3 Mental Strategies for Getting Back in the Groove

The world is still suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, but as vaccines become more readily available, many communities, with proper safety measures, are going back to in-person school days and in-person sports practices and games. Like many of us, if you’ve been doing online learning and haven’t had team sports in almost a year, getting back into the groove of a daily school and sports routine will present challenges that we might not expect.

For example, I imagine everyone is excited to get back to seeing their friends and hanging out together. At the same time, you also might find that social encounters make you tired more quickly than they used to, solely because you’re out of practice. This might apply to your teammates as well. When teammates haven’t spent time together in a while, it can take time, patience, hard work, and empathy in order to play well and feel connected to one another again and that’s totally O.K.!

We’ve all had to face challenges we didn’t expect in the last year, but now that many of us are getting back to school and sports, here are three mental strategies you can try out to help get you back in the groove.

Strategy #1 – Set Daily Intentions

The first mental strategy is to set intentions for the day. Set one intention for your school day and one intention for your sports practice or game. Creating an intention is about what you intend to do; what are you set out to accomplish today? Essentially, it’s setting a mini-goal for yourself.

Not quite sure what mini-goals are best to set? Try out Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan (WOOP) Goals. Stay tuned for a future article about all the different kinds of goals you can set, including WOOP.

goal setting journal

Strategy #2 – Use Box Breathing

The second mental strategy is to use box breathing. You can use box breathing to help yourself re-center if you’re feeling overwhelmed or to regain focus if you’ve gotten distracted. Box breathing has four steps (hence the name box).

Step 1: Breathe in (inhale) for a count of 4 seconds (just count inside your head).

Step 2: Hold that inhaled breath for another 4 seconds (still count inside your head).

Step 3: Breathe out (exhale) for a count of 4 seconds.

Step 4: At the end of your 4-second exhale, hold your breath for another 4 seconds (continue to count internally) and then repeat the process for as many “boxes” as necessary for you to feel relaxed or re-focused.

Allow the 4-second mental counting to consume you for those few moments. Focusing on the step and the counting you’re doing will help you to eliminate distractions, be in the moment, and regain that focus or find that relaxation you’re searching for. If 4 seconds is too long, make it 3 seconds (or lower). If 4 seconds is too easy, bump up to the number that works best for you. This technique takes practice! So, go easy with yourself at first and see what count number fits your breathing best.

Strategy #3 – Prepare Confidence Boosters

The third mental strategy is to prepare affirmations and confidence statements about yourself. When things in your day, either at school, at practice, or at home don’t go the way you planned or you hit a bump in the road, what do you start to think? Does your brain start to get down on you and tell you you’re not cut out for this? Or, does your brain pick you back up and tell you to try again and that you’ve got the next one?

It’s easy to see that what we WANT and what is BEST for us is for our thoughts to help pick us back up and try again, but sometimes, we’re not always so kind to ourselves when things get tough. Preparing confidence-boosting statements, such as, “I can do this, I’m an amazing passer!” or “I know I’m really good at World History, I do my homework, I work hard, and I can try again. I am awesome!” or “I love who I am. I am who I am meant to be and the world accepts me as I am!” are all examples you could use.

mental strategies - self talk

Affirming your worth to yourself and building personal confidence through various mental statements can help you to create a buffer against troubling times and capitalize on new opportunities. Being mentally prepared to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic to yourself in order to achieve your desires is something money can’t buy.

We want to hear your thoughts on these strategies! Let us know how they go for you and if you have any questions, please send them our way!

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