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- American professional golfer
The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.
The road to becoming a professional athlete — from child prodigy to winning two Masters tournaments and competing in the Olympics — wasn’t necessarily an easy one for golfer Bubba Watson. With success came criticism, and with criticism came anxiety.
In his new book, Up & Down: Victories and Struggles in the Course of Life, Watson opens up about debilitating anxiety attacks, the death of his namesake father, adopting his children and how reaching a breaking point professionally and personally drew him closer to his family and his faith.
Yahoo Life caught up with Watson as he spoke from his Florida home about finding relief in using CBD for his anxiety — and how he made sure it didn't affect his performance — and how he’s getting more comfortable talking about mental health with the media.
You’ve spoken openly about finding success in CBD to treat your anxiety as an alternative to prescription drugs. How did you ensure that it didn't affect your golf game? Were you nervous about side effects?
I talked to many doctors from all walks of life. The way my mind races, [doctors] said it would help slow me down. They said that it’s one of those weird situations where it can lift you up and help you sleep at night. It’s natural; it’s not a chemistry project. On the other end, privately, I drug-tested myself and sent it to a professional lab and made sure it was safe for public and professional use. I was skeptical on all levels.
Wow. You drug-tested yourself?
I went above and beyond — but we’re talking about my livelihood and my personal life. How could I talk to the media about failing a drug test?! I can only speak to one company [cbdMD, with whom he's had an endorsement deal since 2019]; I can't vouch for any others.
What’s your approach to mental health?
I believe we have all dealt with mentally stressful situations. Rest and hydration are what any doctor will tell you. Make sure you’re hydrated and get plenty of rest. And work out. Those things right there got me out of my lowest point in my life, plus my faith and my team and my family. I’m trying to learn from my mistakes and darkest hours and catch [stressful triggers] before they happen... if I get overwhelmed with too much on my plate — too many interviews, too many rounds of golf. And I make sure I’m eating the right foods and exercising. I’m trying! I’m taking precautions to help me — and hopefully will help people [better themselves].
Do you have any other self-care rituals to help you reset?
Deep breathing exercises. I get really stressed on the [golf] course. It was new to me: breathing from your belly and not your shoulders, to get more oxygen... I learned the techniques — breath in, count, fill up your belly, breath it out at the same speed and repeat — and use that to not react emotionally. Instead of yelling or getting upset with somebody, let’s take a deep breath and think. It just slows me down to think about my answer or my reaction.
Breathing works twofold in that way. Golf is an incredibly mental game. When you’re not playing, what stresses you out?
Many things pop up! Fake people on social media [stresses me out]. I post stuff [on social media] but I don't read the comments anymore — or look at interviews or articles about me. Mentally, it’s helped me.
What brings you joy?
My son is 9 years old playing tackle football and there’s no greater joy than seeing him fist-pump off to the side not knowing I’m watching. It’s awesome seeing that reaction… and my girl! Dakota scored four goals in her last soccer game/ Watching them blossom and fall in love with something... it’s not about the sports. We know they love it because my wife and I never played soccer or football [laughs]! My joy is spending time with my family. They’re my guiding lights.
What advice do you carry with you?
That’s a tough one. Someone asked me: "What’s your identity in life?" A lot of times, I lean towards golf as an identity, but that’s just what I do. The advice is, "find your identity." What do you want to be known for?
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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