Injuries - Turning Negative Experiences into Positive Life Lessons
I’ve had my fair share of debilitating injuries throughout my life; broken collarbones, torn hamstrings, even a neurological infection that had me hospitalised for weeks.
As I’ve sustained my latest injury, only minor in the scheme of things.. It doomed on me, the physical pain of injury is nothing in comparison to the mental anguish and torment.
I mean sure, breaking your clavicle definitely hurts a bit. But it’s not long before that pain subsides. Then what replaces it, I’ve always found the most daunting. The inability to pursue your passion, your hobby, and what you love doing. You’re essentially sidelined from regular activity and routine, and for me that can be extremely detrimental to the mental health.
The correlation between injuries and impaired mental well-being is real.
When I reflect on a younger version of myself, I was not inept at dealing with the mental trauma associated with injury. I was angry at the world, resented those that were only trying to help. I had an attitude of entitlement, why would this happen to me.
Thankfully through experience attitudes can be altered, and we are able to establish a better means of navigating our way through life. We are always learning.
So what are some effective coping mechanisms for the mental chaos that can rapidly unwhirl?
Perspective and Gratitude
It’s so easy to adopt the mentality of a victim. Bitterness and resentment are negative emotions, and will only antagonise the mental torture that will unfold.
It’s okay to be upset, I mean who in the world wouldn’t be. But the sooner you accept it for what it is, the sooner you’re ready to move forward.
This is where perspective can be learned. Over time I’ve learned to adopt an ‘attitude of gratitude’ so to speak. Yeah, I’ve got a broken leg.. but it will heal. I’ve got a roof over my head, clean water, food, friends, and a loving family.
I’ve got things that some people will never know the luxury of experiencing unfortunately, and for that I will always be grateful.
Power of Positivity
Once you’ve accepted the situation for what it is; focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
While it sounds simple, it can be easy to dwell on your inability to perform certain activities. However, instead of placing the perceptual lens on the few negatives that exist, transcend its focus to the many positives that do exist.
You may not be able to run for the time being, but you may be able to walk, cycle, swim, or weight train. Focus your energy on developing aspects that you CAN do, and by shifting this focus you’ll dwell significantly less on the uncontrollable.
It’s also vital for injured athletes to get the release of endorphins that they are accustomed to, which will definitely help improve the mood while tackling rehabilitation challenges.
Be patient. From my experience you can’t fast track a proper recovery. There will be days that you make excellent progress, and others that aren’t successful at all.
Celebrate your milestones, but don’t let a bad day curb your enthusiasm. Some days will always be tougher than others, trust the process, and know that tomorrows the opportunity for a better day.
Remember when one door closes, another door opens. Time is the most valuable asset we have on this planet, and with injury a lot of spare time becomes apparent.
From experience it’s important to keep the mind busy, otherwise demons can become prevalent in your mind. Over time instead of envisioning your physical inactivity, I’ve adopted the approach of looking at it as a learning opportunity.
With increased free-time you can focus on developing new skills and abilities, or establishing new hobbies. It’s an opportunity to better yourself and become a more well-rounded individual.
Express, Don’t Repress Your Feelings
It’s okay to struggle adapting to lifestyle changes. As men we especially find it difficult to talk about our feelings. This inability can bottle the negative thoughts up, and become more detrimental to our recovery.
Talk to your family and friends. Let them know if you’re struggling. You’d be surprised how supportive people are when you open up, and it can feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders.
It ain’t weak to speak.
Injuries have the ability to take a significant mental toll on athletes and individuals. However, through experience we are able to develop tools and stronger coping mechanisms for dealing with the mental anguish.
In life we can turn negative experiences into positive learning, in which these experiences can teach us a lot about ourselves.
I hope that some of these coping mechanisms and perspectives can help others going through a similar ordeal, and help them see the light at the end of the road.
Life is a learning process on a journey towards self-improvement, and constant betterment ✌️