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Hannah Stoyel's top sports psychology tips to maintain a healthy mind

No matter what aquatic discipline you take part in, it is always important to maintain a healthy mind as well as body.

Swim England sports psychologist, Hannah Stoyel, has provided some top tips to help you throughout not only your sporting journey, but also your every day.

The following tips will help you to celebrate your achievements, keep a calm mind and focus on the bigger picture.

Celebrate the small things

Our brains are evolved to protect us, and they are programmed to notice the negative.

This programming can sometimes lead to us feeling down or upset. So, it is important that we take notice of the day-to-day things we do well, and efforts we are proud of.

How to:

  1. Create a list of 10 things that you feel you did well in the last few days or weeks, things about you that you like or appreciate about yourself, and things that you are proud you attempted or completed.
  2. At the end of each day add one or two new things to the list that are relevant to that day’s experience, replacing the first two on the list. Each day you will have an updated list of 10.

When we take time to celebrate the small things from training or from our daily lives, we can feel happier and more fulfilled.

Feeling good in ourselves is the foundation on which great sport performances are created!

Deep breaths

Taking purposeful, deep breaths is helpful as it calms us down when we are nervous or anxious so that we can perform at our best.

When we are upset, deep breaths allow us to clear our minds so that we can think clearly and take action that is meaningful and productive.

The great thing about deep breaths is that they are simple to do, can be done almost anywhere, and they are always free!

How to:

  1. Breath in through your nose for 5 seconds, hold that breath for five seconds, release the breath through your mouth (like blowing through a straw) for five seconds.
  2. Repeat three to five times (or more if needed).

Practice makes progress, but progress is not linear

It is important to remember that progress in all things, including sport, often includes challenges and setbacks. There will be good and bad days.

Keep yourself motivated by having long term goals and aspirations, but it is normal for the path to that success to not be straightforward.

Instead of getting bogged down about a bad day, look at the trend, at the bigger picture. Imagine your journey in sport, or the journey of one of your favourite sporting stars, is a graph similar to the one pictured on the left below.

Starting out on day one through to your final days as a competitive athlete, your results in sport would show improvement, the trend would be generally upwards.

However, if you zoomed in, looked at the day-to-day efforts yourself, or a sporting star, made, you would see lots of ups and downs such as in the graph pictured on the right below.

If you stay too zoomed in, you can lose track of the trend. So, zoom out, appreciate your efforts that contribute to an overall positive trend.

If you feel that your trend over several months is plateauing, then get curious. Talk to your support network of coaches, parents, carers, sport science and medicine team, about how to make changes to adjust the trend.

Progress is not linear, and that can feel tough sometimes, so keep celebrating the small things, and keep sight of how your overall trajectory in sport is moving you towards your goals and aspirations.