The holidays are typically an exciting time for students. This is a time for taking a break from rigorous academic schedules, spending more time with loved ones from far and near and eating traditional foods you’ve waited for all year long.
Most student-athletes have a very different outlook on the holiday season. The holidays can be a very stressful and sacrificing time for them.
Depending on the sport, the student-athlete may travel for games during the holidays which limits time with family and participation in holiday rituals. There is an expectation on the the student-athlete to maintain their physical physique to ensure optimum performance at all times. It is usually stressed among coaches to utilize any time off to improve your game and put in “extra” work. These high expectations and sacrifices can be a source of stress, anxiety, depression or eating disorders during the holidays for student-athletes. These mental health symptoms can greatly impact the student-athlete’s ability to perform at their maximum level.
Below are a few tips on how to stay emotionally fit during the holidays:
- Time Management – Time is very precious for student-athletes and usually every minute is accounted for with practice time, meal time, physical therapy time, study time, travel time, game time and anything else the sports organization feels necessary to utilize their time. During the holidays I recommend the student-athlete include family in on their schedule ahead of time (if you can) which may allow the family to plan activities and special holidays rituals around it so you don’t miss out. Also, include family members in as many athletic activities as you can. These can be very special moments during the holidays as well.
- Diet and Exercise – So this may be one of the hardest areas to stay emotionally fit in. The guilt and pressure mounts every holiday season for the student-athlete not to overeat or fill themselves with loads of sugary foods and empty calories to only fall into a coma like sleep and skip their workout, right? I recommend that on the actual holiday give yourself permission to eat whatever you want without the guilt because it’s just the one day. The rest of the days surrounding the holidays follow your diet and exercise regimen as best you can.
- Volunteer Work – This is a great way to give back to your community for all their support through advertisements and fundraising events. This will give the student-athlete an opportunity to increase his/her self-esteem and confidence with acts of kindness by helping those less fortunate. Volunteer work also helps promote gratitude which may lead to an increased appreciation and love of “the game.”
- Free Days – The student-athlete body needs rest. The holiday season, although stressful, can also be an opportunity to create “free days” for yourself. Allow yourself to take a day or two off without doing the “extra” work many coaches recommend. Why? Because you deserve it! On these days the student-athlete can sleep, catch up on spending time with friends and family members or do something else they find fun. This strategy helps create a well rounded individual which leads to a well rounded student-athlete.
Porsha Jones, LMFT
Pjones @ GROWcounseling.com