Wellness Category in Blog

There is nothing funny about drugs or anxiety

I love the Olympics. And I love Olympic athletes. I am in awe of how hard they work to achieve their goals, how much they sacrifice to be the best in the world. I admire how they train and live cleanly to attain physical and mental health so their bodies can achieve feats very few humans can accomplish. They are Olympians.

I am not a clinician, but I work at Freedom Institute heading up their marketing and communications, and editing their newsletters and this blog. I have a great sense of humor, but there are certain things I just can’t laugh about, like drugs and combining drugs and alcohol.

USA Olympic skater Adam Rippon skated the other night and his performance was spellbinding. However, when he joked about wishing he could have “a Xanax and a quick drink”, I felt as sick as he said he does when he gets on the ice. My teenage daughter commented, “This is the problem with America. We just look for a quick fix.”

When an Olympic athlete from a country in the throws of an epidemic caused primarily by the misuse and abuse of prescription pills feels comfortable enough to say something like that on an international platform, it illustrates how pervasive the problem is. This is not what we want to hear from anyone, certainly not from an Olympian who so many admire.

The combination of a “Xanax and a quick drink” can kill you. So let’s consider healthier ways to deal with anxiety before an Olympic performance, before a first date, or a job interview, or after a day when your kids have pushed you over the edge. After all, we all have moments in life that feel like Olympic feats.

As a mother, a competitive athlete and colleague to many highly trained mental health clinicians, I have picked up a few techniques to help channel my anxiety.

Meditation: It’s said that sports are 90% mental and only 10% physical. Many athletes are 100% certain that meditation in all of its forms calms nerves, reduces stress and improves focus, and fitness. Athletes such as Barry Zito, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter and many others meditate and swear by it to help with their performance.

Relaxation Techniques and Guided Imagery: Sports psychologist Mitchell Milch, LCSW talks about how athletes can learn to harness their imagination to realize their goals by using relaxation breathing techniques and visualizing a positive performance. Positive suggestions and tuning out negative thoughts, visualizing a successful outcome and silencing doubt, and replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk help alleviate anxiety. Focus on the positive instead of what could go wrong.

Try to practice some type of mindfulness or relaxation technique every day, regardless of whether you have a performance, so that the skill is there for you when you need it.

Shake it out: Take a walk, jump up and down, sing, shake out your muscles, dance or do whatever feels right to ease your anxiety.

Live well: Exercise, eat well and get adequate sleep.

And remember, sometimes small doses of anxiety are what motivate us. They should just not overwhelm or paralyze.