Prioritize Your Mental Health
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month
Recently, a growing number of professional athletes have been forthcoming about their mental health struggles — from Olympic gymnast Simone Biles to PGA pro Bubba Watson. Mental health is an important topic and one that needs to be addressed, especially as we continue to grapple with COVID-19.
If you are experiencing mental health problems, know that you are not alone. These challenges can impact anyone of any age, and professional athletes are sharing their stories to help raise awareness.
Bubba Watson didn’t just share a summary of his struggles. He wrote a book, “Up & Down.”
In 2017, he had considered retiring from golf, and he feared he wasn’t good enough and wasn’t well liked. He was suffering from anxiety, but he was able to persevere with the support of his wife. He’ll return to Connecticut to play in the Travelers Tournament at TPC River Highlands this June.
“I can try to share my story, talk about the things that help me, and hopefully shine a light on the mental side — not only from an entertainer, a sportsman like myself, but people in general — because we’re all going through something, I believe,” Watson told PEOPLE.
John McLaren is a caddie who has worked for PGA pros for decades. In 2021, he took a step back, citing the anxiousness and exhaustion of traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic from his home in the United Kingdom.
“The accumulation of the last 18 months of travel, the testing, the uncertainty has taken its toll, not only on me, but how I am at home with my family,” McLaren was quoted as saying.
Matthew Wolff is in his early 20’s. In 2021, he was disqualified from the Masters after signing an incorrect scorecard.
In the weeks that followed, he stopped golfing to address his mental health.
"Some of the feelings that I had were like getting up in the morning knowing I had to get out of bed and just like not being able to, being like I don't want to get out of bed," he has said. "I just want to stay in my bed and not be in front of everyone and not screw up in front of everyone. ... If you don't feel a hundred percent right, no matter if it's physical or mental, it is an injury, and you should be able to rehab and take your time in order to get to a place where you need to be. I feel like I had that time, and I'm looking forward to this offseason to work on it a little bit more."
How you can address your mental health
Golf has many mental health benefits. The sport can actually help reduce anxiety and depression. But, as you just read, the desire to compete and perform at a high level can also cause stress and anxiety. When things don’t go your way, it could even lead to depression.
They say golf is 90 percent mental. What can you do to ensure that you remain healthy mentally so that your golf game (and your life as a whole) doesn’t suffer? Middlesex Health offers the following:
- Stay relaxed by getting ample sleep and eating healthy. Breathwork, a form of mindful breathing that helps to calm the central nervous system, also helps.
- Stay focused, and combat fatigue, which can negatively impact your focus. Take a yoga class, meditate or get a massage!
- Manage your emotions by doing some breathwork, or by using distancing language to help you when you are frustrated. (For example, you can talk to yourself in third person to help soothe the emotional part of your brain.)
- When you aren’t on the golf course, you can find other ways to manage your stress, such as connecting with loved ones, reading a good book or listening to music!
If you are having a difficult time managing stress, anxiety or depression, don’t be afraid to seek help.
You should especially seek help with mental health problems when significant changes in mood, thoughts and behaviors interfere with everyday life, creating problems in different areas of your life, such as with relationships, at work or on the golf course.
Middlesex Health’s Center for Behavioral Health’s goal is to help individuals face and overcome challenges related to mental and emotional health; substance abuse and recovery and identity. It provides both inpatient and outpatient services for children, adolescents and adults.
For more information, click here.
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