Make Mental Health Your Partner in Performance
As the Summer Olympics lit up our TV screens several weeks ago, one of the biggest stories to emerge was not which country won the most medals.
When Simone Biles withdrew from the gymnastics competition due to a mental block that could cause her to be injured during a routine, her decision caused a stir in the global conversation around mental health. But she’s not the first athlete to address the effect mental health has on a person’s ability to perform.
Tennis champ Naomi Osaka withdrew from two major events earlier this year to better manage the sometimes overwhelming stress and demands of the sport. Swimmer Michael Phelps has also, in the past, shared his struggles with anxiety, depression, and addiction. And numerous entertainers from film, television, and music have spoken publicly about their mental health battles.
By sharing their stories, they’ve all helped lessen the stigma around mental health and its influence on our daily lives, but misunderstandings still remain. In honor of September being National Recovery Month—a time of educating the public about addiction, mental health, and the resources available for treatment—we’d like to shed some light on the topic too.
Mental Health’s Impact on Daily Performance
Mental health is a subject near and dear to all of us at RE + NEW + ALL. Working with our candlemakers, who are survivors of exploitation, abuse, and addiction, we’ve witnessed the psychological toll of the traumas they’ve experienced. As these women recover, they may struggle with a number of mental health issues like PTSD, panic attacks, and depression. Finding helpful ways to work through and manage these issues is a vital part of their healing journey.
However, your mental health can be affected by any number of situations; trauma isn’t a requirement. Simply juggling the demands of everyday life can lead to stress-induced anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout, which then results in lapses in concentration, mood swings or outbursts, and fatigue.
When your mental health is suffering, you may withdraw from family, friends, and co-workers. You might lack the energy to take care of yourself and begin overlooking basic needs like eating and sleeping well. You may start running late on a regular basis, fall behind on work projects, and call in sick more often. And all of this can add up and damage your self-worth as well as your relationships.
If the inner turmoil you’re facing isn't addressed, it can have a domino effect and lead to even more serious problems such as long-term depression, severe illness, and substance abuse. Unemployment numbers are higher among people struggling with some form of mental illness as well.
How to Prioritize Your Mental Health and Protect Yourself
When the weight of stress, anxiety, or sadness has you in its grip, it’s easy to think you should just push through, force yourself to keep going despite how you’re feeling. But if you ignore the effect these feelings are having on your ability to show up for yourself and those around you, you risk that reaction becoming a pattern that gets worse and harder to pull yourself out of over time.
How can you prevent dips in your mental health from sending you into a downward spiral? By taking a stand for yourself and prioritizing your well-being.
Naturally, most of us don’t have the freedom to simply walk away from our daily responsibilities when we’re having a hard time. However, there are steps you can take to regain a sense of control, empower yourself, and hit the reset button.
Seek out a support system. Whether that’s a counselor, a support group, or a trusted colleague, being able to talk through your feelings with someone who’s empathetic and can offer solutions is vital. You don’t have to go through it on your own. In fact, you shouldn’t.
- Treat yourself to a time out. Take a 20-minute walk or power nap. Listen to some music that lifts you up. Enjoy a bath. Spend time with people who fill your emotional cup. Any activity, even a brief one, that brings you joy and gives your mind a reason to relax and focus on something besides your worries can make a world of difference.
- Give yourself permission to say “No.” This can be hard to do, but it’s key in protecting yourself and your mind. Monitoring your mental health means knowing when taking on one more thing becomes one thing too many. Doing less does not make you less. In reality, allowing yourself to say “No” means you’re saying “Yes” to yourself. You’re leaving room for things that matter more to you, and that includes self-care, rest, and relaxation.
The sooner you take action when you notice your mental health starting to slide, the faster you'll be able to bounce back. You’ll learn to recognize the signs, trust yourself when something’s off, and be able to more confidently speak up for yourself and set the healthy boundaries you need.
Mental Health Self-Care is an Act of Self-Love
As our candlemakers rebuild their lives, they need and deserve patience, empathy, and a safe space to heal. And kindness, always kindness, especially since they have been treated so unkindly.
The same is true for you whenever you’re struggling. Give yourself the gift of kindness, patience, and grace. Don’t forget to do that for others too because you never know what someone else may be going through.
And remember, you're not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year. Asking for help when you need it shows you care about yourself and living a richer, renewed, and rewarding life.
If you or someone you care about is struggling to cope or in mental health distress, here are two 24-hour hotlines you can reach out to:
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): 1-800-662-4357
National Suicde Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255