“Take care of yourself and move forward” has been Joe Wu’s motto during these last few months. No longer able to compete and to practice on a regular basis, Wu—like so many others—has turned to virtual ways to connect and uplift those around him. While he is very active and engaged online, Wu realized that the additional stress he was experiencing by not connecting in person during this time made it extra important for him to focus on his mental health. He committed to learning more through the Special Olympics Strong Mindfulness program—free, one-hour mindfulness sessions for people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Wu was one of 200 individuals who tuned in to learn deep breathing techniques, body awareness and progressive muscles relaxation, mindful movement, and guided meditation. All participants also received a Strong Minds Activity Guide designed to develop their coping skills, both in competition and everyday life.
Wu highly recommends the Activity Guide to his friends and is even working on a video for a larger audience about taking care of one’s mental health during these unique times. “I learned how to take care of myself. Strong Minds helps in calming athletes so they will feel better,” Wu shares.
Mental health is a part of your overall health, a fact that is important to remember for all during the pandemic. In a year unlike any other, World Mental Health Day on 10 October has “the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health” according to the World Health Organization.
Special Olympics emphasizes how important mental health is in addition to a strong body when preparing to compete at one’s best through Strong Minds, the emotional health component of the flagship Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® programming. To date, Healthy Athletes has reached more than 135 countries and provided more than 2.1 million screenings.
Strong Minds is an interactive learning activity focused on developing adaptive coping skills. Competition provides a natural opportunity to develop active strategies for maintaining emotional wellness under stress, such as: thinking positive thoughts, releasing stress and connecting with others. Athletes try a few different active coping strategies as they move through the stations. Before exiting, athletes identify the strategies they like best and volunteers provide them with visual reminders to use these tools in competition and in daily life.
To access these and other resources that Special Olympics developed to support athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic and to promote the health, safety, well-being of the Special Olympics community, click here.