Part 2 – The “blues” and the post-Olympic transition. Facing the future with serenity

The “blues” and the post-Olympic transition. Facing the future with serenity

Part 2

By Amélie Soulard, PsyD

Psychologist and mental preparation consultant at the Institut National du Sport du Québec

 

Transitions in sports, such as in life, cannot be avoided. It is therefore essential to adapt.

Adaptation is a cyclical process and includes three phases:

1)     Completion: We’re not an athlete anymore, but we don’t know who we want to become. A feeling of loss then emerges in the athlete. This phase is marked by a difficulty in defining oneself, the confusion, the questioning of current surroundings. It is a period of disorientation, disenchantment, a loss of identity or withdrawal.

 

What to do?

At this stage, it is important to give yourself the right to live out your emotions, loss and confusion. This can be a good time to take stock and reappropriate your achievements and experiences.

 

2)     The essential wandering: This is the most difficult stage because it is a period of uncertainty, emptiness and lack of productivity. We lose interest and so we tend to isolate ourselves.  It is a time for introspection and self-discovery in areas other than sports. While at the beginning of this phase, we are rather amorphous and apathetic; as we move forward step by step, energy returns.

 

What to do?

Although it is perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable in this uncertainty, it is important to tolerate it and trust yourself. It may be helpful in this phase to see a professional such as a psychologist, a mental preparation consultant or even an athlete mentor.

 

3)     The renewal: The last phase of the adaptation process is conducive to creating opportunities. We set aside some time for new projects that arise and we set new objectives.

 

What to do?

With this renewed energy, it’s time to take action, dare, plan and move forward. However, it is important to pay attention to the resurgence of old patterns: we may have a tendency to take refuge in our comfort zone for fear of novelty, success or failure.

We can facilitate our transition from one phase to another of the adaptation process by developing a long-term vision to better predict possible transitions. You can also develop a personal mission to “pay it forward”, by getting involved in our community or by mentoring younger athletes, as Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais did with Samuel Girard and Kim Boutin in Pyeongchang, for example.

The world of sports is often filled with extremes, where everything is black or white. However, there is an array of grey between the two. The transition isn’t only about a loss in status.  Putting things into perspective, seeing the silver lining of stopping or continuing can promote a more serene transition.

 

It is important to remember that high-performance competition makes it possible to develop several transferable skills into the workforce: the ability to manage stress and perform under pressure, discipline and rigour, leadership, etc. It is therefore important to reflect on learning after competitions, regardless of the results obtained, to facilitate the integration of learning throughout the career.

By having a better understanding of the post-Olympic “blues” phenomenon, or simply of the adaptation process during a career transition or retirement from sports, and by applying these recommendations, we can experience these transitions with a little more serenity.

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