'The Only Constant is Change'

Overcoming obstacles and showing resilience (via Onrise)

Editor’s Note (May 8, 2024): This article was submitted by Onrise, which US Club Soccer has partnered with for ongoing educational resources related to mental health, as part of a Mental Health Awareness Month series. The series will cover the mind-body connection, embracing pressures and overcoming obstacles, mental health awareness and destigmatization in sports, and self-care and long-term satisfaction in sports. The author, Tasha Saunders, is the VP of Player Care at Onrise. Tasha has a Player Care Certification and has completed training in Mental Health First Aid training for Adults and Youth. She grew up playing competitive soccer and continued her career at Sewanee as a four-year starter.

There is no team that has never lost. Challenges will happen. Change will happen. It’s important to know that life will not stay the same; change is inevitable. The real question is: how are you going to react to it?
 
Resilience is a key characteristic needed to face change head on. Resilience is the psychological capacity to adapt to stressful circumstances and bounce back from adverse events (“The 8 Key Elements of Resilience,” Psychology Today, 2020). Resilience is a process and a skill that will build over time as you gain better resources and tools. Navigating life’s ups and downs and maintaining the ability to bounce back requires having a sense of empowerment to make decisions that promote our own personal wellbeing.
 
Onrise offers three foundations to effectively support a resilient mindset: a positive outlook, adaptability, and problem-solving skills. These are not easy skills to gain; they cannot be bought or developed overnight.
 
A Positive Outlook
During challenging times, maintaining optimism in difficult situations keeps us from spiraling into a “woe is me” mentality. Maintaining a positive outlook also does not mean ignoring or suppressing emotional needs. While ignoring a feeling in the moment may be situationally okay, not dealing with the feeling is not okay. When emotions are not dealt with, it leads to burnout, emotional breakdowns or it can exacerbate other mental health issues. Additionally, suppressing our emotions can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
 
Instead, seek social support during challenging times. Our athletic trainers, family, friends, and peers can offer perspectives that enhance resilience during tough times and can provide emotional support. Especially if you’re injured, make sure to find someone who is going through something similar and lean on them for support.
 
Adaptability
Life happens; how are you going to react to it? Being adaptable is another great step towards resilience. Adjusting our behaviors and goals in response to changing circumstances is key. This does not mean setting lower expectations, standards, or goals but instead adjusting them accordingly. If your original goal was to score seven goals this season, and you’ve just been injured with a possibility of being back for the final two games, adjust your goals accordingly. When adaptability is not present, this can lead to feelings of perfectionism. It’s important to gain a sense of tolerance towards feelings of failure and imperfections.
 
Lean on acceptance. Know that working towards a resilient mindset is a process; you will not get it right every time. Accepting what has happened to us or accepting a choice that we made can help shift us into a learning mindset. While in a learning mindset, we can adapt and see a situation as a challenge or opportunity for growth and learning. A prime example is not making a team that you wished to make. Just because someone didn’t qualify for the Olympics one year does not mean they will give up on their seemingly less prestigious opportunities.
 
Problem-Solving Skills
Approach challenges with a proactive mindset. Break down problems as manageable, and try not to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. This is a tough skill to work on, but you don’t have to do it alone. Often, resilience can be seen as something you must take on by yourself. Just because you had support working through a challenge does not make you any less resilient. Ask a parent, a mentor, or a coach to work with you to zoom out on the challenge. How can you break down the challenge into achievable steps?
 
Additionally, when feelings of being overwhelmed are present, we often forget to zoom out on a situation and get stuck in the weeds. In order to zoom out and look at the bigger situation, create a self-care routine. Self-care is equally important in achieving a goal. Take breaks and reset yourself. Ensure that your self-care routine addresses your physical, emotional, and mental needs.
 
A positive outlook, adaptability, and problem-solving skills are not developed overnight. Even when these skills are “perfected,” they are still a process. You may show amazing resilience one week, and the next you may have a harder time achieving a resilient mindset. Have these tools in your back pocket for the next time you’re challenged with an adverse situation.

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