The camera zooms in on Simone Bile’s face. She is the picture of concentration and focus. She is lined up for the beat board and launches herself down the mat. She hits the vault, tucks tight, and stumbles a bit on her landing but recovers into a solid finish.
Suddenly she walks away. Not only does she step off the mat, but she heads into the locker room. She wasn’t limping or wincing in pain as she walked away, but the next time we saw her, she was wearing a warm-up suit. The commentators were confused and scrambling to figure out what had happened.
Later at a press conference, she tells the press she is stepping out of the competition for mental health reasons.
I have watched the Olympics since the ’80s, and Simone Biles telling the world she was dropping out of competition for mental health reasons is one of the bravest things I have seen.
When we witness individuals perform seemingly superhuman feats, it can be easy to forget that their physical prowess is only part of the equation.
Pressure to perform at our best is a part of the human experience. Those of us that push through mentally straining moments—getting the big contract or scoring the winning goal, get the gold.
Simone Biles’ decision demonstrated great vulnerability and strength. Under similar circumstances, many of us would have struggled to make such a choice. She prioritized her mental health and showed everyone there is a reason she is one of the greatest of all time.
Contrary to popular opinion, being mentally tough isn’t defined by your ability to push through despite all obstacles. It is important to recognize your limits. A significant part of what therapists do is support individuals who have picked up bad habits to cope with the stress that results from pushing those limits.
Successful stress management involves using some go-to strategies at the moment, along with a system of activities that allow for stress relief throughout your week.
At the moment coping strategies might include:
- Light physical activity
- Calling a friend
- Repeating a mantra
A stress-relieving system could include:
- Daily workouts
- A consistent sleep schedule
- Well-balanced nutritional meals
- Regular social interaction
- Engaging in pleasurable hobbies
Simone Biles is an extraordinary athlete. Her actions indicate that it takes more to achieve than mastering our bodies. She reminds us that prioritizing our mental health needs is not a weakness, but necessary to function at our very best.
Share how you put your mental health first so that others might learn from your experience.