Why focus on your mental health?
By Kathryn Mellon – iNSPIRE Psychologist
Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Lance Franklin, Cate Campbell, David Beckham and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. What do they all have in common? Other than being amazing athletes at one point in time, they have all struggled with their mental health. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders – mental health does not discriminate and even the best of the best can struggle with what’s going on inside their head.
Why is it important to focus on your mental health? We’ve discussed tips on how to improve your mental health through the iNSPIRE Sport app but to actually apply these techniques it’s important to understand WHY we should be doing them. If we don’t know the WHY, the motivation to DO won’t be there. Read the tips below and discover how your favourite athletes struggled with their own mental health and how they pulled themselves out of it.
1. It determines how you handle stress
Becoming self-aware of your body and its responses to stress means you are able to handle stressors in your life as they come up and process them at that time. That means you are more likely to resolve the issue instead of letting it build up to where it becomes unmanageable and keeps you up at night. Living a balanced lifestyle with healthy coping mechanisms such as exercise, reading and spending time with friends or family can equip you to better cope when faced with additional stressors in your life.
“I was in such a high state of stress and arousal, there was static going on in my head. I was trying to focus on what to do but couldn’t stop thinking about what could happen or who was going to be watching me. I was stressed about being stressed.” – Cate Campbell, Olympic gold medallist swimming
2. It has an effect on your physical health
Just as a physical health condition such as chronic pain or an ongoing injury can affect your mental health (mood, anxiety, motivation), mental health can also affect your physical health. Symptoms of depression include fatigue, insomnia and increased sensitivity to pain as a result of the lowered mood you are going through. What came first the chicken or the egg? Awareness is important here – did an injury lead to your depressed mood, or is low confidence/high pressure leading to depression that is having an effect on your level of fatigue?
“I was very depressed, I never left my room, I was sleeping all the time. The pressure to be perfect was and still is a lot to handle, but “therapy is everything.” – Simone Biles, Olympic gold medallist gymnastics.
3. It can impact relationships with your family and social circle
Mental health can cause you to withdraw socially and emotionally from friends and family placing tension or uncertainty around relationships in your life. You may not know it but it can have a significant effect on the health of your family as well as yourself as you both struggle to understand what is happening in your life. Communication is key here, be upfront with your family and friends about how you are feeling and what is happening in life.
“It had been an issue for a little while with me, but… I wasn’t able to talk about it and I was a little bit embarrassed about it. But for me, being able to speak to the football club, my partner and my family was the best decision I ever made,” It was completely switching off and it was all about me and about what I needed to work on.” – Lance Franklin AFL star
4. Can increase or decrease our motivation
On days when you wake up well rested and full of energy, you feel like you can achieve anything and go through your day checking off challenges with ease. Of course, everyone has days where they feel unmotivated, tired or just over it. When these days start becoming more frequent however, you may start finding it affects how hard you train, how much you study or you may notice a decrease in concentration at work/school/sport. Level of motivation, particularly over an extended period is a good indication of where you may be at mentally and when it may be time to start asking for help.
“Depression doesn’t discriminate regardless of who you are or what you do for a living or where you come from, we all kind of go through it. My knee-jerk reaction to sadness is some sort of action,”. “I like to go do something. For me, the going to do something, it sounds boring and cliche, but I gotta hit the gym.” – Dwayne Johnson; ex NFL player, WWE star and movie star.
5. Changes how we view ourselves
Self-esteem is the ability to like, admire, and value yourself. What other people say doesn’t affect your core belief in yourself as a likeable and worthwhile person. Self-esteem impacts how you take care of yourself, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The issue with negative thinking and feelings is that once people start to focus on shortcomings or problems in one area or one situation, it becomes very easy to only see problems in many other areas or situations. All of a sudden negative thinking about not being able to perform a skill, having an argument with a friend or not looking “the way we should”, has an impact on the way we view ourselves as a whole person.
“I think everyone goes through phases in life where they feel insecure. I have plenty of times. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate myself more and what I can do.” – Aly Raisman, Olympic Gold medallist gymnastics.
Hope you enjoyed this read and got something from it. If you know someone who needs to read this – share it to them! – Kat