Throughout the pandemic, Dr Carla Edwards supported Canadian athletes experiencing mental health issues related to COVID-19.
In partnership with sports medicine expert Dr Jane Thornton, she produced a widely praised resource to help athletes deal with feelings of uncertainty about their futures.
Carla explains how creativity, flexibility, and adaptability are key to navigating your way through times of uncertainty.
IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE THE SUPPORT TO CREATE NEW SCHEDULES, CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE, AND HAVE GREATER FLEXIBILITY WITH REGARD TO HOW YOU’RE EXPERIENCING THE WORLD.
Dr Carla Edwards
It’s important to understand that anxiety can exist on its own as a symptom without being a disorder. In other words, it’s a normal feeling, and there’s nothing wrong with you for experiencing anxiety under circumstances where life feels uncertain and unfamiliar.
Anxiety can drive us to be more socially responsible and make good decisions, but for those who have underlying anxiety – where you’re regularly having difficulty sleeping, focusing or concentrating, and you’re worrying about life and health in general – the addition of something unfamiliar can make that more disrupted and interfere with your daily function.
And for those of you who feel better having schedules, routines and predictability to guide you through your day, life can become incredibly challenging when your coping mechanisms are affected by events out of your control. When this happens, it’s important to have the support to create new schedules, change your perspective, and have greater flexibility with regard to how you’re experiencing the world.
CREATIVITY, FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTABILITY ARE THREE QUALITIES THAT ARE REALLY IMPORTANT FOR HELPING YOU THROUGH DIFFICULT MOMENT.
Dr Carla Edwards
THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
Sleep disturbance is one of the biggest problems that I saw among athletes at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. You would think that some of that was due to anxiety and worry, but it’s not – the biggest contributor was the change in schedule. As athletes, you’re so used to being tightly regimented and having your wake time, training times, meal times and sleep times all pretty controlled. Being left to figure out your daily schedule on your own can feel like an impossible task.
A lot of the recommendations from the various Integrated Support Team (IST) members and people who met about this really focused on the importance of a schedule, including sleep. Those who were getting better sleep were coping better in the day; they were feeling rested and stronger and were better able to view life over the coming months with a more balanced perspective.
BE CREATIVE, STAY FLEXIBLE
We all need to readjust in times of uncertainty, and there are qualities that can make this a little easier. Creativity, flexibility and adaptability are three qualities that are really important for helping you through difficult moments, particularly when your schedule and the active lifestyle you lead as athletes has been affected.
Try to think positively: moments of uncertainty are a time for you to expand your mind, be creative, research online and talk to friends to get some ideas. There is no end to the possibilities of creativity out there.
Early in the days of the COVID-19 pandemic people were overwhelmed with the amount of information that was being sent to them on a regular basis. It was a harsh reminder of how vital it is to our mental health that we take a break from social media and choose platforms and sources of information that are helpful and healthy.
While life has returned to normal, and we’re no longer restricted to online meetings, you can carry this lesson forward with you. Each day, try to take some time away from your phone or the news cycle to allow yourself to connect with the people and the environment around you.