Mentally Healing from Physical Injury

Getting injured sucks.

Most injuries are quick to recover from, but the ones with longer recovery times can have a serious impact on your mental health.

If you’re an athlete, you have to give up your sport – for the short or long term – and you miss out on the social aspects of competing and the endorphins that come with being active. Not to mention that missing out on all of these things can mess with your sense of self.

If your injury prevents you from going to work or school, it could also affect your financial or academic situation and throw some of your longer-term plans out of whack.

So how do you keep the feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, isolation, and lack of motivation at bay while you recover?

Put your energy into healing

Now you can put all that time you used to devote to sport, work, or school into your rehabilitation. Train, study, and labour at improving your injury.

Being injured rarely means you can’t do any physical activity. Even doing a few push ups or kickbacks, a few minutes on a stationary bike, or doing physiotherapy exercises can be enough to start your upward spiral of feeling better, sleeping better, and recovering better.

You may have injured yourself preparing for a competition like a race or a tournament, so instead of thinking about how you won’t achieve the goals you had set for yourself, set yourself new, recovery-related goals.

This can help you heal faster and can help you focus on the positive – the progress you’re making rather than the things you’re missing out on.

Hearing that pop, snap, or crack and knowing you’re hurt is a terrifying moment. Stay calm and breathe mindfully to help you cope in the immediate aftermath.

Use the time to try something new

Have you always wanted to learn how to knit or get into a highly-recommended but long and heavy series but you just didn’t have the time? Try out some things you’ve been putting off until you had “more time” to make your experience while injured feel more fun.

You can also try getting ahead in your non-athletic-related goals to make your time on the couch feel more productive. This will also help keep you motivated and feeling less disengaged.

If the injury you have ends your career in a particular sport, it will undoubtedly be a significant loss. And it’s okay to grieve that loss, but there are often other sports or competitions you can get involved in that your body can still handle.

All is not lost. You are not your sport or your injury. You are an entire person with other skills and interests, some of which you may not have even discovered yet.

Talk about it

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the physical pain mixed with the frustrations that go along with an injury can feel overwhelming. If that happens, talk to someone about it. Your doctor should have experience with patients feeling anxious or depressed after injuries. You can also speak with a counsellor, to someone on a helpline, or of course to a Vent Over Tea empathetic listener.

If you have the chance, I would highly recommend speaking with someone who’s been through a similar experience. Sharing the frustration of what you’re going through with someone who really understands it and hearing how they were able to recover can be extremely uplifting.

When you have a plan and it gets thrown out the window by an injury, it’s easy to drift into panic mode because the future is so uncertain and it’s hard to imagine the pain subsiding. So having someone there who can reassure you that it will subside, that things will end up okay, is comforting.

Getting injured is largely out of our control, but we get to choose how we care for ourselves mentally and physically during recovery. Choose to treat yourself with kindness and compassion and to take care of your body and mind.

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