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Mental health in sport

The feeling of my heart exploding in the chest, shaking all over, sweat on my hands and all over my body. What anguish! I faced this situation many times in my life and sport was my point of balance and exposure at the same time.


Analyzing the agony moments nowadays, I ask myself several questions. How and when did this start? Where did I feel most comfortable? First, it's hard to find the first moment I felt this because I've always been very shy and I've suffered a lot from it since childhood. I think this is a characteristic of mine that has always been present and that I work with it daily until today. The first days of school, oral exams, birthday parties, were always moments of tension. Then I started to see that my shyness was gone every time I moved. I felt good in PE classes, running with friends and playing with cousins.

It is relevant to reflect on this, sport is a good tool to eliminate the tensions and stress of the day. You should fell good and by doing sport and it would be a decisive factor in improving the quality of your life. After all, nothing better than finding a way out of the daily stress with healthy habits.

In my childhood and youth I suffered a lot with these conditions whenever I exposed myself to some pressure, from silly things like taking the bus for the first time, to a moment of great exposure in a presentation of a school work. At 12 years old, my mother saw me as an extremely shy girl and I caused her a lot of concern. Her support was very important at various times, always understanding the role of sport in this process. She signed me up at the gym close to home, encouraged me in athletics, initially in street racing, and suggested I go to Orlando Cani's gym. This last intervention was a watershed in my personal and professional life, after all, it is difficult to describe the importance of master Orlando in my life.

Dani Genovesi at the  launch of the master Orlando Cani's book, with Alexandre, Julia and Antonio
At the lauch of master Orlando Cani's book, with Alexandre, Julia and Antonio

In running I didn't suffer much from anxiety disorders and shyness, it was an individual sport and every time I raced I just wanted to run as fast as possible. I loved to be competing and the process made me feel strong, this feeling was extrapolated to the moments when I felt weak and alone. Shyness at that time only existed in races, when my mother – like all mothers – would scream for me as response I run away and pretend not to know her (laughs).

It was in bodyboard, at age 16, that the signs of anxiety were more latent and even caused physical symptoms. I've always been competitive and little by little I won some tournaments. When I realized I was already disputing big championships with the load of favoritism. The impact of the crises was greater at that time, I believe that, because of the teenage phase itself, as I already felt judged and I was constantly worried about what others would think of me and my performance. Everything was a real drama! Conclusion: on the eve of every championship I was sick with fever.

It was at this time that I met master Orlando Cani, a Yoga teacher and, today, a very dear and special family friend. I went to his gym by my mother's suggestion because she already suspected that the fevers were emotional and thought that the sessions with Orlando would be useful. She was right on target.

Dani Genovesi com o mestre Orlando Cani após uma prática de meditação
Após ua prática de meditação com o mestre Orlando Cani

The master created a method that has been perfected over the years with many athletes and students that he supervised, I highly recommend his book (order: I was and am guided by his teachings until today. Everything I learned from him was relevant to my personal and professional life and was my salvation. Since the first session, we focused on controlling anxiety and using breathing as a way to help self-control, this was essential to get throuhg the moments when I saw myself alone and with the feeling that my chest was going to explode.

Yoga, meditation breathing instructions and physical exercises, all these activities were the recipe for my balance. The things were gradually readjusted and I was able to endure the pre-competition days. I wasn't sick anymore, it was amazing! Each competition was a learning experience, an emotional and mental victory, regardless of the outcome.

At 18, when I started jiu-jitsu, I already felt good at bodyboarding, physically and emotionally. I was the typical tough girl, in addition to these activities I still ran and loved weightlifting. During training at the gym everything was fine and I always came back happy even when I was smashed in the sparring section. This changed radically when I started competing. I'm not sure why, but even though it's difficult, I love to compete and I've always tried to be competing in some modality.

In jiu-jitsu, the tension and anxiety I felt in competitions were much more intense. Fighting in the ring, with an opponent wanting to do to you exactly what you want to do to him, is nerve-racking. The panic was immediate. Even with Orlando's lessons, the symptoms all came back, including pre-competition fevers. I froze, I lost grips and all my strength was gone. Result: I improved the methods with the master and trained twice the load on and off the mat. As I was aware that in the competition I had 40% of my strength and committed focus.

I've competed and competed a lot, I love to compete. I suffer but still enjoy it, will you understand? Little by little, I created triggers to minimize anxiety and control the disturbances caused. Identifying them is essential, that's the only way I was able to understand how they manifested themselves, their causes and how to live with each other. I say this because nowadays with social networks all this is intensified, it doesn't affect me as much anymore, but I know the power it has. The exposure and potential evaluation of the acts to the whole world is staggering.

Dani Genovesi com o apoio da família e amigos na Itália
Sempre com o apoio da família e amigos, minha mães e How-how na Itália

The bike was almost a moment of redemption. At 30, when I started, I was more mature and cycling competitions entered my life with a pact to always be moments of enjoyment and joy. I still feel pressure, but I don't get sick. I feel the weight of the sponsorships and financial help I've had throughout my career, I feel the weight of my dreams in my competitions, but I reestablish myself with my connection with the master Orlando Cani, my family and friends. I learned to expose my weaknesses to the people I love, feel their help and support, and survive being happy with most of my choices. With everyone's help I feel strong and ready to face new challenges. Let the next ones come!

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