Eleanor Harvey receives instructions during a competition.

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

Marco Arop hugs his coach in the stands.

Marco Arop gives a hug to his coach Glenroy Gilbert after winning the 800m and setting a new Pan Am record of 1:44,25 at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru pm August 10th 2019. Photo : Christopher Morris

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

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

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

Bianca Andreescu with her coach

Bianca Andreescu listens to her coach Sylvain Bruneau during a practice session in Montreal on Monday, September 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

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

Team Canada's Olympic 2014 hockey team cheers on the bench.

Canada teammates Corey Perry, left, Matt Duchene, second left, Chris Kunitz, centre, and Rick Nash, right, celebrate after defeating the United States during third period semi-final hockey action at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Friday, February 21, 2014. Nash has announced his retirement from hockey after suffering a concussion last March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

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.

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