Last month, at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles sent shockwaves around the world when she announced she’s withdrawing from several competitions at the games. Biles, who is one of the most accomplished gymnasts of all time, cited her mental health as the reasoning for her withdrawal. The surprising announcement attracted comments from people who, on one side, criticized the move, while on the other side, applauded it. My two cents on the matter are that none of us knows what is going on in someone else’s life. All we can do is trust what they tell us and show them support during these difficult times. I was amongst those who applauded the move, as I find it extremely important to listen to our body when it tells us it needs a break. Which leads me to the issue at hand – how can you tell if you need a break?
It’s important to distinguish between an acute stress reaction of a highly competitive situation: “good” nerves, excitement, and adrenaline that will resolve after the stressful event, versus symptoms of a mental health condition. It is also important to note that symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, but if you notice any of the following signs in yourself, it may be time to take a step back and slow down. The first sign is sleep problems. Sleep is one of the first things to suffer when you get stressed or overwhelmed. Take notice if you’re staying up extra hours or waking up at odd hours without being able to fall back asleep. In addition, sometimes, after even a full night of sleep, due to the excessive stress, you may feel physically and mentally exhausted, which can interrupt later with your might sleep.
Another possible sign is having trouble concentrating. No one is immune to mild forgetfulness or off days from time to time. But if you find that your usual tasks are taking longer or feel harder to get through, you may have too much on your plate. Other possible indications may include changes in your eating habits, having no motivation, having a more negative behavior, and losing interest in things you once loved, among other things. Again, people respond to stress in very different ways, so it’s important to understand your personal signs and symptoms that signal something is wrong. That is one of the reasons why I applaud Biles’ decision, as she, being the athlete that she is, knows her body and knows when it needs a break. It is important to listen to your body and know when it is time to take a break. Take care of yourself.