Prioritize Your Mental Health
You know that phrase: “No pain, no gain”? I used to think that was true, but later on realized that it’s such a toxic phrase because I thought that I didn’t learn or gain anything if I didn’t feel a difference. In reality, you can learn so much about yourself through the lows, troubles, or, in this case, the “pain”. Full disclosure: No one, absolutely no one, is “soft” for speaking about mental health or taking time off to put themselves first.
I never realized the importance of mental health until I went to college. As a former D1 athlete at UCLA, I was surrounded by elite athletes, Olympians, and national champions. “CHAMPIONS MADE HERE” and John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success was printed everywhere among the walls in our athletic buildings. I felt like there was this unspoken demand that we needed to be great and successful because that was almost what was expected of us. On top of that, we were students at the number one public university in the country, so we needed to excel academically as well. It all hit me when one of my best friends took her life in the fall of our senior year. All of these demands as a student-athlete mixed in with having a social life with our friends and families, it took a toll on us that many did not speak about. Many of us suffered, and are still suffering, in silence. And many of us, including myself, are really good at hiding it.
There have been two times in my life where I felt like I was at my lowest: Summer of 2018 and 2021. Two different stages of my life, but I came out of the 2021 low with a different perspective: prioritizing my mental health. I swear I was about to quit playing golf. You could ask any of my friends because I was done with the traveling tour life and even though I was having a decent year, I couldn’t do it anymore. With the help of my inner circle, I started to not let the results from my tournaments define me and deleted Instagram to get rid of my habit of comparing myself to others. At my next tournament in Idaho, I began to prioritize myself by leaving all of my work at the golf course and then solely focusing on my happiness and joy, like driving half an hour away to sit on Lake Coeur d’Alene with my friend. Wholesome moments like that have led to how I live my life today: As long as I am happy and have personal joy, that’s all that matters to me. Tournament results may be great or they may sting, but it doesn’t matter as much as my mental health.
After I started to prioritize myself, my perspective and attitude towards life changed for the better. Life became easier, free-flowing, the comparisons dropped, and I was excited to see others succeed. It was a huge milestone for me because I finally felt like I had control over emotional well-being. None of this came easily as I had to constantly work on this by building new habits, remembering where my feet are, and talking about it with others rather than keeping it to myself. Even as I’m writing this blog, I’m going through another moment in my life where I have to prioritize myself and well-being.
No one should be ashamed or laughed at for talking about their mental health. No one should feel like they need to hide how they’re feeling because it would “ruin their image.” Athletes who speak about their mental health are truly the toughest and bravest athletes out there, and I respect the heck out of all of those who do.
A friendly reminder: be yourself, your feelings are valid, and mental health is just as important as physical health.