Athletes, What Are You Doing to Support Your Mental Health Besides Exercising?

When you think about what you do to support your mental health, besides exercising, what did you come up with? How many did you come up with?

As a professional in the mental health field, I recommend to everyone that we have at least 5 things that we can do for our mental health because we can’t always just choose exercise, which is a popular or go-to choice.

Why can’t I just exercise?

Moderate to intense exercise can appropriately be used to treat anxiety, depression, trauma, degenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s), ADHD, and potentially, eating disorders (further research on exercise and eating disorders is still underway). Research has found exercise invaluable for our mental and physical wellbeing, however, too often we turn to running for coping with distress, struggles, challenges, the heavy emotions we feel, etc.

The problem with this is that we begin to rely on this one thing to feel better. There will be times that we will not be able to cope by going on a run. A few examples are due to injury, a health concern where we need to rest, or you are somewhere where you are just unable to go run, like work.

Many runners have their identity tied tightly to running. We identify as and label ourselves as “runners” and “athletes.” It’s okay to appropriately use running to cope and it’s okay to identify as a “runner” or “athlete,” but we need to know other healthy ways of coping and regulating our emotions. We must have coping skills built up in our back pocket for when we are unable to run.

Other options for supporting mental health

  • Read
  • Listen to an audiobook
  • Write
  • Create art
  • Talk with someone you trust
  • Mindfulness *
  • Meditation *
  • Yoga
  • Cook
  • Dance
  • Breathing exercises *
  • Crafts
  • Sew or knit
  • Positive self-affirmations *
  • Visualizations *
  • Watch a movie
  • Learn a card trick
  • Drink some water
  • Eat something nutritious
  • Look at photos
  • Cognitive reframing *
  • Garden
  • Address what’s actually bothering you
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Go on a drive
  • Get some fresh air outside
  • Run some cold water over your wrists or hold an ice cube to help regulate your body
  • Wildlife watch
  • Photography
  • Listen to music
  • Play an instrument
  • Smell a candle
  • Wrap up in a cozy blanket
  • Spend time with your pet
  • Reflect on your strengths *
  • Recall a favorite quote or mantra *
  • Pray or do something spiritual
  • Take a bath or shower
  • Clean the house or declutter, if you find that helpful
  • Use aromatherapy
  • Find humor
  • Get enough sleep at night
  • Squeeze a stress ball
  • Color
  • Practice gratitude *
  • Accept a challenge
  • Limit caffeine
  • Cry
  • Smile
  • Establish healthy boundaries

You probably noticed the * next to some of these ideas. The * indicates ones that you can practice anywhere, at anytime, without needing equipment, and you may be able to do them without anyone noticing.

Pass this information on!


Schedule a meeting with me if you’d like some help with athlete identity, not being able to exercise due to injury or coping skills.


The pictures below are ideas of coping and calming tools that I keep in my office. It is a great idea to create a little spot (some people use a shoe box) like this for yourself. As you can see, I keep my tools near my bookshelf.

Glitter jar (made for me by a past client); stress balls; Badwater unstoppable bracelet; lavender essential oil; fidget spinner; a card from my sister-in-law; soothing stone; positive affirmations, favorite quotes, and reminders.
Mental health card decks for managing emotions, thoughts and struggles.
Creating a vision board. I need to finish my new one, this one is about six years old.

More mental health workbooks and resources here. And Here.

Learn how to make a vision Board here.

– These links will navigate you away from this website to my counseling business.


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