5 tips for athletes to stay on top of their mental healthPosted on 08/13/21 12:43:pm
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Besides the medal count, conversations about mental health took center stage during the 2020 Olympics Games after Simone Biles—the most-decorated American gymnast of all time—finished with a bronze medal after withdrawing from the team final and individual all-around gymnastics competition. Simone said she needed to focus on her mental well-being.
“I was surprised, but in a positive way,” says Camila Albuquerque De Brito Gomes, MD, psychiatrist at Rogers’ Miami clinic. “That took lot of courage, especially when her coach and teammates are expecting the best because she is the best. That is a lot to carry around.”
Just a day before removing herself from the team final, Biles posted on Instagram that she felt the "weight of the world" on her shoulders, a feeling that is not uncommon to competitive athletes.
“I played professional volleyball through college, and the stress is very real,” says Dr. Albuquerque. “Athletes have a lot of expectations placed on them both from themselves and others, with the mindset of always winning. The goal should be to perform the skills you have spent countless hours practicing and have fun doing it. I tell my patients not to spend time in the future worrying about an outcome you can’t control.”
Dr. Albuquerque has 5 tips for athletes to manage their stress.
Recognize your feelings and emotions. Your brain is part of your body just like your arms and legs, and you need to spend time and energy making sure it’s healthy. If you feel overwhelmed, speak up and don’t let your symptoms progress. Know that when you do, you are also raising awareness and letting other people know it’s more than okay to talk about.
Have a support system. Make sure you have people to talk to. For athletes competing at a very high level, it may be good to meet with a therapist or psychologist.
Recognize triggers. Be aware of what circumstances can cause you to feel a heightened sense of anxiety, and work toward understanding the how and why behind your responses. Take our Anxiety quiz.
Work on coping strategies. There are lots of ways to lower stress levels and bring you back to the present moment, especially if you’re worrying about the outcome of an event. You can try breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, and grounding techniques, like noticing and naming four colors, or four smells.
It’s okay to take a break if you need to tend to your mental health. If you had an infection, you would spend time taking care of it. Mental health is as important as physical health.
“We learn at a young age how to talk about a lot of things, but not about mental health,” says Dr. Albuquerque. “We typically don’t teach children how to talk about stress and anxiety, yet we all feel it. People mistakenly think they need to block it, rather than letting themselves feel it and take the steps to deal with it.” Dr. Albuquerque explains.
How Rogers can help
If you or a loved one are struggling, request a free, confidential screening online or call 800-767-4411.