You might be wondering why an electronic music publication is writing about the Olympics. Turns out there’s actually more than meets the eye when it comes to sports and the music industry. Both are demanding careers in their own right involving endurance–physically and mentally. They require strength of the mind, body and even spirit. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics saw athletes stepping up and prioritizing mental health. In a year where wellness has been at the forefront of conversations, artists have also opened up about the struggles they face in the music industry. For example, Michael Bibi shared a video last spring about coping with his mental health challenges, “Anxiety. I suffer from it, it’s a daily battle, which I fight almost every day, mental health is REAL & it’s a continuous daily work.” You don’t have to be an Olympian to feel the pressures of society or of always being “on.” Here are five things to learn from Olympic athletes.
One of the most talked-about things of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was when reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s team gymnastic final due to mental health concerns. Earlier this summer, tennis heavy-weight Naomi Osaka refused to hold a press conference during the French Open also citing mental health as the reason why she’d be skipping out on playing it as well. These are young athletes who are at their prime yet also under a microscope. Their every move is judged and scored, quite literally. One would consider their decisions out-of-character given their status as Olympic athletes. However, their actions are a reminder that regardless of being an Olympic athlete, or world-touring DJ, at the end of the day, you’re still human. They raised the bar, not for high-achieving performance and winning medals but for taking a step back and simply being rather than doing.
Life isn’t always easy, but it’s how you respond to life’s curveballs that show your character. Serbian professional tennis player Novak Djokovic is ranked No.1 but at this year’s Olympics, the athlete left empty-handed. The top-ranked tennis player’s frustration showed on the court and he lost his cool. The game wore on him and he smashed his racket after losing in the tournament. “I just didn’t deliver yesterday and today. The level of tennis dropped. Also due to exhaustion – mentally and physically. I gave it all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much,” said Djokovic. Life won’t always go your way, and the sooner you realize how much is out of your control the easier it can be to roll with its punches. Imagine how many DJs want to play at Awakenings or EDC Las Vegas, some of the leading electronic music festivals in the world. There are more DJs than there are opportunities. To have your shot in participating at a global event like the Olympics is a win in and of itself. Accepting life’s wins and losses is part of the game. Do both with grace.
Olympic sprinter Noah Lyles, Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Simone Manuel, shot-putter Raven Saunders and gymnast Sam Mikulak are just a few who have stepped forward to bring their mental health experiences into the spotlight. Any career that involves a performative or competitive aspect takes its participants to another “edge.” More and more public figures are speaking about their struggles unapologetically. These careers take an above-average amount of dedication, motivation and passion. Knowing this, it’s important to know when to draw the line between hustle mentality and slowing down. Sometimes less is more and it helps avoid burnout. Instead of questioning whether you’re doing enough notice where you’re putting your attention to. Mental strength is about building daily habits to help you get through when life’s circumstances change unexpectedly. Just like going to the gym and lifting weights to improve muscle strength, creating a lifestyle to develop mental gains is essential. This also includes giving up unhealthy habits. UK DJ and producer Hannah Wants shares, “I know first hand how toxic this industry can be on the brain [however] we as artists can’t binge abuse drink and drugs all weekend then wonder why our mental state is suffering.”
People are quick to show compassion when someone has physically injured themselves. Why is it that unless you can see an injury you aren’t as likely to give someone time and space to heal? Judging or shaming someone for taking a step back to focus on their wellbeing is not okay. It’s a crippling and invisible challenge that can take its toll on someone. Let’s normalize talking about mental health and mindfulness. It’s important to provide understanding and empathy for the pressures of performing ranging from the entertainment industry to the sports world. Strength comes in many forms. Emotional strength and vulnerability can help create better communities.
Dutch runner Sifan Hassan tripped during her first round of the 1500 metres Olympic event and got back up. She made a full recovery and completed the remaining 380 meters of the race. Not only did she finish, but she clinched the bronze medal. She walked away winning a total of three distance medals (two gold and one bronze) in this year’s Olympics. Resilience isn’t the absence of distress or something you’re born with but something you practice in order to keep moving forward. You will trip, stumble and fall but remember it’s not the end. To be where you’re at right now has taken a lot of strength and resilience. You’re not shaped by the things that happen to you but by how you respond and bounce back. Life comes in waves and learning how to ride them is part of the journey. Ask any great house and techno legend and chances are they have a list of setbacks to their name and will admit to learning more from what didn’t work out than wins to their name. Don’t be afraid to take a (mis)step because, at the end of the day, it’s still moving toward a direction from which you’ll learn something.