Putting Mental Health First – Simone Biles Sets the Example
It is one thing for an Olympic athlete like Simone Biles to talk with the media about the importance of good mental health and raise awareness. But it is quite another for an athlete to pull out of an Olympic event because it was more than she could handle emotionally. Simone Biles did both. Whereas a lot of athletes might be vocal on the issue of mental health, she proved that she believed what she was saying through her actions. There is so much pressure placed on Olympic athletes to perform well as they represent their countries. As Simone told Time, “People have no idea what is going on behind the scenes, and just judge us from our social media. You guys have no idea what we are going through.” When Simone withdrew from the competition, she was sending a message that was loud and clear: mental health is important. It needs to be a priority.
Why is Mental Health Important?
The CDC defines mental health as including our emotional, social and psychological well-being. It has a direct impact on how we think, feel and behave. It also influences how we handle stress and relate to other people. What many people do not realize is how closely mental health and physical health are linked. They have equal importance because poor mental health or mental illnesses can increase the risk of physical illnesses and diseases. For instance, when a person is struggling with depression, they have an increased risk of conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Mental health is vitally important to our overall well-being. Simone was very aware of that fact, which is why even though it was hard, she knew it was right to withdraw.
What Causes Anxiety?
There have been a lot of studies to determine what exactly causes people to develop anxiety disorders. Researchers have found that it is usually a combination of stress, genes and diet. Other risk factors can include:
- A history of substance abuse
- Having irritable bowel syndrome
- Having a type-A personality
- Experiencing a traumatic event
Regardless of the cause, when anxiety or symptoms of it (such as panic attacks) strike, they should not be ignored. It is important to address it properly because mental health is vital to our overall well-being.
How to Improve Mental Health
An anxious person’s mental well-being can get pushed to the limits until they suffer a breakdown. Most people in that position have a hard time speaking up about their struggles until they mentally cannot handle it anymore. But by that time, the damage has been done, and it can take a long time to recover from that type of mental anguish. The NY Times stated, “All the while, Bile’s corporate sponsors, fans and the news media expected her to collect gold medals like refrigerator magnets.” Imagine their surprise when she decided that she was not OK to compete and stepped away. It probably took every ounce of courage she had, but somehow, Simone mustered up the strength to say one small word that protected her mental health: no. She was applauded for standing her ground, and in so doing, she gave strength to millions of people all over the world who also struggle to set healthy boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries and saying no when you are not able to function properly due to anxiety is just one way to improve your mental health. There are several others.
How Does Exercise Improve Mental Health?
In an article on the APA website, Dr. Michael Otto, a psychology professor at Boston University says that the idea of exercise is something that psychologists are often slow to attend to. He goes on to state that, “People know that exercise helps physical outcomes. There is much less awareness of mental health outcomes – and much, much less ability to translate this awareness into exercise action. There is a strong connection between exercise and mood enhancement, according to the latest research. After moderate exercise, people usually experience an improved mood within about five minutes. But its effects can last much longer, even helping to alleviate long-term depression. Research has shown that people who are active are much less depressed than inactive people. In one study, sedentary adults with major depressive disorder were assigned to one of four groups. Some received supervised exercise, some did home-based exercises, some were given antidepressant therapy, and the last group received a placebo pill. At the end of the study, it was found that patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups were less depressed than those in the placebo group. They concluded that exercise and antidepressants were comparable in treating major depressive disorder. The same can be said for exercise and all mental health issues.
How to Calm Anxiety
In addition to getting more physical exercise, there are several things that people can do to calm their anxiety. They include:
- Cutting down on caffeine
- Practicing yoga
- Listening to calming music
- Practicing mindfulness and meditating
- Using guided imagery
- Practicing breathing from their diaphragms
Sometimes learning something new can help with anxiety. It can be helpful to take up a new skill like playing the guitar or photography. It is also important to consider how therapy might help. Talking through your anxious thoughts can make a big difference. It can give you perspective to discuss what you are feeling out loud with a professional who understands what you are going through.
At Mindful Care, We Believe in Putting Mental Health First
Your mental health is important, and we can all learn a lesson from Simone Biles. There were so many people pressuring her to live up to their standards, causing her severe anxiety. She took a stand, and we hope that her bravery encourages you to do the same. At Mindful Care, we offer same-day urgent psychiatric care, group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and telehealth services. We are here for you. You can schedule your appointment here.