Competition after care coaches and athletes
The season is nearly done, and Nationals is here and gone in a blink.
It is lovely to get a break, however after a few minutes, hours or days, you feel low and you’re longing for Cheer to start.
What can you do? Well it is called drop.
It is such a complex biochemical process that it would be good for us to understand. It is worth educating yourself on what happens as we believe our emotions, responses and thoughts as if they are fact. They are not, they are a response that can actually be changed, nurtured and developed.
People are culturally great at the physical in life, you brush your teeth, you exercise, you eat, you shower. What do you do for your mental health, especially after a comp or season?
The hedonic system is complexly clever and responsive. So, the more we exercise and perform, the LESS chemicals we provide naturally as we don't want to feel "flooded". We end up needing the stimulus to create the chemicals or we feel a drop long term too. Tolerance is an aspect of addiction and also in Cheer potentially. Our ability to manage fitness wise more or for longer does grow the more we actively "do". What does that mean? Simply, the more we practice, the more we chemically need and want to. The cure to addiction (long term antidote) is connection with people, the feeling of belonging and this is already in Cheer, hence you feel even worse. Cheer is a second family to most.
"Drop" can happen to anyone who competes, including coaches. It happens after great news for example, after feeling you've achieved something and after a run of a show, competitions, even exams.
Again, we also need to look at expectations of males and females, as often men are taught to get on with it and 'be a man' and girls are taught to depend or seek counsel. This is clearly a generic statement and there are exceptions. Age affects this too, how we cope and what we expect from kids, be seen and not heard, or it's alright for you you're young, or just get on with it. Or molly coddling with don't worry it will all be ok. Add the over reactions of some parents, which we all do if they're not ok, they're panicking or not normal.
So, the practicality. There are two aspects to after care, the physical and the emotional/psychological.
What can you do?
BEFORE YOU COMP, PRE-MORTEM
We post mortem events so do it before comp. Look at every eventuality and plan for it in your head as part of the team and as a coach, athlete and parent. Clearly negotiate and talk to family, parents, partners and friends, but even in your own head look at every bizarre possibility. What if... When you do every what if, when and if it does happen, again your panic response is lessened so you manage and cope better. It really is that simple. You do it when you go on holiday, insurance, passport copy or number, credit cards and cash backups, so do it for comp. The more you do it the less you'll need to, that's why experience makes us calmer and more assured and settled. Maybe even write what you want, like a revision plan, as in the euphoria and drop.
There is a loneliness potentially after comp and loneliness causes a 14% increase in morbidity, so show care. It actually is not hard, use your group chat, text, call, use each other's names. Arrange a meet up if you're not at practice. Do something together.
Our brains reward us for naming emotions (with dopamine) It's like suitcase left unattended at an airport. We feel calmer when we know what it is inside. So, take some time and talk about your feelings. Not simply talk but name. I feel sad, angry, sad, scared, NAME your feelings and have a good talk. Again, use team app, meet ups include coaches in this.
This does not apply however if it is a trauma re-enactment. If people have had trauma and not had professional treatment, taking can be a re traumatisation chemically, so ask a professional. One technique if potential trauma has occurred is to talk about it in the third person initially, to actively disassociate. As a journalist for example reporting on the scene. Physical boundaries after trauma are important. Not to engulf but maybe stroke an arm (with permission) or hold hands or lean against someone gently. So, if a serious situation occurred, seek professional help.
We can ruminate after a comp, about all sorts. Negative and self-deprecating words and thoughts. God, what was I thinking, did I look awful, was I good enough, I let the team down, ruined it, I won't get on the team, they don't like me. Shame is something that needs sharing not hiding. Post regret can be an issue, a big one that can create problems. Take some time, talk to people you trust, and your team mates Work out your own opinion first as we are easily influenced at this point.
Switch patterns look at the facts, what they said, not what you interpret that as! Can you prove your thought or feeling to me I'm a court or in a lab? No? Then re think it. Look at your thinking and change track, how you ask. Interrupt the pattern. Be logical for a minute, do your times table, count (yep mum and dad were right when they said count to 10, neuroscience proves this) Do something creative, draw, colour, knit, build, paint. But come back to your thoughts and feelings each time, avoidance isn't an answer. Check words, if a negative word keeps popping up, ask would you talk to someone you love like that, especially if they're young? If not, what word would you use or how would you say it and practice saying that to yourself too.
We are hard wired for warmth and care. A baby is soothed by being held and feeling warm. When a baby cries, we rock, sooth, sing. So, recreate those things. A warm blanket that covers, maybe a little tighter than normal, a lavender cushion, a hot water bottle, warm bath, stroking and soothing the hurts, physically and psychologically. Sing or listen to music that enables you to feel. Classical music is actually better and again helps us revise, heal, you name it. If you can't stand it, listen to your music. Sing along, dance, move, rock. It all helps. Some gentle yoga can help too. Eye contact, it increases oxytocin. If you can sit opposite someone and look at them and catch their eye, then do so. If you don't have a person then a cat, dog, any animal also helps (no not fish) Our brains are incredible at creating new neural pathways regardless of age and we can learn, we have neuroplasticity so get eye contact going! That warm bath? Add some candles for mood, some nice smells and you're away. Chamomile tea bags and some baking powder in a bath can also soothe physically too. Arnica and or Vitamin E tablets and or creams.
Eat and drink well before comp. You NEED energy. After often, the go to is chocolate and sweets which I get but actually this creates a false short term high. Plus, it's sugar and it's inflammatory and not helpful although It has certain properties to help in the immediacy however.
We want foods that increase serotonin and dopamine for a drop. Those are starchy bits, potatoes, whole wheat pasta, cereal, and brown rice. Increasing your tryptophan’s (think turkey) which we need for serotonin. Root vegetables are great too. Tyrosine is also needed and that's an amino acid, and can be found in dairy products, almonds, avocados, bananas and pumpkin and sesame seeds. So, this takes planning, buy in advance, pre-prepare, cook for each other even or with a friend.
Vitamin B6, Omega 3s can also help. Green veg, and leaves (preferably raw), cold water fish, salmon, mackerel, whole grain cereals and breads. Yep, bread is GOOD for you.
Avoid alcohol etc (over 18) afterwards, preferably before or the drop experience is chemically two-fold, or plan for it. Cheerleaders worry often about size, healthy eating and losing weight means a good eating plan vs NOT eating. Again, seek professional help if anyone is restricting. I provide training to therapists about eating disorders as it isn’t a simple issue.
Writing something helps us sort it. We learn better when we write even. I don't mean type either, I mean physically write it down. Watch the thought section above, read it and apply it to writing too. Using the opposable thumb takes all parts of the brain which relaxes us (hence write not type) that's why colouring, sewing etc works)
Yep, staying busy can help but again it's a balance between avoidance and active. Watching a film, listening to something, doing something with your hands, it can all help. Shake it out, like a dog ;-)
Letting someone or the team down can make us feel guilty and ashamed. The only antidote to shame is to share as I said, get a fellow team member or the group chat to talk to who understands and practices the same. The last thing you need is "you did what". If you suffer from low self-esteem or self-confidence go see someone :-) However it also more than ok to teach athletes to accept criticism, yep that was bad, let's learn and move on. We over protect and couch criticism. Let's not. Let's grow instead.
It is an option. When I'm sick I hate anyone anyone near me. Sometimes nothing is the best after care. Again, no one is wrong or right about this, it's about what's right for you.
The latest research for anti-depressants is opiate based with the FDA. Opiates are produced in the brain when we have close intimate contact. So, get close to someone you love and have a cuddle.
You don't have my permission to copy the above without crediting me as the writer
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