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World-Stage Pressure

When the 2020 Olympics begin on July 27th in Tokyo, hundreds of the best athletes in the world will be competing against each other in a pressure cooker that is televised worldwide. Their every move and facial gesture will be weighed and dissected. Imagine having the entire world analyze every single thing you do and say, while a panel of judges tear apart your performance, pointing out the most miniscule of mistakes. We have all felt the pressure to perform and act as if we aren’t terrified, disappointed, or frustrated, but not at a world-stage level.

The pandemic has only compounded the situation for these athletes. Tokyo declared a state of emergency only two weeks away from the start of the games. With the added restrictions, athletes are left with far fewer options to blow off steam and decompress after hours of grueling training. Their families and loved ones won’t be allowed to be on-site to offer support and hugs. Sports psychologist Hisashi Tanegashima said, "Many athletes may feel isolated. They need empathy, understanding, and support to ease the sense of loneliness.”

Some countries are taking extra precautions to help with the psychological effects. The British Olympic Association is sending over a mental health expert team, the Singapore delegation will include three psychologists, and there will also be a clinic with mental health services set up in the Olympic and Paralympic Village. This is the first time in Olympic history that these kinds of services are being provided (which also begs the question why this was never provided before).

Even the most well-trained athletes in the world struggle with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. They need support just as much as the rest of us do, sometimes maybe more because of the added scrutiny and pressure of the world stage, the media, and the judges. When you watch the Olympics this year, you’ll see ordinary people doing extraordinary things, while battling the same issues so many of us do.

I can’t imagine going through what I did after my attack in front of millions of people. I don’t think I would have been able to handle the heavy weight of so many opinions and judgments, or weeks of my every move being analyzed on live TV. It’s a high-pressure situation many of us will never experience, but also one that reminds us that even the best in the world need support and a call to end the stigma around mental health. To read more about my story, pick up my book here, and to share your own, please post a comment and continue the conversation.

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