In recent years, many professional athletes have opened up about their struggles with mental health issues. What had been considered a taboo topic is getting more attention, which is increasingly important for many. Being able to see our role models admit their own vulnerabilities makes a big impact on normalizing discussions around mental illness. It also encourages others to start making changes to prioritize their own mental health.
Current research is mixed on whether athletes are more susceptible to mental health issues compared to non-athletes. On one side, sports can be a positive outlet that promotes health, helps build self-esteem, instills confidence, and provides athletes with the tools they need to find success. Sports on the other side, can be a source of immense stress and pressure as there are high expectations on performance, risk of injury, and unrealized dreams. The weight of failure can lead to depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness.
An essential part of an athlete’s mental wellbeing and physical health is knowing how to draw healthy boundaries for themselves. Self-care goes beyond eating well and taking care of the physical body. It is about the total self. Oftentimes, athletes feel pressured to live up to unrealistic expectations but have not been taught how to protect themselves on a mental and emotional level.
Establishing boundaries allows for self-care while empowering athletes to be assertive in their decision-making by knowing what they want and what they need. Tennis star Naomi Osaka is a prime example of established boundaries. Osaka recently withdrew from the French Open after clashing with officials over her desire to skip media interviews in order to prioritize her mental health. Other notable athletes who were gearing up for the 2020 Olympics also embraced the postponement citing that it has given them unexpected time to work on their career goals and prioritize their mental health.
Boundaries for professional athletes or yourself are going to look different as they are unique to each individual. They could be in response to willpower getting too low, as athlete Alexi Pappas describes, or an attempt to stop letting what others say get into your head. By taking a proactive approach to overall wellbeing, athletes can reduce burnout and mental fatigue, as well, as a physical injury which is all detrimental to mental health.
If you or a loved one are experiencing mental health issues, don’t hesitate to contact us today to request an appointment. We are a network of full-service mental health clinics helping people heal mental health disorders with a combination of traditional therapies and innovative, holistic modalities.