Tips for Being Empowered Through an Injury

No one likes to be injured, especially my Type-A athletes (I say that in the most endearing sense). An injury can be dis-empowering because in its most basic sense and injury keeps us from doing something with our bodies that we were once able to do- probably pretty well…right triathletes?! This sense of dis-empowerment can lead to many other negative experiences including feeling angry, frustrated, feeling out of control (a biggie for my elite Type-A folks), and sometimes discouraged. It can be a slippery slope coping with an injury because when our body is vulnerable the mind and emotions become more so…that’s where I come in.

Lately I have had more and more athletes contacting me for support through and injury. I really commend them for that because it tells me that they want to stop, slow down, or prevent from going down the slope. While my individual work with them is more intensive I thought I would share a few tips/strategies with you all so that you can be more empowered through your healing process if you are coping with an injury.

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1)    Acknowledge and radically accept the injury. It is not what you wanted. It is not what you asked for. It sucks but here it is and you must be the one to prioritize and deal with it. Acceptance helps release resistance. Resistance in the healing process is not good. Accept that there are some things you cannot control about the healing process, like how long it may take but also recognize that there are many things you can control, like how you react to it (moment by moment), how consistent you are with your rehab and treatment, the energy of people you keep around you while you are healing (this is a biggie..keep the Negative Nelly’s at bay), the alternative activities you do with your time while you are healing, and so on.

2)    Be non-judgmental but honest with yourself about how it got to this point. Ask yourself, “What was my body trying to tell me?” and “Did I listen to its first signals or wait until it got glaring and the only way my body could get my attention was to take me out of the game for a bit?” This will help you understand your body’s signals and messages to possibly prevent this injury from occurring again. However, sometimes sh*t happens and you break your foot without notice, for example. Acknowledge that too and move on.

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3)    Affirm your body’s amazing ability to heal it self and treat healing process like training towards a competition. In case you did not know your body has the amazing capacity to heal itself. Yep, your body is and can heal itself. But if you walk around all day talking (affirming) and thinking (affirming) about how you are not healed, how you cannot do such and such, or talk (affirm) about all your aches and pains then essentially you are telling (affirming) that your body not to heal or that you are not healed. However, if we treat our healing process like sport then remember that as focused disciplined athletes we definitively set aim at our performance goals in training and competition and train towards it every day. You must do this during the healing process. You must tell/train your mind to tell your body what you want it to do. Visualize it. Affirm it. Talk about it. Yes, realistically you are injured but that is no excuse to rehash the past every day with every ache or pain, or with every person that asks how you are doing. If some asks how you are doing say to them “Thanks for asking and I’m healing up.” or “On my way to coming back stronger and better.”

Here is my post on how to create affirmations. I recommend repeating one or two healing affirmations during bed time and preferably as you are settling into sleep.Your subconscious mind is most receptive at this time and optimal healing happens when you are sleeping. My favorite healing affirmation is “My body now restores itself to its natural state of perfect health.”

 

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4)   Be kind to yourself. The healing process is all about the art of allowing. Allowing releases resistance and therefore releases tension in the body that is needed for healing, as opposed to the resistance creating tension that inhibits healing. Being angry with our body is like being angry at a kid for having broke leg. What is done is done and now what is needed is support and kindness towards yourself. Also, allow others to take care of you and trust their care. This can be difficult for Type-A-control-freak-independent athletes (again I say this in the most endearing sense, you all know I love you) but maybe that is a part of the lesson. Many high level athletes struggle with asking or receiving help. Be kind to yourself and allow others to help support your needs. This in itself can be very empowering because we are all in this together. There is no person on earth that does not need someone for something in their life, we are all interdependent.

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5)   Accept this moment and this injury in this time and space. Try to see your injury isolated to this time and space in your life. And just because something is happening now does not mean it will happen again, especially if we learn from it. Remember “what you resist persists.” Some athletes that I have worked with create “injury phobias” i.e. once they are healed from that specific injury they create a persistent fear that it might or will come back again. My suggestion is that, if it does then worry about it at that time, BUT if it is not present at the moment and no “flags” are presenting then let that worry pass out of your mind. Anxiety about injury is like your brain having a crystal ball and only foretelling catastrophe. When in reality anxiety is your brains way of trying to protect you by reminding you what could happen because it did happen but that does not mean it will happen…practice letting go and trusting your body. Which leads me to my last suggestion…

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6)   Trust yourself and trust your body. Time to heal allows you to focus on yourself. Sometimes we think that because we train and workout we are paying attention to ourselves when really we may be distracting from life or other issues. An injury allows you to learn more about you. It provides and opportunity to learn how to be self compassionate. It also provides time to reflect on things that may need to change in your life. Healing through an injury allows you to make space in your life FOR YOU. Guess what, your sport is not going anywhere and if you use this time to empower yourself and heal correctly you’ll probably come back to sport stronger, wiser, and better than before. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. However, it is up to you to prioritize yourself and take good care of YOU during this time.

While I could go on and on for days about coping with various psychological and emotional aspects of an injury, I truly believe that each athlete faces their own unique healing process. However, if would like to discuss your specific needs for coping with an injury feel free to contact me for a free consultation.

I hope this offers you some comfort and support through this difficult time. It is important that you recognize that you can choose how you react to your situation. Remember, “If you change the way you see things, the things you see change.” Injury and pain in life are opportunists to grow and sometimes change directions in life. Be open to what this time in your life is reflecting back to you….

Shine on!

Dr. G

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Published by

Dr. Gloria Petruzzelli

Dr. Petruzzelli is sport and performance psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher located in Sacramento, California and works with elite sport teams and athletes across the country. She is competitive athlete herself and enjoys practicing yoga, spending time with her family and traveling.