April is Stress Awareness Month, during which discussions around the causes of and cures for stress are encouraged.
We know that elite athletes are far from immune from struggling with stress at various points in their careers, with the pressures of being able to consistently perform on the highest level having the potential to overwhelm.
Here, Olympic swimmer and BAC ambassador, Alice Dearing, shares the stress management techniques which she has refined during the time she has spent in elite sport.
“As athletes, performing under stress is a typical part of our lifestyle which can help give us an edge and stay focused in the heat of the moment.
“However, too much stress and pressure placed on training or competition can lead to underperformance or more serious mental health concerns. Finding a healthy, balanced outlet is a great way to manage stress, stay happy and keep life in perspective as we pursue excellence in our fields.
“Finding what works for you to manage stress and maintain a happy balance can be so beneficial to performance, as can simply recognising that we are often in a very high pressured environments, atypical of normality.
“From experience, I have found athletes are usually their own biggest critics, analysing each performance to the smallest detail and finding what can be improved. Whilst this attention to detail is what makes us successful and hungry for progress, we must be ready to balance this out with healthy, positive outlets.
“I once fell into the pattern of pouring everything into training but neglecting my life outside of the pool; in doing so my performances dropped and I suddenly realised that this attitude was detrimental to my success and, more importantly, my happiness.
“Personally, I have always enjoyed playing video games and have made this part of my daily routine which allows me to disconnect from everything else in the day for a few hours; putting my concentration into something completely different, away from my sport.
“Healthy distractions have helped me step away from the pool and learn to not ground every feeling or experience in my life in my athletic performances. These healthy distractions can come from going out for a coffee with a friend and talking about celeb gossip, to binge watching Love Is Blind, to taking a weekend away.
“Managing stress and finding a balance is an individual discovery. Some may have found they are at the start of this journey – to them I suggest exploring whatever you enjoy and makes you feel at peace. And to those who have their established methods I suggest continuing to explore, and learning from others and what works for them.
“Finally, don’t be afraid to have these discussions with athletes, friends, family and wider circles – managing stress is a key part of life and it is important that we are all happy.”