NBA star Kevin Love on mental health issues, success, getting Covid

This story is part of the Top of the Game series, where CNBC Make It explores the habits, routines and mindsets that top athletes use to achieve peak performance and success.

In early November, Kevin Love tested positive for Covid. The star basketball player of the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers has had to stay off the field indefinitely.

Conscious of his sanity, the 33-year-old turned to coping mechanisms such as therapy, journaling and daily recording to help “protect your energy.” The strategies aren’t necessarily revolutionary, but Love’s recent opening up about them has been.

In 2018, Love wrote about her decades-long struggle with depression and anxiety in a Player’s Tribune essay titled “Everyone Is Going Through Something.” The trial started a movement among high performance athletes to de-stigmatize mental illness. Since then, he says, more people have approached him about mental health than basketball.

“If I hadn’t had the tools or hadn’t worked with a therapist in the past four years, I don’t know if I would have been able to deal with people sharing their stories,” Love told CNBC Make It.

Love calls its struggles “a gift and a curse”. From high school, he says, he used periods of depression as fuel to win basketball games. His whole identity has wrapped around his performance on the pitch. And that only got him to darker places.

“You can’t get out of depression,” Love says. “You cannot come true with this high level of anxiety.”

Today Love says he’s on a mission to help others struggling with mental illness, primarily through the Kevin Love Fund, a charity that offers focused education, research, and grants. on mental health. And his Covid quarantine is over: he returned to court on Wednesday.

Here, he discusses dealing with his depression and anxiety, why he enjoys Apple TV’s “Ted Lasso”, and what he wishes he could tell his young self about mental health.

The four tools Love uses to stay mentally healthy

[Therapy] is the best gift you can give yourself. It’s a safe place and you get to know each other a little more with each session.

I also think the gratitude is great. Being grateful strengthens the perspective. It helped me understand what is really important. Often these things cost nothing.

I channel my grandmother. I was just talking about her with my brother: she lived by proxy through her family. She was a simple woman, and I mean that in the best possible way – she was so grateful for everything that came her way, no matter how small. I’m trying to really channel that.

And I mix gratitude with journaling. I think journaling promotes awareness. We write our stories, no matter what they are. It’s almost childish that way.

As adults, I feel like we’ve become really good liars. Your inner child will, more often than not, tell the truth and just be honest without apologizing.

Why her daily routine includes both sweating and meditation

The best way to protect your time and stress is to train, refuel, recover, and rehearse. It feels good to sweat – and for me, it’s like killing two birds with one stone, because it helps me play basketball.

You also need to eat well, sleep well and meditate well. [My recent Covid] 40s was a good time for meditation, especially the early days.

I couldn’t really work out and I was basically lying on the couch. My appetite has been suppressed. My energy was not there. So before going to bed, I would go into a routine that included breathing work and headspace meditation.

Burnout is an accumulation. You need to incorporate strategic rest and recovery into your routine.

What love would say to her young self about sanity

It’s about protecting your energy at all costs. Beware of instant gratification – I’ve always thought of discipline as deciding between what you want now and what you want most.

Part of protecting your energy is simply deciding, “OK, what do I want the most? »Should I eat this when I know it will be bad for me? Should I have that late coffee and stay out the extra few hours?

You have to be selfish, and I think that is being selfish in the best possible way. Tell your truth. You would be amazed at how liberating it is.

Why he appreciates the portrayal of mental health in Apple TV’s “Ted Lasso”

My therapist told me to watch “Ted Lasso”. I’m pretty much halfway through – I went through the episodes really quickly for [my Covid quarantine].

During the second season, they bring in a therapist who works with every player on the team. They each have their own fights. It was cool to see this placed in pop culture in a really popular way.

This has been a priority, seeing our very young team of Cavaliers using our designated therapists. These guys buy in and understand the mental side and these micro gains. Whether it’s something at home or in your personal life, there are things to work on.

The better you understand yourself and who you are, the more comfortable you will feel about yourself and therefore better equipped to perform on the floor. It’s really cool to see first-hand with our team.

It is important to keep asking everyone, “What’s next? And “How can we keep moving forward?” “

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Lindsey Vonn has spent her 19-year career battling depression – here are the tactics she used to stay on top

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes: “Loss helps you more than success”

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