Featured in People: Shiffrin on How Art Has Influenced Her Career and Her Mental Health
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin recently spoke as the (virtual) keynote in the He(art) of Vail Valley’s Youth event, organized by Mountain Youth, whose mission is "To continuously and collaboratively improve the lives of youth in the most powerful ways possible." Following the event, People featured the discussion with an article entitled, "Olympian Mikaela Shiffrin on Dealing with Performance Anxiety: 'I Never Expected' It Would Affect Me".
Mikaela's involvement began when she and her mother Eileen reached out to Carol Johnson, formerly the Community Education Manager at Mountain Youth and now the Program and Events Director at SpeakUp ReachOut (side note: Carol is also the mother of U.S. Moguls Team athlete and Olympian Tess Johnson). Mikaela had a desire to get involved with the local community from a mental health awareness standpoint, especially given the situation with Covid-19 and unemployment rates skyrocketing.
During what's been a challenging time for everyone, Mikaela has been connecting with her fans via social media, sharing her own love the arts—music, dance, and more—as a form of therapy in these uncertain times.
As People wrote,
The 25-year-old joined a Colorado crowd through video chat on Sunday to talk about art and how she has used it to support her own mental health during her career and after recently losing her grandmother and father.
"Art has had such a positive impact on my life — not just my life, but my career and my mind, my whole mindset," Shiffrin told the crowd at Nottingham Park for the He(art) of Vail Valley’s Youth event. "I've learned some things along the way through ski racing that have translated into every aspect of my life, and I think could help others in their own lives."
"My family has faced a lot of loss this year, and adding the situation with COVID on top of that, sometimes it's really hard not to feel completely helpless," she said. "I think a lot of people are feeling that way. What I've been realizing throughout this process of learning how to live in a world with a pandemic, especially after losing my nana in October and my dad in February, is that it's okay not to feel okay. It's okay not to be happy all the time. It's okay to feel helpless. Sometimes it's all okay."
Shiffrin said one of the first times she realized the importance of prioritizing her mental health was when she experienced performance anxiety following the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Mikaela discussed the way in which she unwinds from the stress of being one of the most dominant athletes in the world, which includes playing piano or guitar, singing, and watching her favorite TV Show, Friends.
"Music is a really powerful tool that can help us feel things more deeply," she said. "It can also help us to drive and control our own mindset and emotions, or it can take control of us."
Check out the full keynote speech below, from Mikaela's instagram.
I am honored to have had the opportunity to speak (virtually) at The He(art) of Vail Valley’s Youth event in partnership with @mountainyouth yesterday. Mountain Youth's mission is to "rally around the community, providing support, conversation, education, and collaboration to help all young people in the Eagle River Valley thrive. We do this through a variety of programs that engage youth while helping adults start tough conversations." A big THANK YOU for allowing me the opportunity to discuss the impact art, dance, music, and creativity have had on my career, life, and mental health. 🤗🤗#mentalhealthawareness