At Hekate, we strongly believe in a holistic approach when it comes to promoting both physical and mental health. That's why we take the time to have meaningful conversations around mental health, especially in the sports and athletic space. Hear from our co-founder and Wimbledon tennis champion, Vasek Pospisil.
How are you doing right now?
Vasek: "I'm going great. I'm in France for my last event in Europe before going back to the US. Having a good start to the year and enjoying myself on and off the court. I am in an excellent state of mind and have many exciting things happening in my life at the moment."
How does your training regimen affect your mental health?
Vasek: "I find that the more I train, the better I feel mentally. There are two aspects to that. One is that exercise, in general, has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative moods, so it's great for everyone. It affects my mental state, perhaps even more so being a professional athlete. It puts my mind at ease knowing that I am doing everything I can to be as fit as possible for my performance on the court."
How do you take care of your mental health during a busy tennis season?
Vasek: "This is a huge challenge. Tennis is extremely demanding mentally (and physically) and is not for the faint of heart. You are always on the road away from family and friends, and it can be a very lonely sport. When you add the stresses of intense one on one competition week in and week out, it can really take a toll on you. It's a constant struggle for most tennis players. It's crucial to find ways that work for you to combat those stresses. You need to be very thoughtful with scheduling and making sure you get enough time at home (a massive challenge as you also need to play as many events as you can to stay sharp). Travel with people you like (if you can) and have hobbies that you enjoy that can get your mind off the competition."
Do you find that tapping into a flow state when you play counteracts this stress?
Vasek: "So, my take on this is that tapping into the flow state cannot be done on demand. It is an amazing feeling that you achieve a handful of times throughout the year. An optimal mental state. This is why practicing mindfulness, and mental coaching on various techniques is important for the sport. Being mindful is constant work; it does not come easy, but it does help you deal with stress and helps preserve your mental energy. It's essential to learn techniques and work on them as much as possible, which will increase the likelihood and number of times you can reach a true "flow state."
Who do you lean on in times of stress?
Vasek: "Honestly, I generally look within myself for strength and solutions in times of stress. I find this helps me adapt better and quicker the next time I face a challenging period as I learn from the previous one. I see it as an opportunity for self-growth and improvement. I like to think that this perspective shortens my time in a negative state of mind. There are good and bad things about this approach, and definitely, over-internalizing is not a good thing either. It can also be important to lean on and open up to friends and family for guidance and comfort in stressful times. Everyone is different. There is no right or wrong answer or quick fix, in my opinion."
I believe you have to follow what your heart wants to do and, most importantly, not be 'shy' to act on that instinct. The people closest to you want the best for you. So, suppose there is ever when I feel I don't have the internal strength to find solutions to a negative situation. In that case, I will open up to my best friends or brothers. Regardless, being around people is really important to me. I am quite social, and I take energy from those around me, so the worst thing for me, in any case, would be to close off away from people."
Why is it important to you to speak openly about mental health struggles?
Vasek: "I think it's important to speak openly about mental struggles because everyone goes through them and through difficult times. When you talk about your experiences openly, others who might be going through a tough time can learn from it and realize that there is nothing 'wrong' with them for feeling the way they do. It is normal. Even something as small as a slight change of perspective in a particular moment can cause a paradigm shift or a complete switch on how you view the situation. In those tough moments, to be able to say to yourself, Hey, this is a normal part of life and what makes me human. I will learn from this experience, know more about myself, and become a stronger, better person."
Vasek is one of the many athletes opening up about their mental health, and we're here for it. Read more about mental health in sports in 9 Athletes Who Are Prioritizing Their Mental Health. In addition, Vasek has also benefited from incorporating adaptogenic mushrooms into his daily routine so that he can #CultivateGreat.