5 Steps for Overcoming Athlete Depression | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

5 Steps for Overcoming Athlete Depression

May 13, 2013 | Jazmin Dorsey


After a game-winning play, what do you see? Fans chanting in joy and athletes celebrating their victory. But rewind the clock a few seconds and the picture could look vastly different.

In this scenario, the game is going down to the wire and it's "make or break" time for the players. Sports are filled with such high-tension moments. But although they add excitement for the fans, they place a great deal of pressure on the athletes. (Read Thrive Under Pressure by Understanding Your Mindset.)

Heavy pressure on a daily basis is tough on your mental health. Yet it's something all athletes have to deal with. For pro players, it's the fear of disappointing the fans, their families and their teammates. For high school and college athletes, it's the need to be good enough to satisfy their coaches and to get to the next level. (From High School to College to the NFL: Pressure and How to Handle It.)

Becoming overwhelmed by pressure can cause an individual to develop a mental illness such as depression. And like any disease, depression poses a threat to the athletes and the people around them.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in America alone more than 6 million men suffer from depression each year. Depression among women and minorities is even higher, as stated in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Here's the good news. Pressure is easier to deal with if you take simple steps in your daily routine. Here are five ways as easy as cracking a smile.

Laughter and Communication

Sometimes the best medicine for staying happy is just to kick back and spend time with friends and family.

Laughter can lessen depression symptoms and improve mood, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Research from the UMMC shows that a good chuckle can reduce levels of stress hormones.

Another way to safeguard yourself is to build a support system of understanding friends, family and counselors. This will allow you to communicate with others about the stress you are feeling.

It works too. Royals pitcher Zach Greinke, who had a fallout over depression and social anxiety, spoke out and encouraged other players to do the same (Sports Illustrated, CNN).

Breaking a Sweat

There is a reason you feel rejuvenated after a good run, an extra cardio session or a bout of stretching. Exercise gives your body an energy boost that makes you feel good all over. When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals such as neurotransmitters and endorphins that ease depression (Mayo Clinic).

Athletes like Shaquille O'Neal, who owns gyms in many locations, exercise as much as they can to maintain their health.

Future Talk

Making plans for the future can help prevent or overcome depression. The goal here is to keep moving forward. Nothing major is necessary. Simple things like getting up early for a morning walk can keep you on the road to happiness and satisfaction.

When NHL player Stéphane Richer suffered from depression, he decided to make his life better by seeing a counselor (Sports Illustrated, CNN).


Getting enough sleep gives you a mental and physical boost. When we sleep, our brains release hormones that trigger functions such as restoring energy and strengthening the immune system (Washington Post). Without sleep, our bodies can fall apart.

Regularly Chowing Down 

Eating healthy has a positive effect on the brain. This doesn't necessarily mean sticking to fruits and veggies and kicking the treats. It means eating regularly, eating balanced meals and eating healthy snacks between meals. (See How To Sustain Healthy Eating Habits.)

Must See
Abby Wambach Will Do Whatever It Takes
Views: 2,917,362
Brandon Jennings: "Always Improve"
Views: 2,761,355
Michael Jordan: Mind of a Champion
Views: 545,210

Featured Videos

Dwight Howard Ab Workout Views: 62,466
John Wall Elbow-to-Elbow Shooting Drill Views: 186,408
Elite Performance with Mike Boyle: Build Explosive Power With Contrast Training Views: 17,723
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Colby Lewis's Post-Game Band Splitter Routine
Views: 8,349,368
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,988,602
Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach
Views: 8,690,610
Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,504
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,175,033

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Make Goals, Not Deals

How to 'Keep Your Cool' on the Football Field

Home Field Advantage Is Real, Says Science

The One Word You Should Never Say to Yourself

5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Athlete

6 Ways Sport Parents Are Doing It Wrong

How Mental Performance Affects Your Workouts

How to Improve Mental Focus on the Baseball Diamond

Overcome Your Fear of Failure

Growth Mindset: How to Think Like a Champion

Why You Should Be Training Instead of Exercising

3 Ways to Develop Your Football Warrior Mentality

Does Home Field Actually Confer an Advantage?

Tips to Be a Better Leader

How Mentally Tough Are You?

4 Tips for Building Confidence

The Athletic Brain: How to Learn to Anticipate

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

The Art of Strength and Conditioning Coaching

The Holistic Approach to Impactful Sports Coaching

6 Ideas to Build a More Cohesive Team

4 Obstacles to Better Goal Setting

5 Tips for Playing Mentally Tough Tennis

Build Mental Toughness in the Weight Room

How Mental Flexibility Boosts Your Game

Regain Your Confidence by Getting BIG

Positive Affirmations for Athletes

Why Athletes Must Focus on Developing Their Own Identity

What's Your Backup Plan When 'Plan A' Fails?

5 Steps to Changing a Bad Habit

Get Tough on Your Goals to Get Fit

Mental Warm-Up: How to Build Confidence Before a Game

Use Sports Psychology Against Your Opponents

Stress Exposure Training for Basketball

Can a Faster Brain Increase Sports Performance?

Overcome the 5 Most Common Mental Mistakes in Sports

Don't Take Your Headphones to the Gym

4 Reasons Your Team Is Losing

How Nik Wallenda Prepared to Walk Across the Grand Canyon

Study: Athletes Think Faster, More Accurately Than Non-Athletes

A Coach Describes What It

How Clayton Kershaw Gets in the Zone