On October 10, we commemorate World Mental Health Day. That was a day when we raise awareness on mental health issues and kickstart conversations on or efforts in support of mental health. For the past two years, World Mental Health Day took place amid a special time – that is, during a pandemic where the bulk of our lives have been drastically affected.
By now, we know that our mental health is equally important as our physical health. As conversations on anxiety, burnouts, and depression proliferate, along with the courageous stories of many mental health advocates, we now know that it is okay to not feel okay. And that our emotions, fears, anxiety and challenges are valid. At SNCF, we believe that it is important to keep the discourse on mental wellness, whether it’s on burnouts, or unpacking the murky feelings within you, or what it means to be mentally healthy, going.
In our last story of our three part-series, SNCF spoke to Olympic diver Jonathan Chan, also Singapore’s first diver to qualify for the Olympics, shares with us his journey at Tokyo 2020, his self-care secrets and why he is taking a break.
Image Credit: Jonathan Chan
As an athlete, what are the common stress you frequently face?
As a student athlete, a lot of stress comes from trying to excel in both sports and studies. In school, I see my peers stressing out over their grades. It becomes even harder when I want to do well in both. School aside, stress in sports can come from both training and competition. Stress at training largely comes from myself, especially when I am trying to do well during training. While this kind of internal stress remains present in competitions, a larger portion come from external factors. Sometimes, the stress stems from trying to hit the expectations from the people around you.
Over the years, conversations on mental health and wellness are aplenty. What does self-care mean to you?
For me, self-care is about being honest to myself. It means knowing my limits, and actually stopping when I get close to them. It is also about not feeling guilty whenever I take a proper break. Proper in the sense that I'm fully invested in resting and not having work thoughts at the back of my mind.
In the lead up before Olympics 2020, were you, by any chance, nervous or anxious? If so, could you share with us what were you contemplating about?
(laughs) I was definitely feeling nervous.
I felt more pressure because there were going to be a lot more eyes on me this time as compared to previous competitions. While we did have many international competitions before this, it is the Olympics after all. And many people would know what the games are and the level of competition it entails. Furthermore, knowing that it was going to be broadcasted internationally adds to the pressure. I think I was just scared whether I would be able to perform up to expectations that everyone had for me. It didn't help that many people were telling me to bring back gold (laughs).
If you start to notice signs of an impending burnout, what are some practical tips and tricks you exercise to cope with them?
As an athlete, I always default to exercising or just moving as a way of coping. I use it to distract myself from whatever I'm doing at the moment. If you ask my architecture classmates, all of them know I take 'Just Dance' breaks when we work late into the night.
The other way I try to cope will be taking a proper break. As mentioned earlier, this means doing something else with no guilt. Usually, that would mean watching an episode of a drama or anime before going back to whatever needs to be done.
We understand you told the national dailies that you are considering taking a break to really rest and plot your next steps. Could you share how you went about with this decision? And how would you think this break will empower you mentally, physically and emotionally?
I really wanted this to be a real break so I could really decide if I wanted to continue diving. Previous breaks I took came with the mindset that I would always return to training. The answer to this one is uncertain for now; I am taking the time to consider what are the things I could do, if I end up retiring. It also gives me some time to really relax without training or school. I have been looking forward to this break for a long time, and I am certain it will recharge me for whatever that is coming my way.
Feature image credit: Singapore Sports Hub
By Sng Ler Jun
Interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.