There has been a lot written in recent weeks regarding the impact of the current Corona virus / Covid-19 pandemic on athletes and sports teams, accompanied by sharing of how to both minimise the impact of lockdown on athletes and positively influence athlete mental health. However, there has been much less written regarding the sport and performance psychologists who are providing the athlete support. For some the shift to a greater online focus via video conferencing (such as Skype, Zoom, Facetime and Webex) has just been an extension of existing practice, while for others this has been a big uncomfortable shift in normal practice. The move to online delivery or consultation has come with new challenges and stressors that we as consultants were not necessarily prepared for. There is the challenge of frustratingly slow internet connections (with more of the population online), and trying to fix technical issues experienced by people at the other end of the call. Also, it is amazing how long it takes to resolve sporadic IT issues, particularly when you are trying to do something new like recording online workshops.
For many consultants, sitting starring at a computer screen for large parts of the day is an unusual experience, leading to ocular and mental fatigue, alongside the associated challenges of spending much of the day sitting inactively. Indeed, my record to date is seven online video calls in one day after which I am not sure I was thinking particularly clearly. For those colleagues who have families there are the additional challenges of finding quiet spaces to work and the challenge of trying to find time to exercise and unwind when there are others in the house keen for some of your attention and time. My solution to this has been going out running/cycling before anyone else gets up to fit in my allowed one hour of exercise before ‘going to work’. Though I must admit my lockdown existence is starting to feel like groundhog day!
Social media has also been an interesting watch over the pat few weeks. I have seen lots of online challenges and nominations, all of which individually seem quite fun, though the 50+ Twitter notifications from things I have been copied into are less fun and more time consuming. I have also struggled to find things of note to say.
As different countries across the world start thinking about the post pandemic easing of restrictions to allow a degree of normality, sport and performance psychologists need to ensure that we are engaging in appropriate self-care to ensure we have the capacity to meet the challenge that is heading our way regarding mental health, return to practice/performance and coping with increased general anxieties. Particularly, as the post lockdown world will not be the same as it was beforehand. Athletes emerging into this new different world will need support, and we need to ensure we are looking after ourselves to be able to help. How effective have we been at separating ‘work’ and ‘home’? Are we finding time to exercise and to recharge our batteries? Do we timetable breaks in our day? All advice we would give, but do we practice what we preach?