Naomi Osaka is a tennis rock star. She is a four-time Grand Slam tournament winner and one of the world’s highest paid female athletes. Osaka is only 23-years old.
The tennis star posted on social media that she was going to decline press conferences during the French Open tournament due to mental health issues. On Monday she withdrew from the prestigious French Open.
Even if you’re not a sports fan, you’ve seen these post-game press conferences. It’s usually all the same. A tired, worn-out athlete is assaulted with a barrage of questions about their performance in the game or match by journalists who’ve never been in their sneakers.
If the person performed poorly, you could feel the discomfort, simmering anger and frustration of the sports figure. It’s understandable that fans want to gain insights into their favorite player’s thoughts of what happened during the game. Although, at times the post game interviews come across an unnecessarily contentious circus. You wonder if some of the questions are asked to elicit a ‘gotcha’ moment by goading the player into saying something controversial or inappropriate to garner headlines.
The tennis star posted her statement on Twitter writing that she was pulling out of the tournament so that “everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris.” In an effort of self-care Osaka said she’d “take some time away from the court.” Osaka shared with her followers that she had “suffered long bouts of depression” since winning her first Grand Slam title in 2018. The decision was based on helping maintain her mental health as these press conferences induce a great deal of unhealthy stress and anxiety, especially as she says she’s uncomfortable with public speaking.
The French Open is a money-making business and wasn’t too pleased with her decision. They responded by fining her $15,000. In a glaring lack of empathy, the Grand Slam organizers wrote:
“We have advised Naomi Osaka that should she continue to ignore her media obligations during the tournament, she would be exposing herself to possible further Code of Conduct infringement consequences. As might be expected, repeat violations attract tougher sanctions including default from the tournament (Code of Conduct article III T.) and the trigger of a major offence investigation that could lead to more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions (Code of Conduct article IV A.3.).”
French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton later followed-up by saying “First and foremost, we are sorry and sad for Naomi Osaka. The outcome of Naomi withdrawing from Roland-Garros is unfortunate. We wish her the best and the quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our Tournament next year.” Moretoon added “As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ well-being and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our Tournament, including with the Media, like we have always strived to do.”
One of the surprising benefits of the pandemic was that talking about mental health issues was suddenly acceptable.The unrelenting stress and anxiety associated with coping with a pandemic, along with feelings of isolation and burnout, became too big to ignore any longer.
In our society, we’ve largely avoided the topic of mental health. Talking about things like depression didn’t mesh with the American culture of being rugged and boasting of a “just walk it off” attitude. If a person gets sick, they go to a doctor, no questions asked. When a worker feels burnt out, suffers from depression, feels lonely, isolated or has an overwhelming sense of insecurity and dread, they keep it to themselves fearing what people will think and say.
Corporations have taken notice. Wall Street banks Goldman Sachs and Citigroup took action to help their employees cope with the strain of long hours and pressure working during a pandemic. David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, walked back his requirement for bankers, brokers and traders to immediately return to the office after conducting a survey of about 40,000 employees. Solomon also made adjustments to the work schedules of young investment bankers who vented their frustrations over being tasked with 100-hour workweeks.
Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser informed her 210,000 employees that she is banning internal video calls on Fridays. The move is part of a larger program to set boundaries and help her people have a healthier work-life balance. Fraser also called for a new company-wide holiday, called “Citi Reset Day.” It’s considered a day of decompressing, as the year-long pandemic has taken a toll on the psyche of workers.
Fraser said, ″The blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our well-being.” The chief executive continued, “It’s simply not sustainable. Since a return to any kind of new normal is still a few months away for many of us, we need to reset some of our working practices.”
If you are experiencing challenges, here are some suggestions to take action:
- If you are sliding down a slippery slope of negativity, sadness, stress and feelings of hopelessness, seek out some professional help. Take heart, many people are going through the same experiences too.
- Try to control the way you process and react to events. Instead of reacting with a knee-jerk, unhealthy response, take a deep breath, pause and analyze the situation. Use this moment in time to view the situation with clarity and objectivity. “Is this really bad or am I overreacting?”
- Try to put aside your negative thoughts. We’re constantly overwhelmed with bad news. It’s not easy, but try to tune out the noise. Focus on what you want to achieve in your life and career. Design a game plan and put systems into place to achieve your goals. Replace bad thoughts with positive ones. The more time you allocate toward constructive ruminations centered around self-improvement, the less time you’ll spend thinking about matters that just wear you down.
- Take stock of what you did right and the mistakes you made along the way. Accept what has happened without beating yourself up over it. Focus on what you need to do to improve, grow and develop, so you can succeed the next time around. You either win or learn. Life is one big learning session. The lessons learned from falling down will help pick you up in the future.
- It’s not just you. We all get rejected, doors slammed in our faces, lose out on a promotion and not get called back for a second interview. In our society, people tend to brag about and broadcast on social media all of the cool and awesome things that are happening in their lives and careers. We then falsely assume that everyone else is doing great, while we are personally struggling. You’re comparing yourself to something that’s not real. The Instagram photos are manufactured, cultivated fake realities.
- Look at your career and life as a marathon—and not a sprint. Maybe it’s more appropriate to view it as a Tough Mudder course. You’ll need to scale walls, climb ropes, wade through mud and endure grueling obstacles designed to test your endurance and strength. It’s the same thing when you try to attain career success.
- Try something new. Embark on hobbies or activities in which you can score some easy points by doing them well. This will instill confidence. As you build up small incremental successes, you’ll then feel comfortable taking on new and bigger challenges.
- Learn to say “no.” We have a tendency to want to be liked. When you’re asked to commit to a business function or social engagement, you feel obligated to say “yes.” It’s difficult to turn down opportunities, as you risk alienating the other person, but sometimes it’s more productive to just say “no.” When something does not fit into your overarching life plan and long-term goals, have the courage to politely turn it down.
We’re all subjected to constant pressures that can break us. You don’t have to go it alone. Seek out professional help if you feel you need it.