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Mindfulness essential for student-athlete’s mental health

Students+and+student-athletes+alike+juggle+a+variety+of+priorities+that+make+it+difficult+to+stay+in+the+present+moment.
Students and student-athletes alike juggle a variety of priorities that make it difficult to stay in the present moment.

Students and student-athletes alike juggle a variety of priorities that make it difficult to stay in the present moment.

Students and student-athletes alike juggle a variety of priorities that make it difficult to stay in the present moment.

CHRIS ARNESON, Evergreen columnist

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Mental health maintenance is a critical cog in the machine that is the strenuous lifestyle of a student-athlete.

Jerry Pastore, associate director of student-athlete personal development and wellbeing at WSU, said the two largest issues students face are stress and sleep — both of which are closely related.

“Stress can lead to not being able to sleep well,” he said, “and if you don’t sleep well, you can feel a lot more stress.”

WSU coaches and sport faculty must be acutely aware of the state of mind of every individual on their team, and they must know how to improve their state of mind. Cougar student-athletes use a wide variety of techniques to relax, beyond the standard counting sheep. Pastore said these sleep hygiene practices include keeping the room cool and using white noise.

Also useful are relaxation protocols that boost mindfulness and “shut off the chatter” that can come with ruminating at night, Pastore said.

Sleep is vital, but stress management is arguably just as important to how an individual operates at the daily level. After all, the conscious part of our day usually takes up over twice as much time as the hours spent sawing logs each night.

Slumber doesn’t solve everything. Once you wake up from that catnap, your homework assignment won’t have magically completed itself.

Pastore noted that “keeping in the moment” is an essential part of the equation for mindfulness and individuals experiencing stressful situations.

Whether you are a student-athlete competing at the highest amateur level of your sport, or another WSU student trying to work your way through college, being present is key.

Preparing for the future may help you be more ready for what may come, but when was the last time you changed the past? Consider the difference between preparing for the future and worrying about it — the former is unbiased while the latter is a pessimistic view.

While mindfulness and being present in the moment behoove every individual, perhaps no one uses these concepts to their advantage as much as athletes do. Whether it is a split-second decision to throw the ball deep, a batter driving a 99 mile-per-hour fastball into the stands or a contested three pointer with less than a second on the clock, sports come down to the core of the moment.

Our greatest athletes are not separated by their physical gifts, although they are superior to most. They differentiate themselves by their mental fortitude under pressure and calmness in the spotlight.

Student-athletes fight a different battle, combining the burden of their sport with their academic responsibilities, which must only accelerate their need for mindfulness throughout their day.

While professional athletes are paid to focus themselves entirely on getting better at their sport, student-athletes are forced to divvy up their attention like poker chips. The fact that student-athletes have responsibilities to attend to in the classroom emphasizes their need for constant mindfulness.

Whether you are a student-athlete or not, dealing with a surplus of stress or a lack of sleep, being present in the moment will solve your problems for now.

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Mindfulness essential for student-athlete’s mental health