrive’s #MentalHealthPledge, the Southland Conference is on the front lines of the student-athlete experience, including the mental health challenges young people are facing. Thrive’s science-backed approach to behavior change is uniquely positioned to meet busy, ambitious student-athletes where they are, with a technology platform that adapts to the specific needs of each person.
And as we honor World Mental Health Day, there’s no better time to put the spotlight on student-athlete mental health. Together, Southland and Thrive will be deepening the conversation about how student-athletes can prioritize their mental health in ways that improve not only their athletic performance, but every aspect of their lives. Kicking off with a live webinar, we’ll also be offering free access to Thrive’s behavior change platform through the Thrive Global Foundation for all Southland student-athletes, coaching staff, and administrators.
The challenges before us are significant, but we’re optimistic. Athletes are on the cutting edge of well-being. Athletes know that sleep, rest, and recovery are essential for peak performance. We know that our small daily choices have a big impact, not only physically but emotionally. From what we eat and drink to how we connect with others, our habits are essential to success, on and off the field. We’re honored to be leading the mental health conversation for student-athletes everywhere.
If you’re a student athlete, here are some Microsteps you can take to improve your physical and mental well-being.
1. Check in with a fellow student athlete.
Even a quick message will help you support each other in your well-being goals.
2. Every day, say no to one thing that gets in the way of your sleep.
For example, doom-scrolling the news, binge-watching a show, or losing yourself in social media. This can give you back the time to get in a quick nap or to get a little more sleep at night.
3. Take every nap you can get — and don’t apologize.
Even a short nap can help us recharge.
4. Set aside five minutes to meditate.
When you calm your mind and shut out outside noises and distractions, you'll show up ready to focus and compete.
5. Set aside five minutes of recovery time after a loss or disappointment.
Going for a short walk or taking a few minutes to focus on your breath will help you refocus.
6. When you’re feeling fatigued, drink a glass of water.
Even mild dehydration can negatively affect our performance and cause headaches, concentration problems, and fatigue.
7. Ask a fellow student athlete how they recharge and recover after a tough game or loss.
Asking this question will show the other person that you care about their well-being – and might inspire you with new self-care strategies.
8. Pause and focus on your breathing during a moment of overwhelm.
If you’re feeling stressed about your responsibilities, this will help you recharge, ground you in the present, and reframe the moment.