10 Easy Self Care Tips for Depression

Everyone deals with depression in different ways. Some try to handle it by themselves, while others get help. We’re not telling you that you can fight depression on your own, but there are definitely certain things you can do for yourself that could help massively. Here are 10 self-care ideas that you might want to try.



You might be surprised at how big of an impact this can have. Many studies have looked at journaling as a way fight depression and the results are very promising. Journaling forces you to reflect and it helps you get things off your chest, even and if you’re just admitting things to yourself.


Reconnect with a friend:

Even if you have no desire to get out and talk to people, you should probably at least make an effort. Researchers have looked at the most effective strategies for dealing with depression, and actively participating in your own social life is a very beneficial tactic. Humans are social animals, so we actually need a community of some kind.


Comfort food:

Certain foods and diets definitely have a strong effect on depression. You could choose to go super healthy and that definitely helps with our state of mind. But you might be surprised at the antidepressant qualities of various foods, including chocolate which has serotonin boosting qualities, tea and even coffee are actually great for fighting depression. And this is backed by numerous studies.



You’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine. Well, that might not be too far from the truth. Humor is actually a great way to deal with depression. Watch a funny movie, see a stand-up comedian, do whatever makes you laugh. Laughter releases endorphins and decreases stress hormones among many other benefits.


St. John’s Wart: 

We all know that antidepressants are one of the most common ways to deal with depression.

These are special medications prescribed by professionals. But some might want something a little more natural. If this is the case, then St. John’s Wart is definitely an option. This natural herb has proven effectiveness against mild depression, although it won’t do much more for severe cases.


Physical activity: 

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. Time and time again, studies have shown that regular rigorous exercise is one of the best ways to fight depression. Exercise releases endorphins which are natural feel-good chemicals in the body. Seeing the physical changes in our body after a hard workout is a great and mood booster as well. There’s really no downside to getting a little exercise done and you’re pretty much guaranteed to feel pretty good afterwards.



Another proven method of dealing with depression is bibliotherapy. Although the word might sound complicated, it’s actually pretty simple. Bibliotherapy is the use of books in therapy. This is probably one of the most popular self-guided forms of therapy out there and it has a great track record. Usually, there’s an initial consultation with a professional therapist and then the patient uses a book to guide themselves along their therapy journey. The book instructs the patient on how to improve their mood, deal with depression and conquer anxiety. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s only recommended for those with mild depressive symptoms.



A few different studies have examined how Yoga can help with depression, and they’ve come to the conclusion that it can be very effective. Someone say that yoga is just another form of exercise, but in truth, it’s more than that. Many people describe yoga as a kind of meditation in motion, it can be spiritual in nature, and it can also be very introspective. The results speak for themselves.



Meditation might just be one of the oldest self-care techniques in history. People have been meditating for thousands of years and the effects of this practice are well documented. The aim of meditation is to attain inner peace which makes it a perfect strategy for combating depression. One of the most popular methods for dealing with depression these days is mindfulness, which is a type of meditation which focuses on being of ourselves, our thoughts and the people around us. Numerous studies have examined the effects of this on depression and it has proven to be quite effective. Quite simply, it gives us greater appreciation of our own lives.


Massage Therapy: 

It’s always good to treat yourself to a nice massage, but if you’re trying to pursue a lifestyle

of self-care, then you might want to seriously consider massage therapy. You left this method until last for a reason. Massage Therapy is only loosely linked with decreased depressive symptoms. It won’t cure depression, but it will decrease stress levels. And hey, getting massage is never a bad thing.



Eastern philosophy that I learned in Thailand

Eastern philosophy that I learned in Thailand that can make you a better person but you have to own it and follow it 24 seven.

  • Do not destroy life.

  • Do not take what is not given you.

  • Do not commit adultery.

  • Tell no lies and deceive no one.

  • Do not become intoxicated. It’s not realistic in the western world but alcohol should never be taken even in celebration. If you want to be the best but that as an individual choice.

  • Eat temperately and not at all in the afternoons. This does not apply if you have an eating disorder. If you have no eating conditions that are harmful. I have been trying a routine of intermediate fasting.

This is probably the hardest one for people to do specially when it comes to a loved one or something you have no control over

Worrying is a waste of time because worrying itself is your mind’s attempt to deal with an imaginary future situation. Since you can only deal (cope) with an event that is happening now, in the present, it’s a waste of time to attempt to feel better by thinking about what may or may not happen in the future.

Speaking to the Water with Pat McCabe – YouTube


see hear


Russell A. Bourne, Jr., Ph.D., Vice President of CPMHA

Many people are as calm or relaxed as they are going to be all day when they first awaken in the morning. Throughout the day they seem to become increasingly alert, aroused or even anxious. It as if the daily activities of life were acting similarly to someone gradually turning up the rheostat, or dimmer switch, on a ceiling light. Energy just seems to be increasing as the day goes on and sometimes this is welcomed and other times it can be quite distracting and even counterproductive. When this autonomic response needs to be lessened or calmed, people employ a variety of techniques such taking a casual walk, listening to relaxing music, meditating, etc.

A short and useful mindfulness technique to reboot or recalibrate (return to zero) involves a focused awareness of the 3 “over-used” of our 5 senses.
In general, we use our sense of smell and sense of taste primarily when we are dining. If asked, “what do you smell?” or “what do you taste?” right now, you would, in all likelihood, say “nothing”.
Whereas our other three senses, hearing, seeing and feeling (kinesthetic, not emotions) are used constantly. (Even when we are sleeping, we are aware of kinesthetic and hearing sensations and if dreaming, visual stimulation.)

The following description of a brief refocus/reboot technique is just one iteration of techniques that have been used for thousands of years to calm the autonomic nervous system when needed. It is a technique that can be used frequently during the day, takes just a couple of minutes, and becomes increasingly effective when used often. Personally, I use it between patient appointments and at the end of my work day to help return to zero…to start fresh.

Begin by sitting comfortably with eyes open. Inhale gently and on the exhale silently ask yourself the question, “What am I aware of hearing?” And then just listen while continuing to breath easily. Respond to the question with the awareness of what was most prominent to your hearing. Examples of responses could include the sound of the air conditioning, noises or voices from another room, sound of traffic outside, etc. After you have listened and responded, repeat the question with the following one change. Ask yourself, “What ELSE am I aware of hearing?”, as if you are listening beyond the first sound you heard. Follow a similar method as before: Inhale gently and on the exhale ask the question, pause, continue to breath easily, listen and then respond.

This pattern is then repeated with the visual sense, changing the questions to, “What am I aware of seeing?” and, “What ELSE am I aware of seeing.”

Next, the pattern is repeated for the auditory sense, changing the questions to, “What am I aware of hearing?” and, “What ELSE am I aware of hearing.

This should be a relaxed, casual, slow and easy process. Speak to yourself in a slower pace than usual and let the experience move slowly. All three steps will barely take 60 seconds. After doing the process once, all three steps should then be repeated. A very effective way to calm, refocus and reboot in just a couple of minutes or so.

The state-of-the-art on the science and evidence of what we know about concussion


In contrast to what some clinicians and lay persons may believe, there is no such thing as a concussion test. While brain scans are necessary to differentiate between mTBIs and complicated-mild TBIs, they cannot exclusively be relied upon to diagnose mTBI. In other words, neuroimaging is not a concussion test. Similarly, neuropsychological testing and computerized cognitive screening can help clarify the nature and extent of cognitive symptoms experienced following a concussion, but also are not concussion tests. Additional examinations and tests can help inform healthcare professionals and family members about various aspects of the youngster’s condition following a concussion, but none of them is a concussion test per se. Such exams and tests include the following: biomarker assays (e.g., S-100B serum levels; Oris et al. 2018), electroencephalography (EEG), neurological exam, physical exam, postural stability (i.e., balance) testing, graded symptom checklists, and various phone apps. Although these assessment methods are of value in the clinical management of children and teens following concussion, they should not be misinterpreted as concussion tests.


Bender and Matusewicz (2013) articulated their concerns about the postconcussional syndrome diagnosis. These authors pointed out that the symptoms of postconcussional syndrome (e.g., headache, dizziness, emotional, or cognitive changes) are not specific to concussion and may not actually be a direct result of the concussion, but may flow from other sources, including pre-concussion psychiatric problems or substance abuse. Although not as applicable to young children, this would be important to consider with teenagers diagnosed with postconcussional syndrome. Similarly, neurodevelopmental delays, delivery complications (e.g., anoxia (lack of oxygen) at birth), and pregnancy irregularities (Kaufman et al. 2016) should be considered when trying to draw conclusions about postconcussional syndrome symptomatology. Bender and Matusewicz noted that concussion checklists can lead to overreporting of symptoms and that scores on such checklists predicted worse scoring on performance validity tests, raising questions about the validity of a postconcussional syndrome diagnosis, which is based entirely on self-report. Finally, these authors asserted that “the literature strongly suggests that postconcussional syndrome lacks specificity and that it has questionable diagnostic utility” (p. 114). Failure to appreciate the non-specific nature of postconcussional symptoms can lead to misdiagnosis of postconcussional syndrome and persistent symptomatology (Larrabee 1997; Larrabee 2005).


The power of authority commanded by healthcare professionals who diagnose postconcussional syndrome can trigger or fuel psychological mechanisms that contribute to or underlie the postconcussional symptoms. Put plainly, the healthcare professional making this diagnosis [i.e., postconcussional syndrome] can literally bring the diagnosis to life…thereby having an iatrogenic (i.e., harmful) effect on the patient. This phenomenon has been studied as is sometimes called response expectancy (Suhr and Wei 2013), a subtype of which is diagnosis threat (Suhr and Gunstad 2002). Thus, children and teens undergoing neuropsychological assessment in the context of concussion might underperform on the tests because they have come to believe that their symptoms were caused by the concussion. This is more likely if parents fuel such beliefs, which is not uncommon, especially if the parent has been misinformed.


More research on the long-term sequelae is needed to better understand the incidence and prevalence of CTE [i.e., chronic traumatic encephalopathy] and other neurological conditions among former athletes. The causes of mental health and cognitive problems in former athletes, like the general population, are broad and diverse including genetics, life stress, general medical problems (eg, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease), chronic bodily pain, substance abuse, neurological conditions and disease (eg, cerebrovascular disease) and neurodegenerative diseases (eg, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and ALS).The extent to which repetitive neurotrauma causes static or progressive changes in brain microstructure and physiology, and contributes to later lifemental health and cognitive problems, is poorly understood and requires further study. (p. 8)


…high school football is associated with an increased risk of concussion, and yet no causative link has been established between playing high school football and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., MCI or dementia), is consistent with the most common clinical outcome among youth athletes who experience a concussion. Namely, they generally get better within about 10 days or less. This encouraging theme in the literature was described by Kirkwood et al. (2012) as follows:

…existing prospective controlled studies indicate that most high school and older athletes appear to return to baseline within 7-10 days after a concussion…Some percentage of athletes can be expected to display concussion-related problems beyond 1-2 weeks…

Although noncontrolled studies may be able to provide the number of athletes who display persistent postconcussive problems, they fail to account for the base rate occurrence of common postconcussive symptoms among non-head-inured individuals or account for false positives—that is, the number of nonconcussed athletes who would report ‘postconcussive’ symptoms or would be classified as impaired on objective testing at the time of postinjury measurement. (p. 345)

In other words, while a very small minority of concussed young athletes experience concussion-related symptoms beyond the typical timeframe of 7 to 10 days, the evidence of persisting symptoms is confounded by the fact that youngsters without a history of concussion experience these same symptoms for other reasons that have nothing to do with head injury.

It is important to emphasize that SIS (Second Impact Syndrome) is believed to be very uncommon and that it may even be a mischaracterization of some other neurobiological process. According to McCrory (2001), for example, SIS is more accurately viewed as diffuse cerebral swelling.

Recommendations for Pediatric Neuropsychologists

First, perhaps the most important recommendation is to know what a concussion is, and what it is not. In contrast to what is communicated in the media (Carone 2014), a concussion is not a grave or indelibly harmful injury, so parents, teachers, and other concerned parties should not worry about long-term negative consequences as a result of a concussion. Even though “The expected duration of symptoms in children with [sport-related concussion] is up to 4 weeks…” (McCrory et al. 2017) (p. 7), most children will probably experience a full recovery within 7–10 days. It is, therefore, recommended that pediatric neuropsychologists share this valuable information with those they serve.

Fifth, perhaps counterintuitively, it is recommended that pediatric neuropsychologists encourage a quick return to normal activities (Carroll et al. 2004; Ponsford et al. 2001), following the brief period of rest over the first 24 to 48 h. This does not, however, mean a quick return to activities that carry an increased risk for another concussion, as explained above.

Sixth, because there are no concussion tests, it is recommended that pediatric neuropsychologists disabuse parents and other relevant parties of the belief that such a test exists.

post partum depression

Post-Partum Depression

The arrival of my baby was the cliché , “the best day of my life”. I fell in love with this little human the moment he took his first breathe out the womb. This immense deep feeling was something I never felt before. Yes, you love your significant other, your parents, family, and friends. For me, nothing could even come close to how I felt when he laid his little head on me. I knew instantly that I wanted only the best for my baby and that I would love this little human unconditionally.

Little did I know that this love would be cut short 2 months later. I got very sick, where I could not get out of bed. I was diagnosed with the Flu and was then was put on medication. My mother and sister stayed with my baby, so he would not get sick. My breast milk dried up and I felt like the worse mother in the world. I was advised not to breastfeed my baby until I was fully recovered. Mothers are supposed to provide for their children and here I was, I could not feed my own child. Through out my pregnancy I read books and scavenger the internet for the bests ways to raise a newborn. I chose the path of breastfeeding, as this was the most natural way for a newborn to gain the nutrients needed. As I pumped out the breast milk and threw it away, each day began to feel like torture. Soon I did not want to hold my baby. I felt like a failure and that I was an unfit mother.

Postpartum depression set in quickly. It changed my entire mood, my sleep schedule, my eating habits, and my whole life. My doctor and family desperately looked for ways to help me. Some treatments were sleeping pills, which I would never try. Other treatments were seeing a therapist, which helped to get a different perspective of what I was going through. Each day was different, some were great, and others were rough.

I eventually was cleared from my doctor to start physical activities. I signed up for a yoga class with my sister. Within 5 minutes, I started to cry and ran out, my sister follows me. She hugged me in silence as I continued to sob. She looked at me and said you can do this! I washed my face and went back to the class. I stared taking yoga classes every week. This helped me calm my nerves and clear my mind. As a former ballerina, yoga has allowed me to reconnect with myself through the poses. I began to feel full and happy again.
Post-partum depression is real. I realized I was not a failure as a mother. I just needed a little help, support, and guidance.

sports burnout

Burnout in Sports

Having played soccer for over 13 years, it was all I ever really knew growing up. As a child most of my time was spent at soccer fields, whether it was for my games, training, or watching my brothers play. Everybody always tells you, “It’s great that you have a huge passion for the sport”, but nobody really addresses the fact that the pressure can really get to you after some time. You push and push your body until you reach a point where you just don’t function the same. The constant pushing not only messes with your physical well being, but it all takes a
toll on your mental state.

Having to constantly push yourself because your team is counting on you and having pressure from your parents, eventually leads to a burnout. You work so hard growing up in order to earn a spot on a collegiate team, and you feel as if one of your deepest desires has been fulfilled. However, then you realize that this is only going to intensify over the course of the next few years. It then hits you that you are burning out. You try your best but there’s only so much you can give before you realize that you have to stop.

Having to say goodbye to the sport that you had played for most of your life is devastating. There comes a point where you truly understand that even though you still really like the port, you simply just cannot perform at the level you once used to. I was going to defer for a season and join in the spring, but as time passed it became clear that my life was headed towards a different direction and even if I wanted to play soccer again, I simply could not. I had more things to focus on and realized that soccer was my past and it was time to move forward.

food and female

The Battle Between Female, Focus and Food

by Cara Puscasiu

Ever since I was little I could remember being too afraid to wear shorts because my legs were too skinny. I would look at my stomach in the mirror and pinch my skin, convincing myself it was fat and reiterating that my proportions would never be ideal. It wasn’t until I became an athlete that I had the confidence to wear shorts to school. My legs were defined with muscle now, I wasn’t a “stick” anymore, as people liked to call me. I thought that I had overcome all my body image issues but that was just the beginning of falling into a deeper hole that would take over my life. It started with fabricated diets that I created. I went sugar-free for months straight, I wouldn’t even eat ketchup. Then came the ‘all vegetable and white meat diets’, no carbs, no steak, no salt. Then came the ‘cleansing’ teas, made of apple cider vinegar and lemons and ginger that burned my stomach to shreds. Then came the laxatives, the desire to feel empty. My favorite feeling was to go to sleep hungry. If I felt a rumble in my stomach and lightheadedness, I could go to sleep peacefully. While my diets changed every few months, one thing never changed, the pinch of my skin on my stomach. It felt like a portable measuring tool that was with me whenever I needed to remind myself how well I was doing or how much more I needed to restrict.

My junior year of high school I made the impactful decision to send myself to a sports and education preparatory performance high school and stay for two years as a boarding student. Without the constant support from my parents who helped me eat and stay on top of my meals, I knew the control of my body was now completely up to me. Unfortunately, this mindset was the opposite of what you might optimistically think I wanted to do. The control was now mine, no one could tell me what to eat. My schedule was jarring. School was from 7AM to 1PM and after that, practice from 1:30PM to 5:30PM. This wasn’t good enough for me, though. I went running from 5:30AM to 6:30AM to burn extra calories, which would then come from the one coffee that I would drink before going to class. After class, I’d run to the cafeteria and get cucumbers and a piece of chicken. To hold myself over, I would sometimes scoop a little bit of tuna or pasta into my plate as a reward. Then I went to practice for 4 hours and then stayed longer in the trainer’s room to do ab workouts. I ended the day with a pinch to my stomach skin and a rumbling tummy.

What were silly diets escalated to calorie counting, every single day. I would aim for a net gain of 1,000 calories a day. This included the subtraction of calories burned during three hours of practice, one hour of conditioning, half an hour of abs and one hour of running. If I am being realistic with myself, I was probably only storing around 500 calories a day, not a thousand because I made sure to count my calories on myfitnesspal higher than I was eating and calculate my exercise hours lower just to make sure I wasn’t ‘cheating’ myself. I turned to our nutritionist who would come talk to my team every couple weeks. I asked her in a suspicious way, how I could become lean and skinny. She didn’t understand this cry for help, she genuinely thought I just wanted to be educated on lean meat to keep myself from bloating before matches. My coach overhead this entire conversation and without even knowing my past, he heard my cry for help loud and clear. He sat me down and explained that athletes’ bodies are machines for us. Tennis players are strong, they are broad and they are quick. He sympathized with me, remembering that 30 years ago, my father was his student as well at the same academy, on the same courts, and now he is a marathon runner, 145 pounds, 6 1’, and reminded me that my mom is 95 pounds, with a six pack. These are the two role models I’ve looked to my whole life. He knew me for around 6 months and could already draw these impactful conclusions, he saw me and he heard me without me saying a word.

I do not want to keep describing my story and giving ideas of what an eating disorder should be like. The best part of this story is the recovery. My coach decided I had to meet with the nutritionist once a week. She decided to chart my eating, (send her pictures of every meal, etc), long story short, after a quick few months, I got sent to the school psychologist. It’s important to remember that nutritionists tell us what to eat to be healthy, eating disorders are your brain telling you how little to eat. Eating disorders are scary because you lose sight of what is normal. Your mind is so convincing, it made me realize that my brain is all I had and I was losing my battle to it. No one anyone could ever tell me would help, it was up to me to fight harder. You hear “but you’re so skinny!” and “you shouldn’t feel insecure!” all the damn time but that doesn’t help, no words of ‘comfort’ help. You have to believe those things within yourself to make a real change and you have to be willing to make a change. It’s so scary, it’s so painful but over time, you will see, it’s worth it.

I am not perfect today, but I am aware of the person I used to be. I still catch myself minimizing the severity of my mental health. If I were in my own shoes a few years ago, I would have wanted to know that there is a much happier side of life. This was not a battle with my body, it was one with my mind. It is not as black and white as it is portrayed to be in the media when we hear about “eating disorders”. Women athletes are put under so much pressure to be who the world wants us to be, as well as being high-level athletes. I know now, that I would rather feel strong, no matter who the dysmorphia is in the mirror. When I was weak, I couldn’t perform my sport the way I knew I could. Winning is not just on the field, or the court, or the track, it’s in your mind. I hope if anyone who is reading this is battling the same battle, just know, you are not alone and that there is a world of so much more happiness than numbers and mirrors. It may take some time but winning is worth it, I promise.


The Sport of tennis

Have you ever heard a song you like so much that you play it over and over again until you want to press skip whenever it comes on? Well, imagine listening to that same song over and over again everyday for twelve years.

The sport of tennis became this kind of song for me. From the first time I picked up a racket at six years old, I fell in love with the sport. I wanted to dedicate my life to it, I wanted to become the greatest, I thought I had found my purpose. As the years went on, more and more days came where I wanted to skip the song, but never the less I kept it on my playlist and kept listening. Don’t get me wrong, even when you get tired of your favorite song, you still love the song, you just don’t want to listen to it everyday.

Twelve years later, I am all I’ve always wanted to be: an NCAA Division 1 tennis player. But now that I’m here I see it isn’t how I always imagined it. I love my team, I love my coaches, I love competing, but it isn’t the love I once had. Most days it takes a tremendous amount of will and mental effort to get myself out on the court, to get myself to want to be there. A wave of dread sweeps over me before every practice, and I question if I can make it through the next three years, but I remind myself how good four years of a Division 1 sport looks on a Law School application. It’s hard because even though I may be tired of this song, listening to it reminds me why I loved it in the first place, but most days the struggle is simply hitting the play

Learning how to help my Brother

It was the month of November 2010
I was heading home to visit my father who was ill and my brother who had recently shown signs of OCD and Schizophrenia. Throughout my brothers childhood he had maybe only showed signs of Attention Deficit Disorder which was never officially diagnosed or addressed do to denial and or disagreement by my parents as to how to handle it. He never heard voices, talked to himself or paced back and forth like he was now. After a few experiments with drugs, it seems as though this was a switch that activated these conditions.

My mother, father nor any if by brother’s friends knew how to deal with his current condition. Education for family members on coping skills regarding mental health is crucial. Not only for the betterment of the afflicted but for the loved ones as well.

While visiting I was able to see first hand the unhealthy environment. My brother would pace off and on for hours, he’s taken walks with only a t-shirt in freezing temperatures and tried exiting a moving vehicle. In the state of Illinois if someone is over 18 exhibiting such behavior, there isn’t much one can do except call the police. Which, I did not believe was the appropriate course of action. Determined to help I devised a plan to trick my brother into going to the hospital. once I got him there and explained what he had been doing they kept him for observation. Against his belief, because he thought nothing was wrong and that he was fine. By Illinois law they could only keep him for 72 hours unless he was a harm to himself or someone else. I think trying to get out of a moving car and wearing only a t-shirt in freezing weather is potentially harmful to oneself. I knew 72 hours wasn’t long enough, he needed real treatment.

My girlfriend and I found a woman online. Her name was Karen. She was instrumental in helping us find resources that we needed to get my brother help. She had a brother that suffered and ultimately passed away from mental illness. But she fought for years to get him the help he needed. In the state of Illinois once a person is 18 they have control of themselves. Unless you have guardianship you have no control over whether or not someone gets help.

My brother ended up remaining in treatment for 6 months. This because I had an advocate in Karen. And constant threats of legal action if they were to let my brother out before he was better. You see, I had years of his detrimental behavior as proof he was not well and needed help.

A big issue with mental health is recognition and then treatment. Those suffering might not recognize anything is wrong. So those family members that do recognize it are trapped until that loved one causes harm to him or herself or someone else. Even after treatment the issue of continued treatment becomes a challenge.

My brother receives a monthly shot and is able to recognize the benefits. He feels much better with the medication. This was not the case initially. Once he felt better he would refuse to continue his treatment. This makes sense in many cases. If one has a headache medication helps and that’s that. But if one has diabetes, well now they might need medication for the rest of their life. That was the process I was able to help my brother understand. This was his new journey and continued treatment would only help him have more control of his life and it has.

eating disorder

A Story About Eating Disorders

It is no secret that impossible modern beauty standards have caused many people, especially women, to look in the mirror and hate what they see. Indeed, not every woman’s body is shaped like the runway models walking at New York Fashion Week or the Instagram-famous influencers that appear in sponsored posts. We’re not all shaped like Kendall or Kylie Jenner. Now, imagine what these body standards do to women athletes. I know I do not look like Kendall or Kylie, mainly because of genetics, but my statement is also caused by the fact that I am an athlete. I cannot be on a restrictive model’s diet, and I have to work out parts of my body that make me bigger than the frame of the beautiful body standard.

I think I am lucky to be a tennis player when it comes to discussing how women athletes are able to make themselves feel beautiful or feminine. Women tennis players have the options of wearing dresses and tying their hair up in a stylish fashion when competing. I know women athletes like swimmers do not have these options, and I acknowledge that fact. However, being a tennis player did not stop me from self scrutiny about that way I looked growing up. My height peaked when I was 12 years old at 5’2. I was an average height at 12 years old, but, as my peers started growing, I stayed the same. I was a short woman, always being looked down upon. As a child, I was overweight. Although I trained daily, I was never considered skinny, and I remember going into the doctor’s office and seeing the rapid weight gain on the growth chart. The line eventually flattened in high school, yet I’ve never felt the desired “skinny” that seemingly made other girls look beautiful. Because I trained daily, my shoulders were broad and my build was stocky. I remember how my coach would joke about how I could compete in a Men’s tournament. Throughout middle school and high school, I hated myself. Why didn’t I look like those fit Instagram workout gurus when I practiced everyday? Why didn’t I look like those skinny, pretty girls in my year? Why didn’t I love the image I saw in the mirror?

Before I graduated high school, during my senior year, something clicked in my head. Fat equals bad. Fat equals food. Therefore, food equals bad. I never got myself medically diagnosed during this period of time in my life, so I do not know if I was suffering from an eating disorder.

However, I do recognize the facts from my perspective. Everyday for that period of time I would not eat. Every morning, my parents would make my siblings and I a nice, hearty breakfast. Sometimes eggs and bacon. Sometimes pancakes. Sometimes both. I avoided these meals by staying in my room till the minute before my dad would have to take us to school, so I would not have time to eat. Instead, I started drinking tea. I resorted to caffeine instead of a real meal. I would make tea very quickly and put it into a thermos. This tea would replace my breakfast and lunch. This tea would “sustain” me throughout my seven AP, honors classes and my hour and a half tennis lesson afterschool. Sometimes I would let myself bring a bag of carrots to snack on, but when I didn’t, I drank water to fill my grumbling stomach. One day, my dad brought donuts home from work, and I remember sitting next to the box and just smelling them to imagine the fulfilling taste. I always went to sleep feeling hungry. Headaches and fatigue were normal in this period of time. I remember looking into the mirror and slowly seeing my stomach getting smaller, but I noticed the most difference in my face. My jawline became clear and apparent, and my cheeks have sunken in. My eyebags were prominent, exposing the fatigue I felt from the lack of energy. The ironic part of this transformation was that despite the skeleton I saw in the mirror, I was praised for the changes in my body. I was often mistaken for my younger sister, who at the time was significantly smaller than me. The mothers who watched us play praised me for my weight loss and asked what I did. And my coach stopped making fun of me for the way I looked.

I was not okay. During my classes, I wanted to sleep all the time, and I was never fully focused on the lectures. During practice, I stopped hitting the ball as hard, and I got easily irritated with my opponents and my coach. I was not myself. Luckily, my junior year tennis statistics got me into my dream college, but I knew I was not the same. Before graduation, I told myself that I would get better. I could leave the stresses and drama of high school behind. I would focus on myself and my happiness, and I did. Slowly, I started joining the family meals. I allowed myself to take small portions of meat to start off the journey. Soon, I added vegetables because I was still afraid of consuming the carbs that I equated to weight gain. However, after days upon days of honest discussions with my friends and prayer, I learned to allow myself to eat what my body needed to live and what my mind needed to stay healthy. Discussion allowed me to acknowledge the unhealthy problems in my life and realize how I have been depriving myself of simple, essential happiness. Prayer allowed me to realize the most important aspects of life: loving God and loving yourself. My portions were small in the beginning, but soon I started to eat the portions necessary for me to thrive as a student and an athlete. I started adding more vegetables to my diet for a more fulfilling meal, and I added additional workouts to my tennis practice that would allow me to work on my body in a healthy manner. It wasn’t easy, but it took all of my mental strength and willpower to treat myself like I deserved to be treated. This body helped me complete 11 AP classes throughout my high school career. This body helped me walk across the graduation stage to accept Scholar Athlete of the Year. This body helped me get into a Division 1 college with my tennis skill. I started to love my body more than ever before, and to this day, I have educated myself on healthy eating and habits that make me feel like the strong woman I always was internally.