Mental skills training originates from sport psychology work with elite athletes, to enhance their performance and well-being supporting them to perform at their best. Sport psychologists have a responsibility to support athletes mental health and overall wellbeing just as much supporting their performance. 

Mental skills include but are not limited to:

  • Emotional awareness
  • Focus
  • Relaxation
  • Seeking support
  • Managing emotions
  • Goal setting

 It is easy to see how all these skills might benefit an athlete; coping under pressure, managing relationships with coaches etc but the truth is mental skills are something that EVERYONE needs

Just like physical fitness you can practice and train in boosting your mental skills (also referred to as emotional fitness). You can learn techniques (e.g., positive self-talk or breath control), these lead to development of skills (e.g., ability to manage nerves), which can then lead to the development or strengthening of characteristics such as confidence

Benefits of mental skills training

Mental skills training is a novel approach that, over the last couple of years, has been slowly expanding into the wider wellbeing field. I work with all ages and there are a number of benefits to using this non-traditional approach:  

  • It feels less stigmatising. This approach is a unique way to approaching mental wellbeing. Through linking to sports and athletes in this strengths-based way people can be more willing to explore their own mental skills and discuss how they are feeling. 
  • Some people do not like the idea of talking to a clinical psychologist or other health professionals – again, because of stigma around mental health. This is especially prevalent in boys/males who can really connect with the sports based context. 
  • Mental skills training (that works on emotional awareness, focus, relaxation, seeking support, managing emotions, and setting goals) can improve individuals confidence, self-worth, ability to adapt and manage stress whilst reducing feelings of anxiety, stress and engagement in coping strategies which can negatively impact overall health.

What does this look like in practice?

These skills can be explored flexibly through specific sessions delivered to a group, or one-to-one work over a period of time. 

  • Working on mental skills is just like working on physical fitness – when you train your muscles get stronger and you learn new skills. The same goes for your mental fitness. 
  • For example, by working on emotional awareness you can improve your ability to recognise when your emotions are changing but also within others too. This can improve your ability to communicate more effectively as well as manage expectations of yourself and others. 
  • Another example could be learning specific techniques such as reframing situations, enabling you to accept them as they are but see them from a different perspective. This can help overcome a number of blocks including, fear of failure, procrastination, or difficulties seeking support. 

Do you want to improve your mental fitness?

GT Wellness Coaching is run by Grace Tidmarsh, currently completing her PhD in sport and exercise psychology. Grace holds additional training in mental health, CBT and safeguarding as well as several years’ experience working in a variety of settings including, alternative education, sports teams, positive youth development programmes and one-to-one child and adult clients. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this short blog post, if you want to know more about mental skills training, check out my One Stop Wellbeing Profile below for more information

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