It seems that no matter what we do in the gym to prevent them, injuries always find a way into our lives. If you play sports, they will inevitably happen at some point, for the rest of us, a moment of distraction in our day to day lives can result in a small yet annoying injury. Regardless of how they happen, injuries often feel unfair, unlucky and can alter our mental state for the worst if we let them.
Having grown up playing rugby and snowboarding coupled with the young-cocky-nothing-can-hurt-me mentality, I've collected my faire share of injuries over the years. And now that I'm in the less-cocky-I-dont-want-to-get-hurt-aymore mentality, the rate of injuries have subsided significantly but they still happen from time to time. In the following paragraphs I'll explain the way that I deal with them to stay positive and limit my performance drop during them. Hopefully it can be useful to you as well.
Part 1: Understanding how we react to injuries
There are 5 distinct phases to our mental response when we get injured:
Once you understand these traits it's going to be easier to navigate through them. Knowing about these isn't a magic bullet, I've known about these for a long time and even though I know I'll eventually reach acceptance, I tend to stay in denial and depression for a long time regardless. You can't will yourself to acceptance. Well maybe some of you can, but I can't.
My personal favourite stage, I'm always amazed at what goes through my head seconds after an injury: "No my ankle did not just twist the wrong way", "No I didn't just fall on my head after doing something stupid" or even "It doesn't hurt that much" while being rolled over in pain ready to puke.
Since injuries appear (at first) to be an unlucky event, our brain has a tough time accepting them and immediately gets to work on excuses rationalizing why they shouldn't of happened.
This stage usually last a few days at least but can last a lot longer if we cling on the belief that our injuries "are probably no that bad". The best way to get out of this stage is to go see a qualified doctor or health professional to get their unbiased opinion. It doesn't matter what our brain thinks, when a doctor says we have a grade 3 ankle sprain, there's not a lot we can say about it.
Anger is what we feel when our brain accepts that an unlucky or unfair event has happened to us. Why me???? I train seriously, eat well, do all the right things, so why oh WHY did I get injured??
Trying to find something or someone to blame is your brain's new favourite thing during this stage. My personal recommendation: take some time to process that emotion but get on top of it as soon as possible. Getting treatment, talking to others with similar injuries or reading online forums will move you past this. As soon as you realize that others have similar injuries, you will notice that it's not just you, it happens to others, so maybe throwing a tantrum isn't the right way to go.