Washington Wizards v Sacramento Kings
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 3: The Washington Wizards huddle prior to the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 3, 2020 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.
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Wizards mental health anonymous mailbag

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As part of our continued efforts to support our fans during this challenging time, the Monumental Basketball mental health team of Derick Anderson, Jim Soda, and Stu Singer answered anonymous questions. Wizards Wellness is in partnership with MedStar Health.

I find it hard to focus on work sometimes. What are good ways to refocus throughout the day?

Unless you already worked from home, this may be a difficult transition. Transferring your routine from work the best you can is the first step. Wake up at the same time, maybe even get dressed for work to signal to yourself and others that the workday has begun. Designate a workspace that you use almost exclusively for working. Try scheduling small breaks, such as walks, throughout the day to relieve the monotony and to attend to household responsibilities that may intrude on your workday. Schedule meals around your work and give yourself a time when you should put everything away to end your workday and transition back to home life.

Every day seems to blend into another. What is a good way to reestablish "weekend" or "off hours" when you're always working from home?

Creating your schedule and routines are the best ways to benefit both your work health and your mental health. Writing this down keeps you accountable and organized which will help your productivity and outlook. When you do this for work or school, this gives the ability to “finish” your day or your week. Make plans that take place after your scheduled workday. Be as disciplined about when to finish working as you are about when to begin.

What are common issues with athletes in terms of mental health and how do you help them succeed and "breakthrough" their problems?

It is easy to think of the athletes that we admire in almost mythical ways, their exploits and accomplishments amaze and excite us routinely. However, they are still subject to the same mental and emotional issues that the rest of us must deal with. A stark difference between their experience and most of ours is that their work and private lives are under scrutiny by thousands and sometimes millions of people daily. Athletes understand that this is part of the bargain, but it makes it no less difficult to manage. As you can imagine, that type of pressure can easily impact your emotional health. Recognizing this, today’s athletes are much more active in taking care of their emotional and mental health.

What do you think are the biggest mental health issues we don't talk about enough?

Issues such as depression and anxiety are often discussed and are commonly experienced. However, a mental health issue that doesn’t receive the attention it should is both the access to care and the utilization of services by certain segments of our communities. It is important that all members of our society realize that they are entitled to professional mental health care and should not be ashamed or feel stigmatized for seeking help. Think of using mental health services the same way you would think of using any service that helps you to maintain your body. A healthy mind is as important as a healthy body and we can all participate in activities that help us to maintain our minds health, seeking professional help is one of those important resources.

I oftentimes find myself worrying about things outside of my control. Is that ok and what can I do to help assuage those worries?

It is both ok and expected to worry at times but sometimes these feelings can overwhelm us. Looking towards the future helps with planning and some level of worry is natural and helps to keep us safe. When worries live in our thoughts they have a tendency to intrude upon our lives. For this reason and others, its best to write them out so that we can recognize what is in our control and develop a plan of action and what is outside of our control and learn to let those worries go. Understanding what we have control over can help minimize the severity of anxious feelings and the amount of time that we worry. Recognizing what is beyond our control may help us devote more energy to the things we are able to act on and help us to feel more empowered.

I'm feeling disconnected from family and friends because I feel like I don't have anything new to share. What are good ways to reconnect?

We’ve typically shared the events of the day with friends and family and that’s how we related to one another. However, feeling like there is nothing new to report during quarantine you must rely on your own creativity to create events both collective and individual to share with family and friends. Try gathering the family to create a detailed description of the family tree, start a book club with friends. Have viewing party with either family or friends and discuss the movie, tv show or documentary afterwards in a group chat. In other words, don’t wait for life to happen to you actively engage in creating life events that you can share and relate to others.

What time of the day is good for meditation? Morning or night?

One of the best things about meditation is that it is accessible to anyone at any time. There are really very little limitations placed on it. The most important thing is that you find a time that works for you and your schedule and that it becomes a daily habit.

Nighttime meditation is a great way to end the day and maybe clear the mind of all the things that had your mind turning and turning during the day. Often when we have trouble sleeping it’s because we can’t “turn off” our thinking mind. By doing 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation before bed, you are most likely to quiet that mind and allow yourself to slip into a sound sleep.

The morning is a great way to start your day with some calm and clarity, and to set the tone for attempting to “be present” throughout the rest of your day.

Bottom line is that finding a daily time that works for you is the MOST important factor. The benefits are clear, but they are pretty reliant on making sure that we practice daily!

What should I do about the restlessness or discomfort I experience while meditating?

Restlessness and discomfort are actually very much part of meditation. One of the misconceptions of meditation is that it is a passive activity that doesn’t feel like any “work”. Instead, it is actually a pretty active practice that requires us to deeply engage in it.

The ultimate goal would be to practice to the point that you can allow the distraction of restlessness and discomfort to be there and not really need to do anything beyond notice them. You don’t need to escape them or attend to them. We can deal with them after the meditation is over.

How important is having a routine before bed?

Bedtime routines specifically are important because they allow us to “transition” from the doing part of our day to the “recovery” part of our day. Things like turning off your phone and TV, not eating or exercising too close to getting into bed, and scheduling when you go to bed make it more likely that you fall asleep and sleep soundly. Additionally, routines like readying or gratitude journaling before bed are excellent ways to help the mind become “quiet” just before sleep.

How should we navigate adjusting back to life post-quarantine?

Adjusting back into post-quarantine life will require patience with ourselves and others. The transition into our new reality will look and feel different for everyone. Take note of what are some of the good habits or adjustments that you’ve made during quarantine and schedule them into your transitional life. Don’t feel the need to make up for “lost time” and overdo things at first. The temptation to do so may burn you out quickly and make establishing a healthy routine difficult. Approach your post-quarantine life with a sense of excitement and gratitude to lessen the feelings of worry and stress. Maintain the connections you have made virtually and value the things you took for granted but missed.

I find that I'm sleeping a lot more during work from home and sometimes wake up groggy. What is a good way to reestablish a more normal work routine?

It can sound counterintuitive, but we actually start to lose energy as we exert less energy. We feel more tired the more sleep (beyond the regular 8 hours that we need) we get. An antidote for feeling sluggish or groggy in the morning is to add some movement. You should choose an activity that you’re interested in doing and that you think you’re most likely to follow through with daily. Getting into the routine is much more important than the intensity when first starting out. If you are able to, try to include getting fresh air and sunlight which will help to energize you. Bottom line - getting your body moving for at least 20-30 minutes each day is a great physical and mental energy enhancer!

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