Physically Strong or Mentally Strong

Looking back at my two and a half years so far as a student athlete I have figured one thing; being an athlete is a constant state of anxiety.

 

It is no surprise that student athletes have a tough schedule, after all we have to manage practice, lift, condition class, homework and possibly a social life.  Athletes are focusing on getting physically stronger and perfecting their craft, but no one has ever considered focusing on getting mentally stronger.

 

 Being mentally tough is key in any sport but how can you do that if you do not practice it?

 

According to Jake New, of Insider Higher Ed, Drexel and Kean University researchers have surveyed 465 athletes at a division one school over a course of three years and there were shocking results. According to their research they found,

30 % of female athletes showed symptoms of depression, while men showed 18%.

They also found that track and field have the highest percentage of depression symptoms at 37% for female and 25% for men. Next is soccer, females at 31% and males at 13%. The third highest is softball at 31% and baseball at 18%, and lastly lacrosse coming in at 17% for females and 12% for males. (Wolanin A, Hong E, Marks D, et al. Br J Sports Med 2016)

 

We strengthen our skillset at practice, we strengthen our speed at conditioning, we strengthen our muscles at lift…. But why is there no focus on strengthening our minds?

 

I am on the softball team at my school and recently we have participated in a mindful meditation class.

 

Although it is an experiment for a man working toward his doctorate he has been teaching the important of meditating and taking time to focus on breathing and being mindful. It has been proven that mindfully mediating can be reduce anxiety and depression.

 

At Georgetown University there was a study about the idea of mindful meditation. Dr. Elizabeth A Hoge, an associate professor at Georgetown medical center’s psychiatry department led this study.  It was an 8-week program that tested the anxiety and the effects meditation could have on it. In the beginning of the 8 weeks, Hoge made the participants undergo the Trier Social Stress Test which participants would give a short speech in front of an audience, and Hoge’s team would monitor the blood-based stress hormone and inflammatory responses.  After the 8 weeks, while the participants were finished practicing mindful meditation, Hoge’s team had found “significantly greater reduction in measures of stress.”

 

Since we just started this class I have only been doing mindful mediation for a week and I feel that I have already noticed a difference. It is a time to take a moment to yourself and do the most important thing to live… Breathe.

 

I am not saying that this is a cure to all of the signs, but at least it is a start to bring attention to the issue of mental health.