AT month 2019

Part 1: Awareness

Last March, for Athletic Training month, I wrote a series of articles directed to each AT.  Once again, March is National Athletic Training month and instead of promoting and raising awareness of the profession I decided my spin on it would be to once again focus on the AT’s.  Well, here we are again, AT month 2019; what can I do to promote the profession and raise awareness.  I’ll preemptively warn you if your feelings get hurt easily or you’re just a little sissy it is best for all of us if you just move on and skip the rest of this – there is nothing for you here.   

This year’s series of posters from the NATA are a well done series that focus on “AT’s are HealthCare”: AT’s are Military Healthcare, AT’s are Performance Healthcare, AT’s are Work Healthcare, and finally AT’s are Sports Healthcare.  Overall, it is a well done series of posters.  But, I think one is missing: AT’s are AT’s Healthcare.  I’ll be the first to admit, that is a sucky tag-line; it doesn’t really make sense.  But, I’m not in marketing and it’s not a real poster.  My INTENT behind that statement will echo my series of articles from AT month 2018 – Who takes care of the AT?  Who takes care of you?

Many AT’s live in a world where stress is a daily occurrence: personal stress, financial stress, budget stress, stress from the coaches, stress about your athlete’s wellbeing, stress from your athletes, time stress, stress from your co-workers, or stress from your AD or administrators.  Stress is a part of our days, every day.   We live in a world where we treat the negative outcomes of physical stress, we just use the term “injury”.  But, when the body cannot handle the stress of the activity it breaks down, either acutely (torn ACL) or over time (anterior knee pain).  We recognize this and work with the other healthcare providers to navigate the care of our patient. But – here is where your feelings might get hurt- what mechanism do you (specifically you) have in place to recognize when you are on the verge of either an acute stress episode or a built-up stress episode.  What do you have in place to ensure your psychological/mental/emotional well being is where it needs to be? Or, are you not wanting to ask yourself that question because you don’t want to face the answer you don’t want to know?

This year, I’m going to get very specific in my targetting of the well being of AT’s.  How is your mental/psychological/emotional state?  Seriously, consider that question for as long as you need to.  I’ll wait.  If you answered immediately “I’m good” then please stop reading and go count rolls of tape.  Asking the question is the first step.  But, you owe it to your profession, your institute, your athletes, your patients, your family, and yourself to actually pause and truly consider the question.  If you immediately answered “I’m good” then ask yourself this question, “What if I’m wrong?”  Regardless of what setting you are in, there IS a lot of pressure on you and there ARE a lot of people who depend on you.  Because of this fact alone, you need to get your mind, and yourself right.  It is your responsibility to take care of yourself, and this doesn’t mean sweeping your issues under the rug until later.  There is a reason that “in the case of cabin pressure loss, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling.  Place your’s around your mouth and nose before helping others.”  YOU CANNOT HELP OTHERS IF YOU HAVEN’T HELPED YOURSELF FIRST.  Yes, you can fake it and temporarily you can help others if you have certain issues you are holding in.  But, doing this will only add to that list of stress above that will eventually break you.  Mother Nature is a cruel, unrelenting beast.  She does not care and has no feelings.  You will be broken down by her if stress levels get to high.  100% guaranteed.  Here is one tidbit that a lot of us forget – our brains cannot differentiate types of stress.  We react to ALL stress the same way, which means even though we “think” we are compartmentalizing each type of stress we are not; all of our stressors are working together and causing the same flood of negative chemicals into our brains that only add to the situation working against us.  You can hide it from the world, from your coworkers from your family and even from yourself but right now that stress is breaking you down without you even knowing it.

I’ve been teaching all of my graduate students for the past several years that the first “corrective” in any situation is awareness – you have to make the individual aware of the problem before you can fix it.  This carries over to everything, you can’t fix any problem that you are not aware of.  So the first step this month is asking yourself:

How is my mental/psychological/emotional state?

I truly want you to take the entire week to think on this question and reflect on this in each and every situation every day for the next seven days.  Pay attention to how many times you get angry at work, or feel overwhelmed, or have trouble falling asleep, or have trouble getting everything done, or worry about all the bills (your personal bills or you departments bills).  If over the next seven days you realize that maybe there is an issue, then come back and read the second article.  If over the next 7-days your forget or realize there are no issues (I’m not saying everyone has issues, I’m just saying we all need to truly consider the question) then file this article in the back of your head.  If things change in the next week/month/year come back and read the rest of the series.

So, to be clear, right now you are all investing just a little time over the next week to pay attention to your situation and reflect on the status of your mental health.  Over the next week, we are each gaining self-awareness.  Pay attention to what is going on between your ears and how you feel in response to your daily lives.  Once we have that individual awareness, then we can take the next step, but not until then.   

You can’t promote yourself as a healthcare provider to others until you are a healthcare provider to yourself.

GO!,  but then come back for part 2.

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