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Just Know You’re Not Alone
As athletes, we place so much focus on our physical fitness. We track our meals. We hit the gym on a daily basis. We run drills til we could literally do them in our sleep. We check in with our doctors, trainers and coaches. The second we go down on the pitch, a huddle forms, concerned for our physical well-being.
But with all the pressure to perform physically, sometimes we forget that our mental health is equally (if not more) important. What if we put as much effort, time and value behind our mental health as we do our physical health?
The more we open up and share our stories, the more opportunity we have to support each other and work toward physical and mental wellness. We asked some of field hockey’s biggest athletes to get real and share their personal mental health journeys. Here are a few of our favorite key takeaways/words of encouragement:
It's okay to be vulnerable. You are not alone.
Back in September 2012, I was pretty burnt out…I fell out of love with the game, had no energy or passion to train or to win and just hated being on a hockey pitch. It really showed in my performance - one mistake and I would be gone mentally for the next five minutes of the game trying to get over it. – Shona McCallin
I started to dread going to practice – and when I was at practice, I was just going through the motions. During this time, I wasn’t coachable, which was a huge barrier to personal development on and off the field. I wasn’t my happy, competitive self – I was tired, unmotivated and irritable. – Ali Campbell
In college, there was a semester I overloaded myself with course credits during the season. I was stressed and struggling to balance my academics and performance on the field. Rather than allowing hockey practice to be my outlet and escape, I brought my academic stress with me to practice, which really hurt my game. – Taylor West
Fight the stigma. Remember, mental health isn’t made up – it’s every bit as legitimate and real as physical health. Also, if anyone asks, it has EVERYTHING to do with your game.
All of us go through periods when we have struggles. The more you try to push those feelings down, the worse you will feel. It’s important to be able to take a step back and do something that centers you. – Ali Campbell
It’s so important to support our mental well-being, as it is our brain, our minds and our thinking that inform everything we do. The way we think and how we feel has a direct impact on what we do every day. History tells us to “be strong” “get on with it” and “be tough.” Ironically I believe the toughest thing you can do is admit there’s a problem and ask for help. – Alex Danson
From an athlete’s perspective, I think international hockey is about 70% mental ability. All players have very similar skill sets and physical abilities when they are fresh and not fatigued. Add in the challenge of making the correct decisions and executing skills under fatigue and under pressure – that’s when the mental side kicks in and you see the strongest players emerge. – Shona McCallin
Talk to someone. Lean on your family, in whatever form that may take.
I have found that a key part of balance is making sure you surround yourself with the right people, because sometimes you’re not going to get the balance right. You need people around you who understand and support you regardless. – Alyssa Parker
I make it a point to have a good support team around me. I talk to my friends or family about areas where I’m struggling. You need people who are in tune with what’s going on with you, people who will look after you when you don’t know how. – Alex Danson
Make time for the thing that gets your heart racing and your mind/body energized.
I believe it’s beneficial to find a balance between hockey and other aspects in life. For me personally, I love being outside! My ultimate “happy place” is somewhere on a beach. I really enjoy paddle boarding, hiking, kayaking, and spending time with friends and family. – Taylor West
I love watching live sports, so I try to get out and go to as many as possible – I’ve been to watch Arsenal a lot and also a few games at Wembley. Hot yoga is a big thing for me too. I love the heat and the one-hour yoga session is great for my mind to have a rest. – Shona McCallin
The best coping strategy for me is to go running. I love love love running – anywhere between 6-8 miles is my favorite distance! It feels like nothing can touch you – it gives me time to unwind and be alone with my thoughts. – Alyssa Parker
Let yourself off the hook.
When I get into funks, I try my best to have a short-term memory. For example, when I make a mistake, I immediately try to forget about it and move on. Of course, reflecting on your mistakes is part of learning and growing, but when a mistake is all you can think about, that isn’t healthy or helpful. – Alyssa Parker
Allow yourself to be okay with not being okay 100% of the time. One thing I’ve found really helpful is to practice breathing techniques and meditation. I also give myself permission to take breaks. Personally, I love going on walks with my husband and dog! – Ali Campbell
We are all busy people and all have busy minds full of things we need to do and when we need to do them. It can get a bit overwhelming and tiring! Give your mind a rest and take a timeout. I use the app Headspace to chill out and get perspective on life and clear my mind a bit. – Shona McCallin
Output reflects input. Whether it’s encouraging quotes, a book or podcast, feel-good music, be sure to feed your mind with positive messages.
I love this quote “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” It helps remind me to slow down when things start to get hectic and to enjoy the simple things in life. – Taylor West
I love reading sports autobiographies to see what other athletes get up to training wise and how they form their mindset. I feel like I can relate to them and learn from them too. – Shona McCallin
Sometimes we feel awkward about it, but positive self-talk is super helpful. You might be your biggest critic, but try to be your biggest fan too. – Alyssa Parker