Mental Health

The mind and body are intertwined. This COVID-19 pandemic has disturbed our lives. One aspect that has been affected is our minds. Since March, we have added fears and anxieties. Many cannot sleep well. Depression is at an all-time high. This pandemic has spared no one — including world-class athletes.

I remember Mary Joy Tabal’s honest confession to me a few months back: “Grabeh ako prayers (I prayed a lot), like every night jud, praying for something that would divert my worries, my overthinking. I always want to be productive and the lockdown was so difficult.”

Elite athletes are not ordinary people. They push their bodies and minds to the extreme levels. They are restless, often sweating for hours everyday. They set targets. The best of them, including Joy, wanted to run the Tokyo Olympics last August. They had to stay in bed and watch CLOY.

Stanford University and Strava partnered in a study, “Impacts of COVID-19 on Professional Athletes.” They interviewed 131 top U.S. athletes to check on the effects of COVID-19. The results are not shocking.

A good 22.5% of these elite athletes reported feeling down or depressed during the COVID-19 restrictions — a 5.8 times increase compared to last year. Before the lockdown, only 4.7% reported feeling anxious more than half the days in a week. This pandemic: 27.9% of them feel nervous — a six-fold increase in anxiety levels. Seventy one percent of them are worried about their finances.

“It’s pretty obvious that people right now, given everything that’s been going on in 2020, the calamity across the board, that people are going to have mental health struggles and difficulty exercising and a lot of these symptoms,” says Dr. Megan Roche, in a article by Sean Gregory, “COVID-19 Shutdowns Have Taken a Massive Toll On Elite Athletes’ Mental Health.”

Rebecca Mehra, a respondent who was preparing for the U.S. Olympic trials, said: “It makes you feel more normal to know other athletes have been frustrated and having a tough time. I was just in such a rut. I didn’t want to get up and go to practice. I barely felt like running.” 

Pedro Gomes, an Ironman triathlete, added: “Mentally, I was definitely lost. I just did not know how long the (swimming) pool was going to be closed for. The uncertainty of not knowing when this is going to end and being completely out of my control, it was something scary.”

This study was conducted from March to August. The good news is that many restrictions have been lifted. But if elite athletes, whose minds and bodies we’d consider superior and invulnerable, get affected mentally, how much more us, ordinary mortals?

My learning from this: Take care of yourself. Mind and body are one. If you take care of your physical self, it will improve your mental state. One of the best ways is to exercise regularly. Exercise clears the stress hormones out of our system and helps us relax and calm down. It improves our mood. Exercise is the most potent and underutilized antidepressant.. and it’s free. 

Categorized as Covid-19

The Queen’s Gambit

Spoiler Alert: If you have yet to watch the latest Netflix sensation bearing this article’s title, stop reading this. And do the next best thing: Watch the 7-part drama series that has catapulted to the top ratings since it debuted last Oct. 23. You’ll laugh, feel mesmerized at the sight of a genius; you’ll probably cry and fall in love with chess.

Anya Taylor-Joy was superb. Her portrayal of the troubled chess prodigy Beth Harmon was outstanding. Same with the other cast members in this TV miniseries that’s set in the late 1950s and ‘60s.

This Netflix original is about chess. It’s about brainpower. It’s about battling addiction. It’s about obsessiveness and the need to be abnormal and manic to achieve greatness. It’s about the U.S. vs. the U.S.S.R. It’s about the power of being a woman in a sport that’s all-male. It’s about remembering the past and letting go. It’s about falling down and rising. It’s about friendship.

Like many who have watched The Queen’s Gambit, this is one of the best TV shows that I’ve watched. If there’s only one negative: this miniseries is not a true story. But it may well be. It’s adapted from a book written by Walter Tevis in 1983. Both the book and the Netflix show bear the same title. This is not the author’s first blockbuster as he also wrote “The Hustler” in 1959. And for many who lived in the ‘60s, “The Hustler” movie is the classic starring Paul Newman. Mr. Tevis also wrote “The Color of Money.” This became another blockbuster starring Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. You will note that the author Walter Tevis wrote about sports — pool (billiards) and chess.  

With The Queen’s Gambit, if you’re a chess lover, you’ll adore this show. (While writing this, I remembered the late Boy Pestaño, our dear friend and fellow columnist who penned a chess column here called “Chessmoso.” He would have relished the show.)

Why “The Queen’s Gambit?” It has a double meaning. The word “gambit,” as we know, is a gimmick or ploy to lure another person. In the game of chess, the Queen’s Gambit is one of the most popular moves where one sacrifices a pawn or some pieces with the end goal of gaining control of the game and winning. Beth Harmon, the queen of chess, played this trick perfectly in the finale.

NETFLIX. If you’re a sports lover, there are many more sports-related shows to watch. For sure, you have seen “The Last Dance,” the 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan. 

“The Playbook” is a show I highly recommend. A top-caliber coach is interviewed not only for his or her views on the sport but also on his philosophies and tips in life. I relished the dialogues with Jose Mourinho, Doc Rivers and Patrick Moutaroglou (Serena Williams’ coach).

“Icarus” is an amazing documentary about sports-doping, cycling and Russia’s state-sponsored cheating. “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” is excellent. And, being a tennis fan, “Guillermo Vilas: Settling the Score” is a film I plan to watch tonight. 

Categorized as Chess