For athletes, days off are important for physical recovery and muscle repair, but they are also imperative for mental wellness. If your motivation is flagging, you’re disappointed in your progress or you’re simply in a funk because #life, resetting your mental rheostat could be just what you need to get back on track, both in and out of the gym. Here are five ways to give your brain the R&R it needs, replenishing your mental coffers and ultimately buoying your physical progress.
Sounds crunchy and granola, but being mindful and in the moment means that you can’t focus on anything other than the present — not the past or the future, both of which can make you anxious and stressed. No matter what you’re doing — sitting, working, walking or cooking — take five minutes to focus on the here and now, and use all five of your senses to bring awareness to the present: Smell the air, feel the grass, hear the laughter, taste the food or watch the rain falling. Feel yourself sinking back into negative thought patterns? Choose a word to repeat to yourself like “calm,” or use a physical cue such as snapping a rubber band worn around your wrist to help bring you back to the present.
“Me” time really is a thing, especially if you’re a people pleaser who constantly puts the needs of others before your own. Prioritizing self-care is important for proper mental recharge, so allow yourself an hour or two each day to do something just for you — get a massage, do a craft, take a walk, work out or read a book. Once you give yourself that needed attention, you’ll be that much better at working with and helping others.
In this day and age of social media, interpersonal contact has been severely minimized, but research indicates that meeting up with friends stimulates the release of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that promotes good health and a positive mood. Sideline your smartphone for a few hours and pair up with a pal to take a walk, go on a hike or have a healthy meal.
As an athlete, believing in yourself and in your potential to succeed is as important as putting in the physical work to make it happen, and keeping a confidence journal can help: Instead of dwelling on the negative things about your life, your performance or your physique, log the things that go well, such as an increased one-rep max, a faster 1-mile run, a great first date or a promotion at work. Review these entries when you’re feeling low or need a boost of confidence to get back on track.
Nothing is more important for a proper mental and physical reboot than sleep, but often it is difficult to relax after a busy day. Before bed, try this progressive muscle relaxation technique to unwind: Choose a muscle or a muscle group — for example, your quads — and contract it for 10 seconds. Then release it slowly as you exhale and imagine ridding your body of stress, negativity and fatigue. Repeat this process from head to toe.