Even Olympic Athletes Like Simone Biles Need To Learn These Two Self-Soothing Skills

Turns out, anyone can benefit.

Simone Biles in Rio Olympics Salty View / Shutterstock

The Olympics have always been about winning or losing medals; the triumphs and tragedies of high-performance sports. This year, the biggest sports story is entirely different.

World-renowned athletes are acknowledging that appearing to be physically and psychologically invincible can take a huge toll on them.

Practicing for their respective events is really important, but so is practicing self-soothing activities to keep them mentally strong. 


As a Life Coach for 22 years, I often work with clients who have felt "frozen in fear" by the stories they told themselves about a situation. Other clients reported that they felt so angry or grief-stricken about the future that they had lost the ability to succeed.

RELATED: Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka & Serena Williams Are Teaching Our Kids To Be Quitters

The solution is to practice these two self-soothing activities: brain breathing and empathy.

Self-soothing can transform your own mind into the peaceful and powerful tool that it's meant to be.  

Athletes may hone their physical bodies to display superpowers. Yet, the vulnerability of their human psyche can suffer, and while their career thrives, their personal life and mental health may not.


1. Brain breathing. 

It only takes a few simple steps to practice the self-soothing activity of brain breathing. 

1. Take a deep slow breath in through both nostrils and bring the air up from your stomach (your "yogic breath").

2. Make your mouth into a round shape and breath out. If you hear a "whoosh" of air during the exhalation, even better!

3. Repeat this up to 10 times without stopping.

When Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s gymnastics individual all-around final and the all-around team final, she explained that she was not in a good mental space to compete, shocking athletes, coaches, and the world. 

She's both the latest example and the public face of human frailty that we must always remember, because the human mind fuels and controls the body. 


"The outpouring (of) love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before," she tweeted.

Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimming legend, has also become the spokesperson for online therapy after his own struggle with depression. 

And Naomi Osaka, former number one-ranked tennis player, wrote that she hopes "we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones." She's been public about the fact that her media interactions were sometimes uncomfortable and created doubts for her on the court. 

2. Discover empathy.

There needs to be empathy in self-soothing.


Under pressure from a compassionate public, USA Gymnastics has supported Biles’s decision to step back.

They stated that they "applauded her bravery in prioritizing her well-being; her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many."

Tragically, however, there are no programs in place to support the psychological needs of athletes to prevent burnout.

When fear wins, no one wins.

But, with powerful inner tools and skills, you, too, can avoid the terror that's been stalking Simone Biles and other athletes and celebrities for years. 

When I teach actors and other performers how to eliminate stage fright, it's this same set of self-soothing techniques and skills that moves them from self-judging to self-acceptance to self-love.


RELATED: PSA: Your Mental Health Issues Are Not Your Fault

Once someone discovers self-love through developing self-soothing skills, the static in the mind becomes silent.

When you realize that you feel frightened, angry, or sad, it's important to stop and provide empathy to yourself in order to calm down. The outside world can no longer throw you for a loop. 

The more you practice this, the faster you re-enter a peaceful and powerful state. Then, you have the ability to make changes in your life and motivate others to support you, even during the Olympics.

Coaches must also expand the skills they offer their athletes to include technical and athletic encouragement as well as support for their athlete’s mental health and happiness.


We've seen the result when this is missing.

And when coaches also learn how to self-soothe, they learn how to feel and express empathy for their athletes. Thus, the entire Olympic system will benefit. 

Self-empathy and empathy have saved the lives of countless people enduring the most adverse conditions in marriage, divorce, co-parenting, and employment.


I've seen again and again that the single difference required was learning how to self-soothe and soothe the upsets of others, two skills that most people were able to learn in a few hours of training. 

Suni Lee is America’s new golden girl, the current U.S. Gymnastics Olympic gold medal winner. What self-soothing skills and direction will she be offered? Or will it be assumed that she can handle all the stress and continue to thrive? 

With brain-breathing and self-empathy, each athlete can self-soothe and regain peace.

With the same skills plus an outward expression of empathy, each coach can provide the calming support that every high-performance athlete requires, even when they feel too stressed to get rid of the twisties for themselves. 


RELATED: 14 Ways To Relieve Stress In 5 Minutes Or Less

Susan Allan is a certified mediator and communication expert who created The Marriage Forum, Inc. For a complimentary one-hour private telephone coaching session, visit Heartspace.