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5 Gems on Mental Fitness from Serena Williams

Serena Williams doesn’t play around with her mental health. The tennis legend recently shared her most updated perspective on mental fitness and shared tips and practices for maintaining a healthy mind. 

Here are 5 Gems we learned about mental fitness:

Train your mind to shut down when necessary.

Williams can tell you a thing or two about after-match anxieties. She’s also dealt with her fair share of press conference pressures. Her coping mechanism? Shutting down. 

Most of the time, you want your mind to remain active and engaged. But there are times when you want it to shut down – like when you’re experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression. When this happens, your thoughts can quickly take a downspiral. You might start to worry about lots of different things and feel like you can’t get a handle on them, or feel like you’re losing control over your thoughts and actions. 

When you’ve trained your mind to shut down, you have the ability to calm yourself. You can redirect your attention to the present moment and focus on your breath. This can help you to stop stressing out and regain control of your thoughts and emotions.

Draw hard lines in the sand with your boundaries.

Although Williams constantly brings her A-game on-and-off the court, the African American tennis star–like many of us–has faced challenges that have resulted in strengthened boundaries on her end. 

Standing your ground isn’t always easy. According to Williams, she’s struggled with being firm on her boundaries. However, Williams nods that it’s necessary for keeping them intact.

Having boundaries doesn’t just benefit you; it also helps those around you because it prevents them from taking advantage of you or exhausting your resources. And, most importantly, by having better boundaries you open up space for healthier relationships and friendships with others who respect your limits and understand your needs.

Boundaries are like a personal map that maps out the ways in which you are willing to be treated. They are a way of communicating your needs, wants, and desires to others so you can avoid feeling taken advantage of and overextended. 

Having good boundaries means you know what is okay and what isn’t in your relationships and you enforce those boundaries with others. It’s not just about what you won’t do, but also about what you will do. You have standards for how you want to be treated and you stick to your values and morals so you don’t sacrifice who you are for anyone else. 

You also don’t allow others to treat you disrespectfully or take advantage of you. You have the ability to say ‘no’ when you need to and you have a clear understanding of when to set boundaries and when to expand them.

Check in with yourself at least once a day.

This is perhaps the most important step in keeping your mental health in a good place. If you’re feeling stressed out, anxious or depressed, take a few minutes to check in with yourself to see what’s going on. 

Is it a project at work? Are you worried about a family member? Are you overwhelmed because you’ve got too much on your plate? If you’re not sure what’s causing your mental health issues, it can be hard to correct them. By taking a few minutes to check in with you, you can get clarity on the problem and move accordingly.

Normalize tending to your own needs without apology.

Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act. It is an act of kindness and self-love. And, as strange as it may sound, taking better care of yourself can make you a more empathetic person. 

There’s a theory that the best way to understand another person’s perspective is to put yourself in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. This suggests that the best way to understand someone is to take care of yourself. 

To be able to do this, you have to resist the temptation to shrug off self-care. It’s easy to think that you don’t have time to take a bubble bath or that you don’t deserve to treat yourself to a massage. This is especially true for working women. However, you have to be disciplined about setting aside time for yourself and refusing to feel guilty about doing so.

Know that prioritizing mental health is crucial for showing up as your best self.

Mental health isn’t just a catchphrase. It’s something you can actively work on, day by day. Staying present and focused is not easy in today’s world. Between our overflowing inboxes, social media alerts and constant access to news, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most. 

It’s also common for people to feel like they have too much on their plate. For example, we feel constantly pressured to be the perfect employee, friend and partner — all while tackling personal goals like learning a new language or starting an exercise routine. It’s no wonder so many people feel stressed, overworked and exhausted. 

That’s why it’s important to make mental health a priority.

Just last month, Williams penned an open letter for Vogue US to announce her retirement. We look forward to seeing what’s next for the icon as her legacy continues on.