Olympic Spotlight Shifts to Mental Health
For all its pageantry and competition, perhaps the most celebrated result from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is that mental health is in the spotlight. Olympians making their mental health a priority are empowering the rest of the world to do the same. GoodTherapy is here for it.
Bold Moves for Self-Care
Both Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, celebrated athletes in the international spotlight of these games, have discussed their mental health struggles, the resulting physical impact, and the need to prioritize their own well-being over any physical competition.
The world was shocked when Simone Biles, widely believed to be the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew from the women’s gymnastics team competition. Yet her words afterward will live on long after Olympic fever subsides: “I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being.” She added, “It just sucks when you are fighting with your own head.”
Japanese tennis champion Naomi Osaka faced fines and disqualification threats just last month when she skipped a French Open press conference because she was “feeling vulnerable and anxious and thought it was better to exercise self-care.” After being chosen to light the Olympic cauldron, making her the face of the Tokyo Olympics, she lost her Olympic bid in the third round with the eyes of the world upon her. As she said, “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this.”
Analysts and pundits will continue to debate their actions. Ultimately, what Biles and Osaka did was say it should be OK to put yourself first – as athletes, as humans. Now, it’s up to us to make sure that it is.
Empowered People Empower People
Biles actually credits Osaka for inspiring her to focus on her own mental health. We thank both of them for their openness and honesty — for advocating for their own needs and stepping back for self-care, for choosing not to jeopardize their health and well-being.
The public’s reaction to their statements and actions will make or break where we go from here. Ultimately, prioritizing mental wellness is not just for athletes. We all feel the pressure to perform, to ignore our own thoughts and feelings to deliver on a job or do what is best for a team. We should allow each other — and ourselves — to acknowledge thoughts, pause for self-care, and seek help when we need it. This should be culturally acceptable, even praised.
Athletes: Did you know we added a search filter so you can therapists who truly get your profession and its struggles? You can find “Professional Sports” under “Industries and Communities Served” to the left of your therapist search results.
Normalize Pursuing Mental Health
Standing up for ourselves – taking a break, seeking help, saying no, getting support – should be acceptable behavior for anyone, whether that’s an Olympic athlete, a new mom, a college student, or a busy employee. So many of us are told to “fake it til you make it,” or “grit your teeth through it,” but that doesn’t work, and it takes away from healthier outcomes that mental wellness brings.
At GoodTherapy, we’re committed to providing access to information and treatment that can help people improve their mental and emotional health. We want to normalize making the most of these resources.
Both Biles and Osaka bring to light a subject that used to be taboo but has become much more accepted and embraced. No matter the outcome of the Olympic games, these heroes share a legacy at #Tokyo2020 by saying it’s OK to put yourself first. In many ways, they’ve moved the spotlight off the medals and onto mental health. Their honest actions open the doors for frank conversations and serve to empower those seeking therapy. They’ve proven that true success is not about podiums, medals, or meeting the expectations of others.
We believe self-care is an achievement worth celebrating. Thank you, Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, for showing us the way.
If you’re interested in exploring how therapy can contribute to your mental wellness, start a conversation with a therapist near you and check out more articles on our blog, like Why Should I Go to Therapy? and Escape from the Fog: How Therapy Changed My Life.
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