A few months back, I watched the Michael Phelp’s HBO documentary The Weight Of Gold in which they explored the mental health challenges that Olympic athletes often face. I was extremely moved by this film. As a professional dancer I could relate to the pressures put on you to perform perfectly, and how all those years of training all come down to one moment.
We all hear about the mental preparation that goes into an event. Listening to music, chanting affirmations, visualising the perfect score. But do we talk about, or hear about the moments when they fail, or mess up? What mental health assistance do they get then?
And this week I was reminded of those thoughts when American artistic gymnast Simone Biles decided to step down from the Olympic team to take care of her mental health. For those who do not know, she is the most decorated American gymnast of all time, with 30 combined Olympic and world champion medals. Going into the Tokyo Olympic games, she was quoted as saying that she “feels the weight of the world on her shoulders”. And how much pressure it is to be in the spotlight.
She received much support and praise for her decision to step away, but also a lot of criticism.
Why is it that if she injured her ankle or knee, something that we can physically see, we would all be sending her love and healing vibes, but when it is the state of her mental health, something we cannot physically see, we do not support this in the way we should?
I have always been an advocate for mental health, and I truly love that Simone stood her ground and prioritized this for herself.
It got me thinking about why there is still such stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Why do we still feel uncomfortable admitting that we need help? Why do we not feel safe or supported to do so?
I just wanted to shed some light on this topic, and share some of my favourite check in techniques that help me and many of my clients.
It is ok to not be ok: Make it a daily habit to look inward and check in with how you are feeling in that moment. Really assess how you feel and give yourself some grace.
Rely on your friends and family: if you are feeling a little blue, reach out to your loved ones and let them know how you are feeling. Often saying it out loud releases it from your mind and body and makes it easier to process. Plus when you share it, your loved ones are there to support you. We all need a little love and TLC sometimes.
Just breath: Stopping to slow your breath and still your thoughts is a great way to ease anxiety. Sit in meditation and allow the thoughts to come and go.
Get your sweat on: Exercising and moving your body is an instant mood booster. Allow those good endorphins to pump through your body and energise you.
Talk to a therapist or a professional, they can give you the tools to help you work through depression and anxiety. We cannot be expected to know these on our own, take their guidance.
There are many organisations out there that are doing such great work to normalise mental health issues. One of my favourites is The Didi Hirsch Foundation, check them out and as always do not be afraid to ask for help xx