The Importance of Multi-factor Wellness
Unless you live under an actual rock (in which case, i'm not sure how you are reading this, your wifi can't be up to par) you have been bombarded all day with news of Olympic gymnast Simon Biles withdrawing from the women's team final in the name of her mental health.
After losing herself in the air during a stunt, the world watched as the most talked about Olympian in years, exited the floor. She removed herself from the final in order to preserve her team's remaining chance at a medal. She expressed complete confidence in her teammate's abilities, and made the calculated call to listen to her body and mind and step down.
When we heard this story, two things came to mind. Both of which we can easily relate to the work we do, and goals we try to achieve at Book Bros.
1) Mental Health is Just as Important as Physical Health
We all know the jokes surrounding overly-pumped gym bros always skipping leg day, but even more often than forgetting to train and develop our leg muscles, we forget to train and develop our minds and build the coping mechanisms needed to reach our goals. For most of us, those goals don't include winning Olympic gold medals. My fitness goals tend to be more along the lines of, "get in 30-minutes on the treadmill at some point today." However, no matter how grand your goals, you will reach none of them, without adequate coping mechanisms.
Though she is the media's favorite topic at the moment, Simone Biles isn't the first Olympian (nor will she be the last) to suffer from mental health issues. Extreme pressure, plus pushing your physical self to the limit on an almost daily basis, will do that to people. Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmer and most decorated Olympian of all time, has been very open about his struggles with depression, especially post-retirement.
Translated into "normal human" situations — walking away from a competition, may be like walking away from an important meeting. Or a job opportunity. Or for some, even getting out of bed that morning.
The best way to truly fight the silent villain of poor mental health, is to get ahead of the game. As has been said before, you don't arm yourself after war has been declared. You build your army so big that no one dares pick the fight.
By practicing mindfulness, using tools like yoga, meditation, and confidence-building education — you can ensure that you are armed, before the battle begins.
2) The Value of Self-Advocacy
There are many forms of confidence, and many forms of a well-rounded sense of self. One of the least talked about, and most important, is the ability to advocate for yourself, and your needs. In the US especially, we tend to underestimate wounds we cannot see. In the example of Ms. Biles, had she ended that failed stunt, fallen, and been rushed off the floor by paramedics clutching an injured leg — the media landscape would, without a doubt, look different this morning. Though the general consensus is a positive one, there are still those that would look at her decision to remove herself from the competition due to mental and emotional injury as a sign of weakness.
Something that we instill in our Book Bros students is that "No" is a complete sentence. Very rarely is an explanation required for your decision to take a step back to preserve your own mental and emotional wellbeing. And yet, once again boiled down into terms we can all relate to, calling out of work because you have a two-day flu is considered completely reasonable, but calling out of work because you need two days to cope from mental or emotional challenges, is not an acceptable "excuse." Calling your boss in the morning to say, "I'm running a high fever and won't be in" is a lot easier than calling your boss to say, "I woke up with extremely high anxiety, and I feel that it is best to take the day to hike, read, rest, and recalibrate my mind." Both issues are a part of being human, and both are largely out of our control, and yet only one is seen as taboo.
At some point in each of these blogs, I tend to always write some version of the words, "We cannot change the world." And it's true. We can work toward change, but large-scale change takes time, and manpower, and even — luck. The only thing that we can control, right now, is ourselves. And in the fight for mental health and wellness awareness, that starts with being our own advocate, and learning to say no.
We wish Ms. Biles a speedy recovery, but we also commend her and are grateful for the example she has set for young people — especially young people entering the workforce. There is no shame in prioritizing your health, and relying on others (your family, friends, team, or support network) to pick up slack when it is your turn to simply, be human.
"No" — is a complete sentence.