Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love tries to maintain a disciplined routine. He has discovered that as the most effective way to keep his mental health strong through concerns about the novel coronavirus.
“The unknown is really what scares us,” Love told USA TODAY Sports. “So for me, it’s keeping my mind occupied.”
Love remains aware it can be difficult to do that, however, especially during this ordeal.
More than 73,000 people have died in the United States because of COVID-19, and healthcare workers have risked their own lives to keep those numbers from rising steadily. While over 21 million people are unemployed, there are countless grocery store workers also risking their lives so they can still collect a paycheck. For those that are healthy and can telecommute, they still have anxieties about paying bills, helping their kids with classes and working from home. Love observed that the black community has become more vulnerable because of various racial and socioeconomic disadvantages, including quality of housing, access to healthcare and job opportunities.
That partly explains why Love has become increasingly outspoken about mental health during the pandemic.
Love donated $100,000 through his foundation to support the Cavaliers’ arena workers. As part of National Mental Health Awareness Month, Love also joined the Child Mind Institute’s Campaign, “#WeThriveInside,” which features various celebrities with video messages on their website as well as their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts . The videos also direct users to the Child Mind Institute’s COVID-related resources and how to donate to its COVID-19 relief fund. The organization will match donations up to $150,000.
“We’re all in this together,” Love said. “We need balance and we need to be present. Especially when we come out of this, we should be grateful for so many things that we have. For so many people, this has been an incredibly tough time.”
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Dr. Harold Koplewicz, the founding president and medical director at Child Mind Institute, estimated that about 20% of the country’s population has a mental health disorder. About half of those people develop an illness by age 14, Love said. Therefore, Love shared these tips in hopes that both adults and children can apply some of these strategies into their own life.
Develop a routine
Love writes what he calls “little micro goals” to ensure the beginning of a successful day. He keeps a consistent schedule on when he wakes up, showers, puts on his workout clothes, walks his dog (Vestry) and eats breakfast. He cherishes those small wins when he starts off the day fulfilling that routine.
“If you don’t have a semblance of a routine,” Love said, “that can get you worked up and stressed.”
Master ‘the four pillars’
Meditation, physical exercise, mindfulness and gratitude – according to Love, those are “the four pillars.” Love would much rather train on an actual basketball court. That could happen as early as Friday when the Cavaliers plan to open their practice facility for voluntary, individual workouts. Despite the Cavs being bound for the NBA lottery (19-46), Love said he “would like to finish the season.” The NBA has stressed that safety trumps all other concerns.
Love has embraced his at-home workouts. Every Tuesday and Thursday, the Cavaliers will have an hour-long workout via Zoom. The session starts with participants expressing gratitude for their blessings. Then they complete a yoga workout, which features a mix of stretching, breathing exercises and meditation. On days the Cavs do not have a group workout, Love will stay active with TRX workouts and resistance band exercises.
“I always say ‘kill the body, and the mind will die,’ ” Love said. “So it’s about finding ways to move and sweat even if you’re inside. It will offset a lot of stress and anxiety.”
Consume media the right way
Love has tried mastering a media landscape that centers on stories much more important than trade chatter or criticism following a bad performance. These stories involve evolving news developments on COVID-19, and the continued hardships people face with staying healthy, losing loved ones and keeping their jobs.
“I’m really being mindful of conscious and what I’m consuming,” Love said. “That can be a slippery slope.”
Love reads enough articles and watches enough news programs to stay informed. But he resists going back to the same publications and programs repeatedly. Instead, Love has spent time reading books and watching movies, both new and familiar. Love has a routine to that, too. After Love and his girlfriend, Kate, watched two movies on World War II (“Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific”), Love listened to her advice about watching a comedy.
“There is obviously some disheartening stuff that’s tough to consume because this is so detrimental to people’s lives,” Love said. “But for somebody like me, you want to see where you can find different ways to help.”
Embrace the small acts of kindness
He has both helped those in need, and has felt humbled when those thank him for his contributions.Yet, not everyone has the means to support others.
But Love also has found it impactful to remain socially connected even during social distancing measures. He regularly schedules Zoom sessions and phone calls with family and friends. He also has impromptu virtual get-togethers, such as when he and a friend had a margarita during Cinco de Mayo over Facetime. Love has cherished those times during a tragic year, which included both the COVID-19 pandemic and the unexpected passing of former NBA Commissioner David Stern as well as the death of former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
“It just shows you how fleeting life can be and taken away from you,” Love said. “The need to be mindful and present rings true more than ever.”
Prepare to sleep
Well before shutting his eyelids, Love has adopted various tricks to maximize the duration and quality of his sleep. He uses the Headspace app, which has various exercises to help with breathing and meditating. He stretches. He verbalizes and writes out what makes him feel grateful.
Love admitted he often wakes up in the middle of the night. So does his friends. And he remains understanding of those that cannot sleep because of various health and economic hardships. Yet, he still has sensed those little tricks making a big difference.
“That nightly routine is huge for me,” Love said. “Sleep is so important for the brain and to fight inflammation in your body. At this time, when you can be so on edge and so stressed, I’m always trying to making sure I’m getting the proper amount of sleep.”
Love readily admitted the challenges in mastering his own techniques. He understands others might struggle just as much. Yet, he expressed optimism that any effort will still produce results.
“When Kevin talks about how he maintains his mental health, it makes it so much easier for someone else who feels very vulnerable to be able to say ‘I can get through this,’ ” Koplewicz said. “Kevin is a hero not for how many points he scores. Kevin has become a hero to so many of us because, in some ways, he changed the culture.”
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