The brain plays an important and often overlooked role in pain and injury. Here are five things you can do to train your brain when you are injured…
The same parts of your brain are activated when you imagine doing an activity as when you actually do the activity. Studies show that athletes who use visualisation perform better than those who don’t, when other variables are taken into account. The key with visualisation is to make the image as real as possible and to practise, practise, practise! That way you can continue to train even when you can’t get on the field! Visualising a successful return to sport can also assist with building confidence and managing self-doubt, particularly with injuries that keep you out for an extended period.
2. Set goals and record your progress
Keep a record of your successes and how you have progressed using a Training Diary. Many injured athletes focus on setbacks and everything that they can’t do, however this reinforces feelings of frustration and helplessness, which can hamper the recovery process. Focus instead on what you can do and have done and measure your success based on progress not comparison to others or how you were pre-injury. Train yourself to look for the positives and opportunities in tough situations to assist with recovery.
3. Be ‘active’
The two biggest risk factors for depression occurring as a result of injury are inactivity and isolation. Finding things to do that stimulate your brain while resting your body and being intentional about planning time to catch up with people even if you don’t feel like it, can help to lower the risk of depressive symptoms. You may have to be creative about what you do depending on your injury, but there is always something you can do! Add some variety to your activities, particularly if you have a long-term injury. Choose activities that stimulate your brain in different ways, for example, learning how to play chess, leading to additional brain benefits.
5. Work on your mental skills
Taking the time to focus on your mental skills while injured can assist with improving your performance despite physical limitations keeping you off the training field. Mental skills training can also assist with a quick and confident return to injury once you are physically cleared to compete again.
Our team of sport psychologists in Australia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom work with athletes of all levels to keep their mind active and assist with their injury rehabilitation process.