Mental Health and Athletics

As we enter a new year, it’s important to prioritize mental health and self-care. As athletes, it’s normal to ignore your mental health and think that you are taking care of yourself because of all the exercise and physical fitness your constantly undertaking. Self-care is so much more than taking care of yourself physically. There is a mental, spiritual, and emotional component that also impacts your overall health. While exercising can certainly improve your mental health, it does not make you 100% resistant to mental health challenges.

Here are some things you can do in 2023 to improve your mental health:

  • Exercise: As mentioned above, exercising and maintaining your physical health directly impacts your mental well-being. Staying on a schedule, even after you are done with your sport, can help reduce stress and improve your mood, memory, and sleep. Being active even just for a short period of time each day will help you feel a sense of accomplishment and more energy throughout the day.  
  • Eat Healthy: Making sure you eat a nutritious meal will definitely impact your mental health. If you are constantly putting bad things into your body, it will begin to affect your overall well-being, but most importantly, your mental health. Eating a balanced diet will allow you to be less prone to becoming depressed and having anxiety. The relationship between your gut health and your brain is directly linked and they both impact one another. Eating more nutritional foods adds good bacteria to your gastrointestinal tract which sends good messages to your brain, improving your mental health.
  • Sleep: Getting an ample amount of sleep is also important when trying to improve your mental health. Studies show that adults need generally between seven and nine hours of sleep to feel well-rested and function optimally. Beyond just meeting the number of hours recommended, it is also about the quality of your sleep that will impact your mental health. One way to avoid being sleep deprived is to make sure your body gets enough time in REM sleep. Many people don’t realize that falling asleep while watching tv, or feeling sluggish during class lectures and meetings, are signs of being sleep deprived. To better enhance your sleep, improve your sleep environment by making your bedroom dark, avoid having late-night stressful conversations, take a warm shower before bed, and avoid eating heavy meals or drinking too much fluid close to bedtime.  
  • Be Positive: While we all experience bad days, it’s always better to have a “glass half full” mindset, instead of a half-empty one. As athletes, your emotions can skyrocket after losing a big game, feeling like you didn’t do enough at practice, or failing at a task your coach asked of you. However, it is important to not let these emotions sit with you for too long. It is important to remain positive and look at things from a different perspective. Failures should be viewed as lessons learned, and sadness can be turned into happiness if you train your mind that way.
  • Human Connection: Being a part of a team and interacting with your team can improve your mental health. Spending time alone is necessary, but doing that for too long can send you into a depression. Remaining contact with people, and limiting time on social media to have real-life human relationships can make you feel more connected to people and less alone. Talking through things with people and learning to have important conversations, gain perspectives, and learn from others, is a great way to practice mindfulness.

All of these things will have a tremendous impact on improving your overall well-being and mental health! We encourage everyone to engage in self-care and initiate new and improved habits.

About Game Plan

Game Plan’s comprehensive software platform integrates mobile-first eLearning as well as virtual mentorship and career services, uniquely designed for athletic organizations. Game Plan works with 875+ athletic departments and organizations with over 240,000 courses completed yearly. Our eLearning courses provide student-athletes ultimate access and flexibility while equipping both athletics departments and the conference office management tools and insight to ensure outstanding experiences and outcomes. To learn more about Game Plan, please visit