The mental health and fortitude of an athlete are undoubtedly the key to their success on the field, but in the constant pursuit of excellence, depression and anxiety can hit athletes hard. Take notice of the common feelings amongst elite athletes listed below in order to help yourself or someone you know with mental health issues.
- Perfectionism and Punishment: The strive for perfection has never been more real than in the world of athletics. Self-criticism is a must in order to see progress in your performance; however, take yourself too seriously, and it could slip into a form of self-punishment. The key is to have a balance between maintaining a growth mindset, all the while making sure to celebrate your successes, no matter how small, as they come.
- Obsessive Tendencies: People, in general, have a tendency to fall into depressive states if they are overly obsessive. Some athletes consider themselves so passionate about excelling that they leave little-to-no room for the enjoyment of the sport outside of the success they experience. Try to panic less about the end goal, and enjoy the process as you go.
- Loss, Failure, and Rejection: Because athletes feel as if their sport is very much a part of their identity, a failure in this arena carries an ultimate feeling of inadequacy. The answer: Never set yourself up to feel not good enough or rejected. Focus on your personal growth as a competitor. Never lose sight of the fact that you are much more than your performance on the field, in the pool, or on the track.
- Living in a Bubble: As an athlete, in order to maximize your potential, you have to limit the amount of distractions so intensely that you may find you have little social influence outside of your sport. Keep in mind there is an external reality, and your identity is not determined by what you do on the field. Cherish your independence as an individual and cultivate your life to make a seamless transition into the “real world”. Having balance will actually improve your athletic performance and mental well-being.
- Inauthenticity: Athletes are constantly under a watchful eye and might pretend to be somebody they are not. With judgments passing every which way in society, it can be hard to construct an identity for yourself, especially when all eyes are on you to perform. Be yourself and live up to no one’s expectations but your own.
Victoria Pendleton (Britain’s Most Successful Female Olympian), Kelly Holmes (800m and 1500m Gold Medalist), and Cricketer, Marcus Trescothick, have all dealt with painful depression as athletes at the top of their game.
Find solace in their stories here and share with someone you care about.