Naomi Osaka Chose Her Mental Health. Here’s How You Can Too.
I love to see Black women put themselves, their happiness, and their wellbeing first in spite of societal pressures and expectations.
So you can imagine how I felt when I saw tennis champion Naomi Osaka make the brave decision to withdraw from the French Open on account of protecting her mental health—a decision that has drawn both support from fellow athletes and fans worldwide, as well as ire from the powers that be and people who simply hate seeing Black women in power.
Like many casual sports fans, I first became aware of Naomi back in 2018 when she beat Serena Williams, but I fell in love with the Japanese tennis player as she used her platform to amplify social justice issues, particularly #BlackLivesMatter.
Through it all, Naomi has been unapologetically herself and has taught us all an important lesson in being true to yourself, your values, and your mental health in the process.
As writer Breya M. Johnson wrote on Twitter: "Naomi Osaka is demonstrating the power of refusal. To refuse work at the expense of our health, wellness, & more. To refuse humiliation under the guise of professionalism. Refusal is beautiful. It’s even better when we do it collectively. Support her and workers who aren’t rich."
While all of us don’t have the privilege of walking away from our jobs (hello, adulting), there are some small but impactful ways you can take back your power and set boundaries around your mental health:
Put yourself at the top of your to-do list.
I get it, you’re busy and it seems like everyone (your friends, family, partner, boss, etc.) wants and needs something from you.
Spoiler: That’s never going to change, so you might as well tend to your wants and needs first.
As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. So be sure to fill yours at the start of the day with a five-minute meditation, quick stretch or walk around the block, or perhaps a quiet cup of tea — whatever floats your boat, really.
Commit to not checking email and work-related apps after hours.
Your off time is your time. Unless you’re a first responder or healthcare professional, chances are that email can wait until you’re back on the clock.
Remember, you teach people how to treat you. If you make a habit of responding to emails off hours, you’re sending the message to your supervisor and colleagues that your time is not valuable and you’re always available. Setting parameters around communication gives your brain and body a chance to recoup after a hard day’s work.
Plan and use your PTO.
According to a 2018 study from the U.S. Travel Association, American workers left 768 million days of paid time off on the table—a 9% increase from 2017. And I suspect that trend is only heading upward given the pandemic and the shift to WFH for many companies.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If taking time off is hard for you, enlist a VAB (vacation accountability buddy) to ensure you’re using at least one day per quarter. Because in the words of The Weeknd, “You're always worth it, and you deserve it, the way you work it…you earned it.”
Remember that “no” is a full sentence.
While it’s tempting to offer a lengthy explanation for our actions, sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is simply “no.” Granted, it won’t always be that easy, and, yes, some instances will require more than a one-word answer.
There is so much power in saying “no” and walking away from that which is no longer serving you—be it a job, a relationship, or even a bad book.
It takes courage to stand up for yourself and it takes practice. But you can do it—and your mental health is counting on you.
#ThankYouNaomi: Thank you, @naomiosaka, for showing us what courage & vulnerability look like.— Shine (@TheShineApp) June 2, 2021
For reminding us it’s OK to say “no” if it comes at the expense of our mental health.
For challenging systems that try to pretend our mental health doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.
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