Think Like an Athlete and Improve your Mental Health. Part 2 – Asking for Help

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.

Asking for help on my line choice down Granite Peak

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


Why being in nature gives you excellent mental health

Why being in nature gives you excellent mental health

I have spent most of my life outdoors.  Having a childhood in California we spent our weekends biking, skiing, hiking and adventuring around national parks like Lake Tahoe & Yosemite.  Then in my adult life I lived in the beautiful mountains of Whistler, Canada.  Skiing 150+ days a year and the rest of the days I spent biking, hiking, camping and swimming in lakes.  I was always outdoors.  Even if I was just relaxing at home I would sit out on the balcony over looking the woods or soak up the sun on my front door step.  But I never linked being relaxed with how much time I was spending outdoors.  Until recently.

I recently moved back to London and it is quite the change from the Canadian mountain lifestyle I have been living for the past ten years.  I absolutely love London.  I can not get board.  It is full of excitement and a never ending list of things to do and see.  However, I haven’t been able to shake off my old habits of constantly being outside.  Majority of my weekends are spent out in the countryside exploring new areas and aimlessly hiking in the hills and forests.  When I want to meet up with my brother or friends I will always suggest a walk a long the Thames instead of or as well as meeting for a pint.  I’ve also taken up rowing since moving back to the UK.

A huge draw to taking up rowing was not only is it an extremely athletic workout but that it is an outdoor sport.  I love the quiet mornings and calm evenings on the river.  In the spring the ducklings are out, in the summer the sun is warm on your back, in the autumn the leaves decorate the river with colour and in the winter the frost creates a white wonderland.  It is beautiful.  I find when I come off the water I am buzzing with energy or extremely relaxed.

My partner lives in the New Forest.  This is a great place to explore.  Giant Sequoia trees, forest covered in purple heather, wild ponies and the sea and beaches.  It is a breathe of fresh air to be down there.  The forest is so quiet that you can only hear the leaves rustling.  I spend hours walking which helps me problem solve, relax and get the endorphins I need.  We don’t just hike around we measure how wide the trees are (using our own arm span of course), try to build forts with tree branches, rope swing across streams and slide in mud.  I apparently haven’t grown up.  But at the end of the day I feel so incredibly relaxed (also completely knackered).

When I’m not in the UK I’m in the mountains.  It’s where I feel the most at home.  Even though the mountains can be temperamental, it is where I am most calm.  Completely away from noise, crowds and pollution.  The beauty of the vast peaks, white snowcapped mountains, birds, such as condors, circulating in the air, creature footprints in the snow the sounds of the wind blowing or streams running.

Only since moving to London have I been able to connect the dots that nature is what keeps me calm and in excellent mental health.  The feeling I have after a session out on the water, or a days hike in the forest or a weeks trip in the Alps is like no other.  I have such a feeling of accomplishment, I sleep much better, I am relaxed and full of endorphins. Studies show the benefits of being outdoors are

  • Less anxiety & improved happiness
  • Reduce stress levels.
  • Improve your sleep.
  • Improved eye sight.  Rather than straining your eyes looking at screens you’re exercising the muscles in your eyes to look in to the distance.
  • Getting your daily Vitamin D amount and boosting your immune system.

Eco therapy is a type of therapy that helps to heal mental health issues by being in nature.  It is proven to be extremely successful and is increasingly becoming more popular.  It is so easy to get fixated on the small daily annoyances or even the big things life throws at us.  But it all seems to melt away when you get out in nature.  So get outside and spend at least an hour embracing what it around you.   I promise you that pint and roast dinner will taste all the better after a walk in the woods.


Photo Credit: Rick Findler