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The Therapeutic Touchdown: A Sport Psychologist's Perspective on Watching Sports as Self-Care

In the fast-paced world of sport psychology, where the focus often lies on enhancing athletes' mental toughness and performance, it's easy to overlook the importance of self-care for the practitioners themselves. As someone deeply entrenched in the world of sport psychology, I've come to appreciate the therapeutic benefits of an unconventional form of self-care—watching sports. In this blog, I want to deep dive into exploring the profound impact that immersing oneself in the drama and excitement of athletic competition can have on a sport psychologist's well-being. Additionally, like any other Indian, I am healthily obsessed with Cricket. Having been immersed in the ICC Men's World Cup action, in this blog, I explore how it is a form of self-care for me.

Working in the realm of sport psychology is a high-stakes game. Balancing the demands of athletes, coaches, and the expectations of achieving peak performance can be mentally and emotionally taxing. It's easy to become consumed by the relentless pursuit of success for others while neglecting our mental well-being. This is where the transformative power of watching sports as a form of self-care comes into play for me. Having been an athlete myself, I have been obsessed with watching sport since childhood. I grew up watching the Wimbledon’s and the World Cup’s and preferring them over cartoons. Watching the ICC Men's World Cup final last evening, of course, has left a bitter feeling, was an intriguing experience.

As sport psychologists, our work revolves around understanding and connecting with athletes on a deep, emotional level. Watching sports as a spectator provides a unique opportunity to tap into that same empathy, allowing us to feel the highs and lows of competition. This shared emotional experience fosters a sense of connection, not only with the athletes on the field but also with our own emotions. Throughout the game, the fan in me experienced a swing of emotions, from distraught to elation. But, the sport psychologist in me felt nothing but empathy. During the second innings, observing the body language became interesting as the unbeaten team saw the game being taken away from their hands, and all this while, I found my empathy glands swollen. Whether it's the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, the ability to empathise with the athletes we observe provides a refreshing break from clinical judgment. This emotional experience fostered a sense of connection, reminding me that vulnerability and triumph are universal human experiences.

Engaging in the drama of the games served as a mindful distraction from the pressures of my professional life. For a few hours over the past 90 days, I redirected my focus away from the intricacies of the athlete's mind to the thrill of the game. This mental reprieve is essential for recharging cognitively and emotionally. A 50-over game demands focus and attention, offering a welcomed distraction from the constant mental chatter associated with my psychologist's role. This mindful diversion provided me with a mental break which I often tend to ignore.

Having been an athlete myself, watching athletes overcome challenges, display resilience, and achieve greatness serves as a wellspring of inspiration. Witnessing their triumphs and journeys reignites my passion for the transformative potential of sports. It's a reminder that, just like the athletes I work with, I too can overcome obstacles and achieve personal victories. The resilience and determination displayed throughout the World Cup will be a beacon of encouragement during my demanding times.

In the demanding field of sport psychology, where the pursuit of excellence is a constant companion, taking time for self-care is not just a luxury—it's a necessity. Watching sports allows me to step back from my professional roles, reconnect with the passion that drew me to this field in the first place, and find solace in the simplicity of cheering for a team or marvelling at an athlete's prowess. It offers a chance to enjoy the intensity of competition and is an opportunity to revel in the joy of the game, appreciating the beauty of skill and strategy. The concept of self-care is often overshadowed by the dedication to enhancing the mental well-being of others. However, this World Cup offered me the opportunity to recognise the therapeutic value of watching cricket. I hope this serves as a crucial reminder that sport psychologists, too, require moments of rejuvenation.

So, the next time you find yourself glued to a game, pause to recognise if is just entertainment or a form of self-care that contributes to your own mental well-being.

Primary author: Dr.Sanika Divekar

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