Adolescence is a time for young people to get a healthy start to life, but the number of teens reporting poor mental health is increasing. Depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents with alarming rates affecting teens across the country.
Youths with poor mental health may struggle with school, grades, decision making, and their overall physical health, and it can affect them well into their adult years. Teen athletes are especially susceptible to mental health challenges due to the pressure being an athlete puts on their time, bodies, and minds.
Here are some mental health tips for teenage athletes, as well as ways to help young athletes focus on mental health and reasons mental health is critical for teens.
Top 7 Tips for Teenage Athlete Mental Health
1. Get Enough Sleep
Teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep to function at their best. It’s important to make sleep a priority because lack of good sleep can increase your risk of depression, reduce immune system function, cause mood swings, hormonal imbalances, cognitive issues, and daytime impairment (like inability concentrate) and affect your mental health.
Sleep is also important for recovery from workouts, practices, and games.
Some tips for getting better sleep include:
- Create and stick to a bedtime routine.
- Put your devices away 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
- Silence phone notifications or keep your phone charging in a different room.
- Create a relaxing atmosphere to sleep in that’s dark, quiet, and a comfortable temperature.
2. Engage In Healthy Exercise and Eating Habits
It can be easy for teen athletes to overwork and fuel their bodies inappropriately. To keep your body healthy, try to:
- Avoid strict workout regimens and dieting.
- Incorporate rest breaks each day.
- Eat a healthy balance of vegetables, fruit, dairy, and carbs.
- Avoid soda and other unhealthy beverages.
3. Prioritize Down Time
Between school, sports, homework, friends, and maybe even a part-time job, having down time may seem impossible. However, it’s critical to have time to recharge where you’re not focused on being productive, and instead doing things like hanging out with friends, watching TV, reading, or another hobby.
4. Avoid Obsessing About Poor Performance
Losing a big game, missing a key play, or making an important mistake can sometimes feel like the end of the world. But everyone makes mistakes, and those mistakes don’t define who you are as a person or an athlete.
Coping with failure is an important part of being an athlete, and even the pros must do it sometimes. Give yourself an emotional break – let yourself feel what you feel, but then move on instead of dwelling on it. Later, go back and analyze what happened and make a plan for how to do it differently/avoid it next time.
5. Create A Game Plan
Teen athletes are especially susceptible to anxiety, which often happens when people feel like they are out of control. When it comes to your sport, always have a game plan with different scenarios and options. Think through the worst-case scenarios and how would you handle them. Acknowledging these scenarios and knowing you’ve made a plan allows for some control and decreased anxiety.
Examples of this can include if you forget your equipment, make a mistake or miss a big play, or get injured and can’t participate in a game.
6. Have A Routine
Routines are great for young athletes. They promote discipline, help them feel safe, secure, and stable, and can reduce anxiety and uncertainty.
Start by deciding what needs to be in your routine (school, work, sports, play, etc.). Then create a plan that works for you. This could be including general time blocks in your day where you can accomplish your tasks, making a daily to-do list, or using a planner mobile app or website. Set small goals for yourself, be consistent, and don’t forget to track your progress and celebrate your wins.
7. Ask For Help
If you’re struggling in any way, reach out to a trusted adult. This can be a parent, coach, teacher, guidance counselor, or others. They can help you understand your feelings and come up with a plan to reduce the pressure and get the help and/or support you need.
How To Help Young Athletes Focus on Mental Health
- Remove the pressure. It’s normal for you to want your kid to always be at their best, but it’s not realistic. Continuous pressure on young athletes can lead to unsustainable stress and negative mental health. They should know you love and support them no matter what.
- Be proactive. Talk to your athlete about ways to manage stress and pressure, overcome challenges, and be their best when it matters.
- Watch your words. Things you say that are meant to be encouraging can actually do more harm than good, sending message if they don’t succeed, they’re not good enough. It’s important to send messages about giving the best effort in the moment. Also, try to speak positively when speaking to, with, or about others.
- Encourage other activities. Athletes should have hobbies, activities, and friends outside of sports to give themselves mental breaks and engage in other enjoyable activities.
- Notice and shut down signs of performance anxiety. If you’re noticing small changes in personality or behavior, anxiety starts to come up in different areas of life, or they are engaging in a lot of negative self-talk, step in.
- Talk to your teen. Provide them love and support. Sometimes this can be uncomfortable, but having open lines of communication can help you be there for your child in the most effective way. It can also help you know when something is off or when they may need help. They will also feel more comfortable coming to you for help.
Why Mental Health Is Important for Teenage Athletes
Adolescence is a critical period for developing social and emotional habits that are important for long-term mental well-being. Things they learn and develop now can help them:
- Cope better with stresses of life.
- Be physically healthy.
- Create and maintain healthy relationships.
- Work productively.
- Realize and reach their full potential.
- Develop resilience.
- Establish sense of self and place in the world.
Contact NPTI Florida (Orlando/Tampa)
Hiring a personal trainer will help your teenage athlete get the physical exercise and stimulation they need to compete and be their best on the court or field. If you’re looking for a qualified, educated fitness professional to assist your child with their physical and mental health and wellness goals, contact NPTI Florida (Orlando/Tampa).