features

The Power of Positivity: Guest Speaker Ivy Watts on Mental Health in Athletics

Nicole Letendre ’23

Features Editor

Holy Cross Athletics and COPE (Counseling Outreach Peer Educators) welcomed guest speaker Ivy Watts, a former track and field athlete who holds a Master’s in Public Health and who is the founder of the mental health self-love blog “Beautifully Simply You”, to discuss her personal struggles with mental health as an athlete, to challenge the stigma, and to provide students with hand-on strategies to manage negative self-talk. Ms. Watts opened up about the extremely high goals she set for herself during her time competing in collegiate track and field, reflecting that “To me, doing my best meant being the best.” This mentality was unsustainable, and she struggled with her mental health before eventually finding therapy services. She explained that athletic success is 85% mental and 15% additional factors, such as natural talent or practice. Through her journey, she realized that she needed to care for both aspects in order to meet the high goals she had set for herself. Now, Ms. Watts has directed her passion for mental health towards outreach, helping others to recognize their own voice and feel comfortable speaking up about their struggles.

Graphic design by Nicole Letendre ’23

Throughout the presentation, she offered helpful ways to be a friend to someone who is struggling, starting with the most simple, yet exceptionally powerful way—listening. Ms. Watts encouraged these conversations, saying, “Listening can be really, really powerful…When you listen, you say the words I hear you and I see you without actually saying the words.” Additionally, validating each other’s feelings and asking open-ended questions can help facilitate an effective conversation regarding mental health. Especially during these unconventional times, where we are often disconnected from one another, it is important to remember her next beautiful point—”And finally, just be kind.” Everybody has their own story, which needs to be heard and validated. Though there were plenty of words of wisdom in Ms. Watts discussion, one of the most powerful perspectives was referencing the individuality of our stories—”Nobody experienced it quite like you did…Your story matters, because you matter.”

Prioritizing your own mental health by doing things you enjoy, and even just taking a break, can be so beneficial in the long run. Journaling one good thing about your day, positive affirmations, responses to prompts, or even just free-flow writing can help to gather your thoughts in a healthy and mindful way. Ms. Watts also encouraged forms of meditation, beyond the traditional mode of silence and stillness. She discussed that meditation is all about living with uncertainty, and remaining in the present. Going for a walk, dancing, being in nature, or exercising are all forms of meditation that emphasize gratitude and living in the moment. 

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with their mental health, there are so many resources available. In addition to the Holy Cross Counseling Center and Health Services, the following resources can provide support related to various mental health struggles: the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Crisis Text Line, My3 App, Therapy for Black Men, Therapy for Black Girls, and the Trevor Project. Your mental health is important, and there are resources to walk you through all the ups and downs. Ms. Watts concluded by acknowledging, “There is so much power in positivity.”

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