Staying Mentally Healthy
This past week was marked on millions of calendars as the start of March Madness. Some make the pilgrimage to Las Vegas to watch 32 games in 48 hours, others travel alongside their alma mater to the stadium housing the hardwood classic, countless others fill out their brackets and tune in online while pretending to get some work done.
Every year, we watch for the story of the underdog who upsets Goliath, the underrated kid passed up by the big conferences enacting revenge, and the Cinderella team without a superstar who shuts down the next top draft pick. Amidst broken brackets, cut down nets, and tears of triumph and defeat, we get to feel part of the history these kids write as they fulfill the dreams they’ve been dreaming since they took their first steps.
Transitions are always tough as the NCAA reminds us that the vast majority of collegiate athletes “go pro in something other than sports.” However, this year, many student athletes from high school to college played their last game without any fanfare or closure. In fact, they didn’t even know they were playing their last game. The sport they’ve played every day for their entire life that formed a critical part of their identity, is now over and they question, what’s next?
As a global pandemic rages on, fight songs in lofty stadiums are silenced as students are asked to shelter in place. Stock markets crater and questions about graduation, employment, and life beyond this moment are as uncertain now as they were four years ago. At this particular moment of transition, athletes should be encouraged to embrace their emotions and reaction, with an understanding that any reaction they have is valid and appropriate.
Staying mentally healthy during this COVID-19 outbreak is just as important as remaining physically healthy. The CDC recognizes how anxiety and stress can be overwhelming and offers resources and guidance, especially for those with preexisting mental health conditions.
If you’re a coach, parent, or teammate, please reach out to your student athletes and simply ask how they are feeling right now. Here is some guidance offered by our partners at StepUP!:
DO LISTEN deeply (be present, put your phones away, look at each other)
DO what you can to give them HOPE (ask them what gives them hope)
DO ensure them seeking help is a sign of STRENGTH not weakness (offer support finding help)
DON’T assume the problem will take care of itself (if there is a problem)
DON’T act shocked or surprised at what the person says (don’t judge)
DON’T argue or debate moral issues (focus on listening and hearing what they are saying)
Also, here are some additional resources that might be helpful:
UNIT3D (New Hilinski’s Hope Podcast)
Chaos to Kindness (Thrive Global article from Born This Way Foundation)
Crisis Text Line
Find Your Anchor
Not OK App
With kindness and hope,
Kym and Mark Hilinski, Hilinski’s Hope