“You’ve gotta get comfortable with being uncomfortable” - Tennis star Jelena Dokic’s advice on career changes

Lara Owen Reporter, C&IT
“You’ve gotta get comfortable with being uncomfortable” - Tennis star Jelena Dokic’s advice on career changes

Speaking to C&IT at AIME, Tennis’ world No. 4 gives advice on workplace struggles, mental health battles and how she handles stress on and off the court.

Empowering others to open up and confront issues in their work lives has been a mission for renowned tennis player, Jelena Dokic, since retiring in 2014. Despite for many of us our workplace isn’t on the green courts of Wimbledon, here are some important tips we can learn from the world’s No. 4. tennis star.

How do you relieve stress with such a fast paced job?

The world’s different to what it used to be, and depending on the industry, stress can vary - on the court is certainly different to being in an office or a studio, I now know. I find having boundaries is really important and consolidating that work life balance. In the last twelve months I’ve started to become much more aware of the importance of taking care of my mental health. Being in nature and making time for hobbies - such as my new love of pottery - is really important to be more centred and relieve stress. 

Two things I recommend practising are mindfulness and gratitude. I have found there is literally no happiness without gratitude. You have to go back to the basics: start by writing three things you are grateful for every single week and putting it somewhere you’ll see it - such as your phone background or stuck on your fridge - it makes you enjoy the little  things and gives a real sense of purpose and meaningfulness to your life. 

What advice do you give to those struggling with their mental health in the workplace?

I think it’s important to start with those on the other end, making sure that people know that they can talk to you and that they can open up - that they’re going to have a safe space and a safe environment where they can be candid about what they’re going through. There’s nothing quite as painful when you have to hold things in, so I’m a real advocate for speaking up and sharing your story. It’s important to create a work environment where you can chat to someone without feeling what you say will go beyond that conversation, having a secure and safe space to open up and not feeling shamed or stigmatised is essential.

As someone who’s made a few jumps in your career, for someone wanting to switch career paths - however daunting - what advice would you give?

Do it. You have to make that first step just to know where you ultimately want to be - you won’t regret it. Even if it turns out to be something you’re not good at or don’t enjoy, you’ve learnt that. You’ve gotta get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  

After I stopped playing tennis, for a couple of years I was really afraid of going into things because it was so daunting to do something new - something that wasn’t on the court. But once I overcame the first hurdle, every one after that became so much easier. Even if you don’t succeed at something new you try, it’s not a loss, it's a lesson. Go for it.