Think Like an Athlete and Improve your Mental Health. Part 2 – Asking for Help
Larry King recently stated on Tim Ferris’ Podcast that by the time an athlete’s career is over (approximately at age 30) they will have gone through as many failures and successes as you will have in your entire career. I have experienced this through my career as a professional extreme skier. So how do athletes mentally handle the intense emotional roller-coaster? Athletes not only have tremendous physical strength, they also have resilience and mental strength. One factor that makes them so mentally strong is how they ask for help.
Asking for Help
Asking for help is second nature for an athlete. They recognise that without the guidance and direction from a professional they will never improve. Athletes also recognise that they cannot be expected to know everything; they are surrounded by a team of experts. For instance: a physiotherapist knows the ins and outs of the mechanical movement of the human body; a nutritionalist knows to the gram exactly what an athlete needs to eat to be at their full optimization and so on. An athlete knows it is their job to be in the best shape, mentally and physically, and to turn to others to ask for help when something isn’t quite right.
When I am out skiing with friends I am constantly watching how they ski, their line choices, their daily practices and routines so that I can learn from them. If there was something I struggled with on a ski run, like coming off a pillow line too quickly into trees, I would immediately turn to a friend and ask how they did it better than me. During my recent training for the Freeride World Tour stop in Chile I began to feel a niggle in my left knee. Within the week I was booked in with my physio and asking for help. When I initially moved back to the UK after 10 years of living Canada, I knew I would need help with the adjustment of lifestyle so I booked an appointment with my therapist, Vanessa. I am so used to turning to a professional and asking for help.
A client of mine, who was also a professional freestyle skier, was one of the best in the world. About half way through a winter he began to finish mid level at competitions rather than his usual podium finishes. He immediately thought “I need help”. In this particular case the issues were coming from his head and having self-doubt. He sought help with me and with a sports psychologist. By the end of the winter he was back to his podium finishes. He immediately took upon himself to resolve this as quickly as possible. Would you react the same in a work situation? How long would it take you to reach out and ask for help? How much would your work need to suffer before you asked your boss for help?
For some reason asking for help is one of the hardest things for us to do. Whether it is something small like asking a co-worker to take some of your workload or something bigger, for instance when suffering with depression and asking your boss for time off or support. Everyone needs help sometimes and recongising that there are professionals out there who are trained to do exactly that, it begs the question – why would you not ask for help? I personally love being asked for help. It makes me feel needed and wanted. Not to mention the warm biological reaction of having dopamine released when I get to access the giving part of the brain. So ask a friend, co-worker or professional for help next time you need it.
For further reading this is an excellent article written by the Guardian on a teacher who was suffering with depression and asked her boss for help – Guardian Article