Mental Hygiene & Performance

Being mindful of all areas that have potential impact on your athletic performance can be a recipe for success.  Body weight, body image, nutrition, sleep and self-care are all areas that when ignored negatively impact your ability to be successful within the classroom and in your sport from both a physical and mental standpoint. 


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Body Weight & Image

Body image is defined as ones thoughts, perceptions and attitudes about their physical appearance. Positive body image is a clear, true perception of your shape; seeing the various parts of your body as they really are.  A negative body image, on the other hand, involves a distorted perception for one's shape.  Negative body image (or body dissatisfaction) involves feelings of shame, anxiety, and self-consciousness. While there is no single cause of eating disorders, research indicates that body dissatisfaction is the best known contributor to the development of an eating disorder.

As an athlete it is sometimes difficult to separate constant messaging regarding ones weight from what your body needs to function at a high level as an athlete.  Often times athletes are told to "put on weight", "you need to make a weight class" or you need to "get fit" which can lead to consuming behaviors in an effort to please those around them.


  • Chronic dieting despite being underweight
  • Constant weight fluctuations
  • Caloric obsessions or obsession with fat content
  • Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone and/or hiding food
  • Continued fixation with food, recipes, or cooking; the individual may cook intricate meals for others but refrain from partaking
  • Depression or lethargic stage
  • Avoidance of social functions, family and friends. May become isolated and withdrawn
  • Switching between periods of overeating and fasting


Source: Athletes Connected/University of Michigan & National Eating Disorder Association


Athletic performance and recovery for college athletes is enhanced by attention to nutrient intake. Developing an ideal nutrition plan for health and performance includes identifying the right quantity, quality and proper timing of food and fluids needed to support regular training and peak performance. As training demands shift during the year, student-athletes also need to adjust their intake and distribution of essential nutrients while maintaining a properly balanced diet that supports their academic, training and competition needs.

Source: NCAA Sport Science Institute

Additional information and resources can be found on the Nutrition page of the Sport Science Institute of the NCAA.


Or log into your Blackboard account to access nutritional information from our staff nutritionist.  

Photo by Alison Marras on Unsplash


Photo by Sylvie Tittel on Unsplash


Sleep is vital to health and function, especially among student athletes who need to be at top performance physically and mentally.


  • Learning and memory: During sleep, the mind will filter, sort, evaluate, consolidate and integrate information taken in during the day.

  • Decision-making: Sleep loss impairs the ability to make decisions and clouds one’s judgement so they don’t know they’re making impaired decisions.

  • Vigilance and alertness: When sleep deprived, a person’s ability to focus and maintain attention is hindered. As with decision-making, a sleep deprived person is typically unaware of their own impairment.

Sleep impacts PHYSICAL HEALTH:

  • Healing and recovery: Cells grow, repair and rebuild during sleep, making it essential to athletic performance and injury prevention.

  • Metabolism: Sleep controls insulin and glucose functioning, secretion of metabolic hormones and the way fat and muscle cells use and store energy.

  • Muscle growth: The healing that takes place during sleep is essential to muscle growth. The human growth hormone is also controlled by sleep.

  • Weight control: Poor quality sleep, short sleep durations and sleep that is uncoordinated with internal rhythms can lead to weight gain and obesity—especially in adolescents and young adults who require more sleep.

Sleep impacts MENTAL HELATH:

  • Mood and depression: Several functions of sleep involve processing and regulating emotions, tying depression and lack of sleep closely together.

  • Stress and anxiety: The body’s ability to appropriately control stress and emotions depends on sleep to maintain proper function and without it, the body is less able to process stressful events and is more emotionally out of control.

Most college-aged student athletes experience four nights of insufficient sleep per week on average.  One-third of college-aged student athletes get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. This rate is higher among female athletes.

Sleep deprivation among college-aged student athletes is often attributed to: frequent travel for competitions; uncomfortable sleeping arrangements; stress; the challenge of balancing athletics, academics and student life; and sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea.

Eight hours is the recommended amount of sleep for someone age 17 to 22 for optimal health and function. One way to get better sleep is to create the ideal sleep environment, which is cool, dark and comfortable. Remove any distractions, such as electronics, bright lights and noise.


Source: National Collegiate Athletic Association & American College Health Association. 


Ideally, we all engage in regular self-care in which we do the things that make us feel taken care of mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Self-care is important to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself.  It means doing things to take care of our minds, bodies and souls by engaging in activities that promote well-being and reduce stress.  Doing so enhances our ability to live fully, vibrantly, and effectively.

Sometimes our feelings become too much and we need to distract ourselves until we are better able to cope. We can also strategically change how we are feeling when things become too overwhelming.


  • Yoga
  • Watching a movie
  • Talking a walk
  • Listening to music
  • Playing a board game
  • Cooking or baking
  • Being creative 
  • Reading
  • Taking a bath
  • Taking a (timed) nap
  • Getting a massage
  • Meditation


Source: Active Minds

Page last modified February 26, 2021