Athletes [also known as superheroes] are INCREDIBLY STRONG human beings...But that doesn't mean we aren't allowed to have our weak moments.
We are constantly held at high standards and expected to be at our best at all times. We are expected to be the strongest in the weight room, the fastest during fitness, to show mental strength after we lose a ball all while getting straight A’s, eating a healthy diet and finding time to spend with friends and family.
We get so used to hiding our weak moments for our sport, that we don't allow ourselves to have any weak moments outside of our sport. We are supposed to be “the best” with our heads held high and our emotions pushed to the side because nothing can stand in our way...we are athletes.
Not enough athletes talk about their internal struggles and the physical pressures put on themselves day in and day out. It's time to talk about it!
You're not alone. No matter how tough, happy or composed we may look on the outside, we are ALL dealing with stress and emotions underneath that hard exterior. We have a terrible habit of NOT confronting our emotions and suffering in silence…and more often than not, this leads to prescriptions for anti-depressants and psychologist visits. [Side note: You may be a lady baller who has experienced the above scenario and THAT’S OKAY]
We are here to tell you, YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO IT ALONE AND THERE ARE HEALTHY WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR STRESS!
You can manage your anxiety, your thoughts and your emotions in a healthy and well-balanced way. You can use certain strategies that work best for you to help heal and guide yourself past any problem that you face now or in the future. Through our individual experiences, we found that there are some natural strategies that you can implement into your lifestyle and daily routines that help relieve stress.
We challenge you to take a look at our strategies below. What is one thing you can work on today that will help you deal with your soccer girl problems?
-Not many people know this but when you are highly stressed, chances are your cortisol levels [stress hormone] are out of whack!
-Getting adequate sleep of around 7-8 hours is not only crucial to your athletic performance and recovery, but it is also crucial to regulating your cortisol levels [this will help your cortisol levels spike and dip at appropriate times]
*What we are trying to say is set a bedtime, turn your phone on airplane mode, shut your computer and go to sleep!
2. CLEAN UP YOUR DIET
-Did you know that 90% of your serotonin is produced in your DIGESTIVE TRACT? That’s right! Your happiness depends on what you are putting in your belly! When you think about it, when you are eating foods that don’t make you feel good..your brain, hormones and emotions are not going to “feel good” either! The key here is to be mindful of what you are consuming and put the focus on your gut health.
Happy gut = Happy brain = Happy player.
-Suggestion to focus on eating whole foods first. Make sure your plate consists of quality protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, greens and fiber.
-Eat fermented foods like kimchi, miso, yogurt [prebiotics and probiotics].
-OR Take a daily probiotic [at least 50 billion CFUS]
-Slowing your mind and breathing down can be an amazing way to reduce your stress.
-Spend 10-15 minutes meditating upon awakening, or before/after practice or at night before you go to bed.
-Favorite apps: Headspace, Oak, Inscape
*Headspace specifically helps teach you techniques like reflecting, imagery or noting that helps you separate yourself from your emotions and feelings. These strategies remind you that YOU are NOT your feelings and that you can acknowledge these stressors and move above and beyond them!
-Holistically speaking [and aside from soccer responsibilities like practice and games], the movement you do should be based on HOW YOU ARE FEELING.
-If you are feeling highly stressed, run down or sore —> GO SLOW. Yoga. Long walk and talk [bring a friend]. Stretching. Foam rolling. *Some people don’t realize that excessive workouts can raise your cortisol [stress] two-fold.
-On the flip side, if you are feeling “good”, energized and well-rested, we encourage you to do a little SWEAT session. Sometimes a light jog can shake those negative emotions off and give you a boost of endorphins.
5. CUT THE CAFFEINE, CHOCOLATE & SUGAR [JUST FOR A LITTLE]
-Everyone hates this tip because we all tend to have a craving for coffee and candy bars! However, we must understand that these stimulants can enhance your heart rate, thoughts/feelings and make you feel even more overwhelmed.
-In addition, caffeine stays in your system for a while so it can really affect your sleep [which we just learned, is super important for stress management]
-For example, if you have a full cup of coffee at 10am, you still have 1/2 the amount of caffeine in your system by 4pm! And if you have two cups of coffee..well you get the picture!
*If you quit cold-turkey, you might feel some withdrawals so we highly suggest this regression.
6. TALK IT OUT
-This point is MAJOR KEY. Too many of us are suffering in silence because we think that people will judge us for feeling a certain way. We can promise you that the best thing you can do is to pick someone you trust or love and sit them down, talk to them, tell them about what’s going on. You will feel 100x better, we promise.
-For those of you at school, there are on-campus counselors that you can talk with on just about ANYTHING! They are there for you - utilize them and their time!
-Schedule a meeting with coach or call him/her. They want to be in the know about what’s going on with you mentally and physically. Don’t feel weird about this.
-Lastly, change the stigma that therapy is for “crazy” people. It’s NOT. Therapy is for EVERYONE and anyone who has something to work through. We all need someone to talk to and lean on sometimes and it takes courage to go and talk to someone!
7. MORNING NOTES/JOURNALING
-Writing down how you’re feeling is therapy in itself. Get your thoughts out on paper so that you can make sense of them. Read them over. Acknowledge them. Then let it GO. Don’t let all of that mumble-jumble get stuck in your head. You already have too many things to think about!
8. BREATHING TECHNIQUES
-This may sound “airy fairy” but guess what, it works. Just as you learned in sports and fitness to breathe correctly, the same goes for tense and high-stress situations. Breathing in and out deeply can bring your blood pressure and heart rate down. It can calm you more than you think.
-Here are 3 breathing exercises you should try!
9. LEGS UP
-This may sound weird but you know when you and your teammates put your legs up against a wall after hard practice and games to rid the lactic acid out of your muscles? Well this has more benefits than you think!
-When you raise your legs above your heart, the blood will flow in the opposite direction [down because of gravity and towards your heart]. This turns on your parasympathetic nervous system or your “rest and digest” mode which tells your body…hey, this lady baller is not in a life-threatening state and we can calm her down!
*Plus, it feels so good to raise your legs up after a hard day or HIIT workout!
10. TIME MANAGEMENT/SCHEDULING
-A huge soccer girl problem with Ladyballers is that they “don’t have time” for a lot of stuff because…BALL IS LIFE. This can be overwhelming when trying to fit in school work, practice, fitness, games, extra workouts, foam rolling, tests, studying, social time with friends, dinner, sleep, travel, the list goes on..
-A huge tip that we have is to SCHEDULE EVERYTHING into your calendar, hour by hour. Literally sit there and block off times for you to eat, head to practice, study, nap and see friends. When you have all of your events and tasks planned ahead of time, your body and brain won’t have to think so much. Just follow your Google Calendar or agenda notebook and you’ll feel “right on schedule” with everything!
-Last but not least, music is POWERFUL and has a total mind-body connection. Thinking with extremes, a good song can bring you happiness and energy while a sad or depressing song can bring you to a dark place.
-Let’s focus on happy, upbeat or calming music for times that you are not feeling so great. Music can not only drown out your racing thoughts but it can change the state of your brain chemicals, bumping up the serotonin levels and give you positive energy.
-Side Note: Cue up just about anything by Lizzo for an instant mood changer