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The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.
Lindsey Vonn may no longer be competing in her sport, but the retired Olympic skier continues to use her voice in support of professional athletes by speaking out about her struggles when it comes to mental health.
"I think there’s a common misconception with athletes that because we’re strong and we stand on the podium that we’re somehow immune to mental health issues," the World Cup alpine ski racer and gold medalist tells Yahoo Life. "I think on the contrary, it makes us more susceptible to things like that because we are isolated and we oftentimes don’t have a support system for our mental health."
Vonn explains that while she once felt she wasn't "normal" for her feelings, she later acknowledged that she had reasons for experiencing loneliness amid the chaos of her career.
"I’ve been skiing since I was 2 and a half years old, been racing since I was 7. It’s really been the focus of my life for as long as I can remember," she says. "After I won the Olympics in 2010, I kind of got bombarded with a lot of negativity that I wasn’t quite equipped to handle, so I definitely struggled with that and struggled with just confidence and body image for a long time."
When it came to her retirement in 2019, she had difficulty coming to terms with what her life was like without the sport. "You wake up one day and you’re no longer doing what you always did. So as much as I had prepared for it, it still emotionally was really difficult to deal with," she shares.
When it came to taking care of herself — physically and mentally — Vonn also faced a shift.
"My body is my body and it’s helped me succeed in so many ways in life. I’ve always worked out, but I’ve always worked out for a purpose, which is to compete. And now, I work out for my mental health," she admits. "I feel like honestly it helps me more mentally than it does physically and it’s a great way for me to start my day and just to feel really empowered and confident."
As for Vonn's support system, she explains that she's long been dependent on her dogs. "When you travel and compete and you’re always on the go, you don’t really have a lot of stability and my dogs have really given me a sense of home and a sense of grounding that I don’t get from anything else. I wish there was a human that did that, but so far, it’s just my dogs. We’re quite the pack."
And while she's not making her own appearance at the Olympics, Vonn assures that she's still doing the work to keep herself in the best shape possible.
"I feel like you’re always working on your mental health, just like everything else in life. I’m always learning and growing and every day you become a better person and I learn more about myself. But I’m at a very happy stage in life," she explains. "I’m very present right now and not looking too far in the future. I’m just enjoying, I’m working hard and mentally, physically, emotionally I feel very good."
Video produced by Stacy Jackman
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