As we highlight the importance of taking care of your mental health in athletics, we talked with our ambassador Gracie Rice on her experience with mental health.
Gracie is 20 years old and has played hockey her entire life. This past year, Gracie decided to step away from her sport because of its impact on her mental health. The following interview goes through her journey with hockey and how she continues to respect and manage her mental health as an athlete.
In general, how has hockey impacted your mental health?
“For as long as I can remember, hockey impacted my mental health in a positive way. Hockey was always an outlet for me to enjoy myself, step away from whatever was going on outside of the rink, and have fun. Playing hockey gave me comfort and happiness throughout my life. Making the decision to step away from hockey was very difficult for me. After so many years of playing, I had a hard time believing that it had come to an end.”
While playing hockey, what did you do to manage your mental health?
“While playing hockey, I managed my mental health by trying to give myself as much grace as possible. I made an effort to stay well rested, fuel my body, prioritize self care, and I tried to maintain hockey as a positive outlet in my life. All of these factors remained the same and helped me throughout my 15 years of playing hockey, until I began playing collegiate ice hockey.”
At what point did you realize it was right to step away?
“I realized that it was time to step away from hockey when I began dreading going to the rink. What was once my favorite part of the day turned into the worst part of my day. I felt extremely overworked and burnt out physically, mentally, and emotionally. The environment I was in was not what I had hoped my collegiate hockey experience would look like. While my teammates would describe me as someone who was always radiating positivity every time I was on the ice, I felt very unhappy on the inside, to the point where I didn’t even feel like myself anymore.”
What emotions came up as you made that decision?
“After I decided it was time to step away from hockey, I was filled with a variety of different emotions. I had waves of sadness. I felt like I was in denial that my time playing hockey was over. It was such a huge part of my life and it felt very hard letting go of that. I had waves of anger. I was angry that things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to or expected them to. And I was angry that my well-being and the well-being of my teammates didn’t feel important. I also had many waves of feeling relieved. I felt so exhausted and overworked for so long that I felt an immense amount of relief that I didn’t have to put myself through that anymore. While I still have many emotions about no longer playing collegiate ice hockey, I am so happy with my decision. I will always love hockey, and now I can actually enjoy hockey again in a fun and fulfilling way.”
What advice do you have for someone in a similar situation?
To anyone who is in a similar situation, my advice would be to do what is best for you and only what is best for YOU. At the end of the day, you know yourself better than anyone else. In these situations, you have to be selfish. While it will be hard to close a chapter on something that you love, nothing is more important than your mental health and your overall well being. A sport or a person should have the ability to dictate your happiness. Lastly, so many people will support you! You are not alone! To anyone going through something similar, I am so proud of you for putting yourself first! :)
Gracie continues to lead by example in our community on or off the ice. Being an athlete is draining and has a different impact on different people. What matters most is that you’re checking in with your mental health and learning strategies to take care of your mind, whether taking an off day or realizing it’s time to step away. If you’re in a similar situation, you’re not alone. There are so many people in the You Are Co. community who are ready to support you.