How to Stay Positive During an Injury
Oh, sports injuries! They are inevitable! Although it might not seem like it in the moment, they are a blessing in disguise as most injuries can teach us worthwhile lessons. Throughout my athletic career, I have had numerous injuries - each different, whether it was what was injured; how I injured it; the length of time I was injured; etc. But what all my injuries had in common was that I came out from each a stronger athlete - both mentally and physically. The most important thing to remember is that you can have control over both your recovery and your comeback. You can choose between letting your injury inhibit you from accomplishing your fitness goals, or letting it inspire you to work that much harder to achieve these goals after you have recovered.
Today, I’m going to share my top 3 tips on how to stay motivated during your injury, and what I do as an athlete to make sure I come out of any injury both stronger and in a positive frame of mind.
Tip #1: “Feel Your Feels”
Let’s be honest with ourselves: yes, injuries suck. Typically, the worst day is either the one when you get the confirmed diagnosis of your injury, or an update on your recovery time and how that isn’t going as hoped for. Depending on the severity of the news, you could feel some of your lowest of lows emotionally, and that is OK. It is normal to feel disappointed, overwhelmed, and/or anxious. From personal experience, the more I tried to ignore or push through my “low” days, the worse my emotional state became throughout my recovery time. Rather than “feeling my feels”, I let them build up until I “exploded”! Now, I have adapted into letting myself “feel my feels”. I allow myself to absorb the information to feel and understand exactly what my recovery would look like. I give myself a limited timeframe where I can both “feel sorry for myself” and allow for some complete rest. All injuries, no matter how experienced you are, affect you differently. Some injuries feel stressful (concussion), and others feel more disappointing (fractured tibia). Allow yourself to cope with your injury both mentally and physically by accepting the reality about your road to recovery.
Tip #2: Focus On What You Can Control
Injuries are frustrating because they can make us feel a loss of control with regard to the nature of the injury and its recovery time. Often, we are left feeling unsure as to why our bodies “betrayed” us in that moment. A very common phrase you’ll hear after an injury is, “I don’t even know how it happened”. I have experienced that bewilderment but my best advice is for you to flip that narrative from “Why did this happen to me”? to “What is this teaching me”? Use your recovery time wisely to focus on what you can control, whether it’s physical, mental, or both, as there is always something well-worth learning from the experience. For example, you can work on your mobility and flexibility, on other specific muscle groups that are uninjured, and/or practice meditation or other self-care programs by scheduling massage and other physiotherapy appointments. Try to resist from allowing yourself to feel things “are happening to you”, but rather, take control of the situation in a constructive manner by visualizing what can positively happen to you during your recovery.
Tip #3: Small Wins Matter
The last and most important tip I have is to appreciate the small wins during your recovery. Rather than focusing negatively about how far you have to go to heal, think about how far you’ve come - how much you have already conquered and will continue to conquer. Injuries have an enormous mental component to them, in addition to their physical challenges, so be both kind and patient with yourself.
For example, during an injury as an undergraduate when I suffered a severe concussion, I considered it a win if I could be in a room with light, or if I could attend a university lecture. Sounds trivial, but those small wins were something to be celebrated because it meant my symptoms were getting better and that I was on the mend. The small wins are the first steps to achieving big wins, so try to appreciate each one and learn to take your recovery day-by-day. So, please celebrate the little things when they happen!
Last, I’ll leave you with my favourite quote I refer to whenever I am recovering from an injury, “Every setback is a setup for an even greater comeback”. I am a huge believer that everything happens for a reason and although it may seem unclear at the time, please believe that after your injury is behind you, you’ll come back better and stronger than ever. I promise!
- Lebert Fitness