Updated: Sep 2, 2021
"We talk to ourselves more than we'll talk to any other person over the course of our lives but that our words aren't always kind or true or helpful--or even respectful." - Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Nothing tests your mental health quite like the pressure of an intense tennis match. It's you and the voice in your head out there, which can be tough. It's no surprise so many professional players struggled in 2020 when nearly every match played was in an empty stadium. No one there to shout out, "We love you Serena," "let's go Coco," or "Rafa, Rafa." In a sport where you could possibly get penalized for even looking at your coach, being able to get yourself through a tough match without falling apart is no easy feat.
"If I'm not good at tennis, then what am I?"
Tennis is mostly an individual sport. Good tennis players grow up hearing, believing, and identifying as being really good at tennis. What happens when you have a bad day? When you're on a losing streak? When you're up a set and 5-0, and lose? What happens when all the doubt, negativity, and self-loathing creep in? How do you stay strong in the midst of your toughest challenges? If you're not good at tennis, are you nothing?
I watched Venus Williams double fault an entire game once. I watched Madison Keys have match point and lose. Not that long ago, I watched Andy Murray lose a set after being up 5-0. Why? Because before we became tennis players, we were just people. We're people trying to do our best, and sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.
This year the US Open introduced its Mental Health Initiative to show support for the athletes, and try to destigmatize needing help.
Although I am not an expert in mental health, and I have no professional mental health training, I do know that taking care of my own mental health has been a big part of my life. I'm a huge advocate of professional therapy and believe it has helped me take better care of myself in so many ways. Here are some of the things that I utilize as part of my mental health routine, not only as a tennis player, but just as a person with responsibilities and goals.
Daily meditation - I’ll admit I don’t always get to this every day, but when I’m really struggling, I make time for it and it always helps me focus on what’s important.
MyLife Meditation: Mindfulness This app was recommended to me by a doctor and I really like it. Super easy to use, the meditations are very good, and it helps me start the day in the right mindset.
Meditation Mat The floors in my house are concrete, so I purchased a meditation mat to give me a comfortable space for meditation. This option from Bean is very nice, and comes in a variety of colors.
Get good sleep - it’s sounds so simple, but if you don’t get adequate sleep, you can’t function properly. Implementing a good nighttime routine will help you look forward to going to sleep.
Wind down with a cup of tea. I was in the habit of having a glass of wine every night. When I decided to cut out alcohol, I swapped my glass of wine for a warm cup of tea. The routine is so enjoyable and much healthier.
Although you can pick up a quality tea kettle just about anywhere, I like to invest in a really good Tea Kettle that will last the test of time. All-Clad is known for their high quality cookware and this version from Williams-Sonoma is very sleek.
I first purchased one of these herbal teas on a visit to Boise, Idaho. They have a lovely assortment of herbal teas, cocoa, honey and matcha. This herbal tea box set is a good starter kit. I also love their winter remedy pack which includes great blends called Cold Comfort, Peaceful Spirit, Throat Soothe, and Quiet Cough.
Create a peaceful sleep routine. I first purchased this Vitruvi diffuser for myself and I love it so much I given it as a gift to just about all of my friends! It's a wonderful way to create serenity in your sleep space. I love the lavender, dusk, and quiet, oil blends. They come in a lovely array of colors.
Pretty Sleepwear. Okay, this is definitely a splurge and it took me several visits to the Lunya website before I could finally go through with the purchase. These washable silk pajamas are heavenly! After lots of washes, they keep their softness and to me are worth the price. They have matching sleep masks for those super sunny mornings or perfect for a midday nap.
End your day on a positive, peaceful note. There was a period of time when I never got good sleep. I would have random dreams that often featured ESPN commentators like Stephen A. Smith. My husband insisted on falling asleep with the television on, hence the Stephen A. cameos. It was awful! Make sure that your sleep space is as quiet as possible and definitely no ESPN, CNN or World News before bed. It can wait until the morning.
Although I usually fall asleep easily, I was on a Calm App kick for a while. The sleep stories are so beautiful, and I rarely ever got to the end. My favorites are Dream With Me read by Harry Styles, Crossing Ireland by Train read by Cillian Murphy, and Wonder read by Matthew McConaughey.
Be kind to yourself. If Venus, Serena, Andy, and Roger all have bad days, you're definitely allowed to have a bad day. Don't beat yourself up about it. Give yourself grace, and pay close attention to how you speak to yourself. After all, life, and especially tennis, is supposed to be about having fun!
What are some of the things that help you maintain good mental health?