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Connection and routine are 'important' for mental health during lockdown

Leading sports psychologist stresses the importance of staying connected

Connection and routine are 'important' for mental health during lockdown

Dr Noel Brick

A leading sport psychologist has stressed the importance of staying connected and maintaining a proper daily routine, despite the lockdown from games and collective training.

Dr Noel Brick, a lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at Ulster University, is a long-distance runner, has worked in the Derry senior football back-room team under Damian McErlain and is currently involved with the Slaughtneil senior hurling team.

The Kerry native backed Derry senior manager Rory Gallagher's stance on players needing to reset their targets. Gallagher felt his squad's physique was 'light years' behind the benchmark in Ulster.

Brick pointed to the need for elite players, those constantly craving success, to set new measurable goals – both in terms of technical skills and level of conditioning - during their time of individual training.

“It will pass and we will come to a time when we do get back to competition,” Brick stated. “Whatever training athletes are doing right now, it will become beneficial.”

In team sports, one of the biggest vacuums comes with the absence of the regular collective time with their squad. In some cases, players need sport to help them find a focus and structure in life. Brick agrees.

“That is massively important,” he said. “The guidelines, at the minute, are about physical distancing and social isolation. For our own mental health, it is so important to stay connected to people we normally connect with.”

Video conferencing via Zoom or widely used communication media WhatsApp it a vital medium. Now more than ever.

“It is about keeping that sense of connection, it is hugely important. It doesn't mean you are setting up a chat every day, but it can posting up the odd message.

“You could be sharing the things you are trying to do to improve. You are apart from each other, you are doing a bit of training 'together' but separately. That connection is massively important.

“We all take part in sport because we love taking part, but we also enjoy the company of the the people we take part with. Keeping that companionship and connectivity is so important.

“We are physically distancing and socially isolating but through that, it is important that we don't completely socially disconnect from other people. It only has benefits and one is for our own mental health.”

From his interaction with managers and athletes since the lockdown began, Brick references the lack of a daily routine with people being out of work 'at the minute'.

“Getting up in the morning and setting something to keep yourself busy for the day, getting your exercise time and having your normal time going to bed...this is massive for your mental health.

“A lot of us are getting up late and going to bed late night. That's where a lot of issues can start. It is important to keep that routine.”

Interview in full...

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