It’s OK to Not Be OK!
Tennis champion Naomi Osaka is featured on the cover of the July 19th Time magazine issue not for wining another tournament, but for being willing to do something unusual in the field of elite sports. In her essay entitled ‘Gaining perspective’ she shares lessons she’d recently learned by stepping back from a press conference at the French Open to take care of her mental health. After receiving both support and criticism, she expressed hope that people understand that “it’s Ok to not be OK and it’s OK to talk about it”.
That may have paved the way for phenomenal gymnast Simone Biles to step back from several events at the Olympics to tend to her mental health. Her condition started with a case of what gymnasts call ‘the twisties’, a disorienting vertigo where you lose your sense of where your body is in space. As someone who has had multiple episodes of vertigo, I can attest to how terrifying it is even when you are laying still. It must be more so while twisting through space in a complicated gymnastics move. Since this could lead to significant injuries, it makes sense that she would lose her confidence to perform safely.
I applaud these young women athletes for having the courage to make difficult choices, especially in such a public arena, and for highlighting an issue that needs addressing, not only in athletics. In our achievement-oriented culture, many are driven (or drive themselves) beyond what is healthy. Great things have been accomplished by people pushing themselves beyond their limits, yet the price paid physically, mentally and emotionally may at times be too steep. There must be a balance between action and rest, and each person knows their body best.
When my daughter Mandy was in high school she chose on her own to take mental health days. Initially the concept was foreign to me. My family work ethic and 14 years of Catholic school did not include that option. Because Mandy’s mental health days didn’t seem to affect her grades, I relaxed about it. Now I think it was brilliant!
Having been someone who was always in action, my health challenge forced me to learn to rest and take care of my mental and emotional as well as my physical well-being. What I learned is that much wisdom can come from taking time off. If we are always in motion, we don’t have time to reflect and reassess which can enrich and inform our next action steps. Simone Biles came back to compete and win the bronze medal in the balance beam, and remarked that “It means more than all of the golds because I pushed through so much… I didn’t really care about the outcome.” Honoring her needs was the win.
Wisdom after letting go
card by Jane Norton
“Self-care is how you take your power back”
Can you admit to yourself when you are not OK and be OK with it?
Can you take time out for self-care when you need it?
Do you have a balance of rest and action, being and doing in your life?
Write yourself a permission slip to stop, step away, and take a mental health break to take care of yourself whenever you need it.
Write it on a card and place it somewhere visible to remind you. And then actually do whatever works for you.