The Relax is Yahoo Life’s wellness series where experts, influencers and celebrities share their approach to wellness and mental healthfrom self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.
There’s just over a week left before the Chicago Bears preseason kicks off, meaning NFL rookie Justin Fields is just days away from making his official debut as a Chicago Bears quarterback. Fresh off a Big Ten championship and a trip to the finals in his senior year at Ohio State, the first round draft pick has all eyes on him as the season approaches.
That pressure can make others crumble, but the unflappable Fields is hard to intimidate. Here, the 22-year-old talks about face masks, turning losses into learning opportunities, and why he’s feeling better than ever since switching to a plant-based diet. (The soccer star was announced this week as an investor and ambassador for PlantX, which offers plant-based pantry staples and a meal delivery service; Fields herself is a fan of their vegan chicken nuggets and burgers.)
How do you protect your mental health?
Just give yourself a mental break; [find time] during the day to put aside all your stressful things and give your mind a break and give your mind time to relax. That’s very important, to take your mind off things, and once you’ve done that, you can come back with a fresh, clear mind.
Do you have any self-care rituals or something you do to reward yourself after a race?
I’m not going to lie. I don’t really care [practices]. I might have a little self-care day – like a spa day really – where I really just have a face mask on and just chill with some wine or something. That’s about it; I don’t reward myself per se.
Just a mouth cap at home?
Yes, face mask at home. Turn on a movie and relax.
You have to be under a lot of pressure, especially as a quarterback. How do you deal with that? Do you have strategies for aligning all those things?
I think I used to struggle with it more, but now I’m used to the press and I was always a little bit in the spotlight. I wouldn’t necessarily call it busy for me, because what others call busy, I call goals. I call it expectations for myself. I expect myself to do what everyone else thinks I can do, or to do what everyone thinks I’m under pressure to do. I’m not really under pressure because that’s exactly what I think I should do and what I think I can do. So as long as I work hard… on and off the field, I think I can achieve those goals.
Like everyone else, you have had setbacks in your life. Even losing a match, on a public level, can be a big deal. How do you deal with those difficult times?
I think those hard times are sometimes necessary. I just use those hard times as motivation and I see the situation as something positive. Last year, for example, I probably played my worst game at Ohio State. I threw three interceptions, but I made that positive. I kind of told the media, “I’m glad this happened to me. It just means I have to go back and work harder.” And the next time I played really really well.
Sometimes the negatives also turn out to be positives. I think so many negative things have happened in my life that have turned into positive ones, that I’m not necessarily so depressed when those things happen. Of course you will be sad or you will not feel good about it, but [I focus on] don’t stop and keep working and getting better and better. I think the most important thing is that you have faith in yourself and believe in yourself that you can achieve what you want to achieve, everything will come naturally.
You and your family started eating a plant-based diet during the pandemic. What did you start with and what impact have you noticed, especially as an athlete?
Actually, it all started with my father and my stepmother and my sister; they tried this 28-day plant-based detox. At first I wasn’t going to do it, but they talked about it a bit and we watched the movie The Game Changers on Netflix [a documentary on performance-boosting diets for athletes]. Then I kind of said, “You know, I’m just going to try it. Why not?” After that 28 day period I felt much better in my body; I felt stronger. I had lost about 2 pounds, but not necessarily muscle. I just felt great, I felt fast, I felt more energetic. I woke up every day with more energy and [with] my workouts, I didn’t get that tired. After that 28-day period, I said, “I’ll stick with plant-based and see how it works for me.” From then on it was great. I enjoyed it a lot.
What gives you stress?
The biggest thing that stresses me out is when I obviously don’t perform as well as I would have liked, or when things don’t necessarily go my way. Maybe if one day I have a lot of things on my plate and they don’t run smoothly.
And vice versa, what makes you happy?
Being with my family gives me joy, just spending time with them. And of course have fun and just enjoy life; doing various activities such as going out on the lake, going out on a boat to the ocean and relaxing. Spending time with family and friends is something that definitely makes me happy. That’s what we can’t get back is time, so I definitely cherish every moment with the people I love.
Do you have a mantra or advice that you refer to regularly?
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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