Photo by Stephen Hosier/COC
Photo by Stephen Hosier/COC

7 steps towards improving your mental health

What do we want? A healthy mind in a healthy body! When do we want it? Now!

Team Canada’s wellness partner, Game Plan, knows how important mental health is in an athlete’s Olympic journey and offers great tips to Canada’s top athletes to keep their mental health in check.

Mental health should be everyone’s priority, not only an Olympian’s. That’s why we want to share these tips with you too!

If you see something, say something

Mohammed Ahmed celebrates winning silver at Tokyo 2020
Canadian distance runner Mohammed Ahmed celebrates after winning the silver medal in the Men’s 5000m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Friday, August 06, 2021. Photo by Darren Calabrese/COC

Have you noticed someone not doing so well lately? First of all, ask yourself: “What has changed in their behaviour and do any of the changes seem worrisome? Are they more distant, sad or aggressive? Has their physical appearance changed?”

The second step is to approach them in a friendly manner, ask them how they are and, follow up by expressing your concerns and illustrating the changes you have noticed. This way, the person will feel listened to and will be more likely to open up.

Make the little things matter

If you feel stressed, anxious or depressed, start paying more attention to your diet, hydration and sleep. Your lifestyle has a significant impact on your mental state.

Find some quality face-to-face time

Team Canada figure skaters Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen compete in the rhythm dance event during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games on Saturday, February 12, 2022. Photo by Darren Calabrese/COC

Try to spend some quality time with someone who makes you feel good. We tend to overuse social media and texts to communicate. Meeting someone in person, or even calling them on the phone, can help cheer us up.

Do what you love

Team Canada freestyle skiers Marion Thenault, Miha Fontaine and Lewis Irving win bronze in mixed team ariels during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games on Thursday, February 10, 2022. Photo by Kevin Light/COC

Do something that makes you happy. You can do simple activities like reading, listening to your favourite music, or riding a bike. Take a moment and just focus on yourself.

Focus on what you’re good at

Team Canada celebrates on the field following the win
Players of Canada’s celebrate beating Sweden in the women’s soccer match for the gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

Our focus, and this is particularly true in the case of athletes, is constantly on what we think we’re not doing correctly or what we’re trying to fix. We sometimes forget what is positive in our lives.

Stop comparing yourself

Margaret MacNeil, right, of Canada, reacts after winning the final of the women’s 100-meter butterfly as Sarah Sjoestroem, of Sweden, looks on at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Everyone responds differently to stress. Learn to identify stressful situations for yourself and understand what helps you reduce your stress. Just as there are many ways to prepare for a competition, there are many ways to manage stress and anxiety. Find what works for you.

Be preventive

Stephanie Labbé sits cross-legged with her eyes closed in front of a lake and mountains.
Stephanie Labbé meditates in front of a lake in Calgary. (Photo: COC)

Just as you don’t have to wait until you need surgery before seeing a doctor, it is not necessary to have clinical depression or an anxiety disorder in order to consult a mental health professional. It’s okay to not be okay.

Remember that nothing is perfect

It’s not a sign of weakness to take care of your mental health and seek help. Just like high performance athletes, we are also used to hiding our pain. We want to look strong, perfect, and give the impression that this thing called life is easy. However, we all know that behind the world-class performances, there are challenges, difficulties, failures, and sometimes even a few tears.

Team Canada freestyle skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe competes in the women’s moguls during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games on Sunday, February 06, 2022. Photo by Darren Calabrese/COC

Together, let’s put an end to the stigma linked to mental health and let’s take care of ourselves. Deal?