Mental health relating to sports use to primarily get sweeped under the rug. Many past athletes and current athletes still to this day have had to suffer in silence regarding what they may be feeling and going through. The stigma and the conversation is starting to shift, thanks to various professional athletes such as Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan, who are pushing for greater transparency and openness in the full athletic experience.
This Mental Health Week 2021, we wanted to do our part and shine light on this topic. Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is the leader of this movement, which is in its 70th year, and the theme of the year is to #GetReal about our feelings. We should be labelling how we feel instead of minimizing it or totally disregarding it. We all feel something in every given moment, and it’s not always positive, but that’s perfectly fine. Good mental health isn't about being happy all the time, but rather being able to authentically experience the various human emotions that life has to offer. One of the best ways to quiet and deal with these emotions is to shine a light on them and give them a voice. Take the initiative of recognizing what you’re feeling instead of bottling it up, doing the latter will have a detrimental effect down the line.
Athletes are typically portrayed and thought of to be physically fit, active and healthy. This view of almost being superhuman athletes takes its toll behind closed doors. Athletes know who to go to when it comes to physical injuries, they’ll go seek help right away and get on the road to recovery. Mental injuries, have a greater subtle effect, one where they may not know where to go or think they can just overcome it on their own because they have to remain to be seen as strong and tough.
"Mental Health isn't just an athlete thing. What you do for a living doesn't have to define who you are. This is an everyone thing."
- Kevin Love via The Players' Tribune
A study showed that 35% of athletes will suffer from various mental health crises. From our experience you don’t get to pick and choose when these crises affect you. They take many different shapes and forms, thus affecting people in various different ways and when least expected. Athletes throughout their career may experience many different issues such as performance anxiety, body dysmorphia, imposter syndrome, and depression, to name a few. Athletes today need increased resources and outlets to help them, in a way that they can be proud of the help they got and the positive effect it had on them. The key thing to know for athletes is that you are not alone, there is no need to suffer in silence. These are normal problems that we face, and the help is there. Seeking help is a sign of strength and courage.
To help, we reached out to 10 exceptional individuals who were stand out athletes and are professionals in their field, to put together a list of tips that they use to take care of their mental health and stay mentally sharp. These tips they provided are personal to them and something you can adopt to see what sticks with you. We appreciate them taking the time to contribute to this list for our audience. It’s important to know that these are not only specific to the realm of sports, but beneficial to any area of your life.
1. Finding time to take mental breaks is very key. I try to stop and do mental imagery, breathing techniques and meditation as frequently as I can. The app I use a lot is Meditopia. I use this to meditate. It's a guided meditation that helps work on breathing and mental healing.
2. I like to go for walks regularly and also taking the first part of my day to stretch when I get up. From a stress reducing standpoint creating daily to do list.
- Check out our visuals for these tips on our Instagram here.
- Let us know below in the comments which tip you are going to use or which one you already do.