Support your team to take control of their mental health with specific techniques.

Challenge your athlete – and yourself – to set new goals and adapt your daily behaviour to any changes in your situation.

Ensure they have regular contact with you, other entourage members and their friends and family.

Paul Wylleman
Netherlands - Performance Manager
Sport psychologist
The Team NL sports psychologist specialises in high performance and mental health


Another technique you can implement is the 456. Four times a day, get your athlete to breathe in for five seconds and then breathe out for six seconds while slowly lowering their shoulders.

 

Paul Wylleman

1

Help manage expectations through active thinking

It is normal for athletes to feel a certain amount of confusion and anxiety during times of uncertainty. You can help your athletes stay on top these feelings by reassuring them that it’s okay to accept that they cannot always be in control of a situation, but also that they have the ability to take some specific measures to deal with challenges and keep daily life as structured as possible.

Negative thoughts and feelings occur to everyone in a challenging situation, but it’s important to avoid paying too much attention to them. If your athlete is struggling, you can help them shift their attention by asking them to focus on a word, thought or behaviour that actively helps them to relax.

Another technique you can implement is the 456. Four times a day, get your athlete to breathe in for five seconds and then breathe out for six seconds while slowly lowering their shoulders. This will help relieve tension and unrest – and it’s something you can try yourself, too.

2

Look to adapt to new situations

Practise visualisation with your athletes. Get them to think about how they will behave in different circumstances; it can help them keep up with daily activities and deal with the feeling that something is missing.

3

Keep your eye on the future

Of course, it’s important for sporting purposes to make sure you regularly speak with your athlete about how to manage their daily training and routine, but it’s also a way of helping them maintain supportive thoughts and feelings. As part of this, work with them to set new, concrete, realistic and achievable goals, and discuss a plan to achieve them through daily activities.

4

Help your team use trusted communication channels

Major news stories can lead to an overwhelming amount of information coming your way. It is important that you have trusted sources that you can check two to three times per day, but make sure not to consume too much information, as this may lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed or even helplessness. To find out whether new information matters to you as an athlete, ask yourself: “What does this mean for me and my entourage?”

5

Stay connected

One of the most important things one can do when feeling low is to talk to others. Maintaining regular contact with your athlete is vital to staying #MentallyFit. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with others who are important to them as well; we are fortunate to live in an era where we can chat to others digitally with ease, so you can get them to make the most of those channels.

Challenging situations can make people feel restless, irritable or even insecure. Sometimes this can also lead to a feeling of lack of control, avoidance behaviour, disturbed sleep, anxiety or even panic. Making sure athletes are able to speak regularly to others, yourself included, can help them process challenges. Having someone they can share their problems as well as their daily activities with will help them to maintain a stable lifestyle during times of uncertainty. You might want to put them in contact with a licensed mental health professional to help them deal with the psychological impact of the situation.


One of the most important things one can do when feeling low is to talk to others.

 

Paul Wylleman

You can check out Athlete365’s resources on staying #MentallyFit