This article originally appeared on Athletux and is shared with permission.
May is mental health awareness month! It’s a great time to consider strategies to keep ourselves mentally and emotionally strong and fit. Riders go hard, and often ignore signs of stress and overwork. While we are deliberate about our horses’ care, we tend to be much less so with ourselves. Here are five tips to get you started on a path toward improved psychological self care.
Take time breathe and listen to yourself.
Even if it’s a few minutes a day, be deliberate about connecting to your mental and emotional state and breathe into it. Inhale through your nose, exhale out of your mouth. As you inhale, imagine your breath cleansing and replenishing you. As you exhale, allow yourself to expel the stress and angst of the day.
Keep a watchful eye on your perfectionism and self judgment.
While it’s great to be driven, too much perfectionism and self criticism takes a toll on your self esteem and undermines your performance. Give yourself balanced feedback with a healthy dose of compassion.
Take care of your physical health.
To be mentally strong, we need to be physically resilient. Good nutrition is essential. Eating junk, eating fewer calories than you need, or overindulging in a variety of ways diminishes your mental and emotional resilience. In addition, physical fitness is a key component for mental fitness. A good aerobic workout will lift your mood, combat anxiety, and improve sleep as well.
Take time to nurture your relationships.
None of us is an island. We all need a village to celebrate our wins and support us when times are tough. Make sure not to neglect your relationships. Good friendships need time and space to develop.
Rest and restore.
Downtime and rest are essential—both for mental health and performance. Do your best to prioritize sleep and rest—even on those long horse show days. Fatigue decreases our emotional resilience and adds to our overall strain. Prolonged fatigue can leave us depressed, anxious, and physically vulnerable.
About Dr. Bonomi: Darby Bonomi, PhDis a Sport and Performance Psychologist. She works with equestrians of all disciplines, and other athletes, to achieve optimal performance in and out of the saddle. For more information or to contact Dr. Bonomi, click here.