Painful muscles, bruised knuckles & soles, fractures, surgeries etc. are a pivotal part in the journey of a sportsperson. We are all aware of the kind of hard work that goes into the making of these champions. However, what we may not be aware is the ‘sinking feeling’ that some of these sportspersons battle to just come out and be present. What I mean here is, just doing what they do, leave alone performing well or out performing anyone.

Of late and thankfully, there has been    some attention given to the mental health of the sportspersons and people are talking about it. Recently, we read about Naomi Osaka, the Tennis Star and Simone Biles, the US Gymnast openly talk about their troubles with their mental health. Michael Phelps too has been quite vocal about his mental health issues.

Closer home, Indian sportspersons like Ace Shooter Abhinav Bindra, Tennis Star Sania Mirza, Cricketer Robin Uthappa, Captain of the Indian Cricket Team Virat Kohli etc. have spoken about their struggle to be at peace, mentally. Robin Uthappa has admitted that at times, he even felt suicidal. This at a time, when he was in good form, was leading the Ranji Trophy team of Karnataka and was part of Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL team.

This is a testimony to the fact that mental health issues are not confined to certain situations in life or certain sections of the society. One could be in the best phase of their life, yet face issues of depression and anxiety.

Stress or Mental health issues?

When one is in a low mood occasionally and doesn’t feeling like socializing or getting into a conversation with family or friends, it is fine. We all do go through that once in a while and probably are out of this mood, within a few hours or a day, at the most. But when someone isolates oneself for a longer period of time, loses interest in the activities that they actually loved and there are changes in the eating and sleeping patterns of this person, then it maybe a cause of worry. There may also be instances when the person loses interest in living, doesn’t wish to see another day and starts feeling suicidal and also harms oneself.

Similarly, getting worried about the pile of work that one has or the bills that one has to pay or the list of things one has to do is a normal scenario. However, being under constant stress about some future activity or imagining consequences of that future activity, to the extent of losing appetite and sleep over them is not the ideal scenario. When imagined consequences of the future cause an extreme worry, e.g. the question paper in the upcoming exam where the student imagines that he is unable to answer a few questions in the question paper due to not knowing the answers or less time and he starts worrying that this may lead to his failure in the subject, leading further to repeat a year in the same grade. This imagination may lead to an increase in his blood pressure or he may start sweating profusely and this constant worry may eventually make him wish that he didn’t have to attempt that exam itself.

Depression and Anxiety Disorder

It is hard to pinpoint what causes depression or anxiety. There could be many reasons such as life experiences, medical causes, medications, hormonal changes and so on. According to a survey conducted by Lancet in 2017, one in seven Indians were found to be dealing with mental health disorders. As per WHO (World Health Organisation) 7.5 % of Indians are affected by some mental disorder or the other. It also estimates that around 56 million Indians are affected by depression and close to 38 million Indians deal with anxiety disorders.

While it is troublesome that we may not know the reasons that can cause depression and anxiety in people, we at least know the remedies for these.

What then can some of the remedies be if someone is affected by Depression or an Anxiety Disorder?

According to WHO, below are the few types of treatments for Depression and Anxiety Disorder:


  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy : In this treatment, the emphasis is on changing one’s thought patterns and/or behavior patterns. Therapists help patients to develop their own coping skills by focusing on their thinking and behavior patterns and making relevant changes to them.
  2. Interpersonal Psychotherapy: The therapist conducts 12-16 individual weekly sessions with the patient. In these sessions, the focus is on the patients’ interactions with others, help in manage grief, cope with life transitions that may cause distress such as divorce, moving to a different city etc. and also handle interpersonal disputes.
  3. Medication: Use of medicines such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and Anti-Depressants.

Anxiety Disorder

  1. A therapy called Exposure therapy may be used where the patient is made to face a situation that he fears the least and then gradually move towards the one he fears the most. The situation is broken into smaller steps and gradually the patient faces the feared situation. He/ she is taught relaxation techniques and is made to repeat this exposure to build enough confidence for coping with the earlier feared situation.
  2. Diet Changes : Where the diet is modified to include foods that may be helpful in dealing with insomnia and anxiety issues and avoid foods that may triggers  symptoms of anxiety.
  3. Exercise : Physical activity is recommended to manage anxiety
  4. Medication : However, medication may not provide a long term solution; something which may be done through behavioural therapy.

While it is important to seek professional help and go through the necessary treatment. It helps to be mindful about certain things. It is important for one to stay in the moment; reliving the past moments that may have been traumatic or having an excessive worry or thought about the future is best avoided. There may not be one universal method that may work for all. Every individual is different and what works for one may not work for another. Hence, it is important to be patient with oneself or a loved one who may be going through such mental health issues.

Not just celebrities it could be anyone

When one reads about the mental health issues of celebrities like the above, one may wonder what could be the triggers for these people that cause panic attacks or make them go into a shell. If one analyses it, there could be many. Anxiety about their own performance in a current or upcoming tournament, anxiety about their future if they are in poor form or nursing an injury, their commitments to the brands that they endorse, their own fitness and the inability to meet up with the pressure to do these multiple tasks of practice, fitness, their commitments vis a vis endorsements or attending events etc. plus giving enough time to their family.

Isn’t the life of a common person too filled with all these various compartments vis a vis family, profession, finance, health and fitness and also status. So rather than asking the question as to why do only celebrities face their issues? Isn’t it worthier to ask, as to maybe we could also be prone to having such issues or rather maybe there are people among us who are currently facing such issues and yet make it seem that everything is fine with them?

As American Author Glennon Doyle Melton states in her book ‘Carry on, Warrior: The Power of Embracing your Messy Beautiful Life’ that ‘People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help’.

Acceptance is where it all begins

All treatment methods are accessible and effective only when one voices one’s problems, speaks about them and seeks help in this regard. As Robin Uthappa says ‘‘And the more we talk about it, the more we take ownership about it, the more we actually normalize it. ‘

Acknowledge, speak, act and seek help. A simple advice by Sunil Chettri ‘Don’t keep it inside you, it is alright to speak up’.

Another sane advice from someone who has been through a bad phase in her life; Sania Mirza ‘When you are mentally in the right place, your success sort of follows.  Ask for help. There is no shame is asking for help, there is no shame in trying to find peace within yourself, there is no shame in reaching out to whoever it may be’.

Just as one likes to get a diagnosis from a doctor as soon as one has a discomfort in the body, one should also seek help or confide in someone when our emotional wellbeing seems to be on a spiral downwards. One cannot ignore the fact that our emotional well-being has a direct impact on our physical health. Would someone who experiences anxiety attacks be physically fit? Or would disturbed sleep cycles and improper eating not lead to physical ailments?

Only a sound mind can result in a healthy body.

‘This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter

Featured Image Source : Pixabay

4 thoughts on “Sports Champions in Mental Arena

  1. Undoubtedly! Healthy mind in a healthy body! Mental illness is as critical as physical one! Most often one terms a mentally ill person as “mad” and either mocks at such people, runs them down, ignores them to d extent of pushing them to d wall and d ultimate destination is a lunatic centre, where d patient only goes from bad to worse never to return! One has to handle mental illness, delicately, tactfully gracefully and with compassion! Atleast one has to address d problem and not sidetrack it! Mental illness can happen to d best of us, most suddenly! Take care of your mental health it’s very important!


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