Olympic Gold Medalist Suni Lee Says Journaling Has Done Wonders For Her Mental Health

As have puppies.

suni lee mental health

Sometimes it’s the smallest changes that can make a big impact. This rings especially true when it comes to one’s health. In TZR’s series Step-By-Step, tastemakers speak to the minor moves that can lead to mighty changes.

The countdown to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris is officially on. Just a mere months away, most of the world is likely anticipating the sports and athletes they’ll be following throughout the 16-day global event. However, for the participants, there’s an entirely different type of anticipation — and it’s not always positive or healthy. In fact, the pressure on Olympians has been a point of focus in recent years. Sports stars like Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and Naomi Osaka have all made their own experiences and struggles public, putting an end to the toxic, decades-long culture that taught them to “never let them see you sweat.” Olympic gold medalist Sunisa “Suni” Lee is joining this mental health-focused fight, speaking candidly about the behind-the-scenes stress that most cameras and glossy editorial spreads fail to catch.

“It's a lot. And I think it's really important for people to see the other side because all everybody sees is what is on TV, in the competition, and on the scores,” said Lee to TZR during a Team USA photoshoot in Los Angeles. “Nobody really sees the work that we actually put in. Everybody goes through some sort of anxiety, so it's like, why not just talk about it? I don't know why I was so scared to talk about it for so long.” Indeed, Lee has been an open book over the past year, even sharing her recent diagnosis with kidney disease.

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As she vies for a spot on Team USA to compete in Paris, Lee says she’s making her physical and mental health a top priority. In addition to the eight-hour training sessions six days a week and the low sodium diet she (mostly) sticks to, the Minnesota-native has also adopted a few self-care rituals to keep anxiety at bay.

“I go to therapy and I also do a lot of journaling just to write down how I'm feeling or even writing down keywords and visualizing everything,” says Lee. “Because I really think that that's the one thing that helped me the last Olympics, constantly visualizing myself and putting myself in these positions, good or bad, because anything can happen. So if I already put it in my head, I know that if it were to happen in real life, I could be able to, I guess, control it or expect it.”


While this practice seems simple enough, Lee says visualization and journaling have been crucial in combatting the severe anxiety she’s experienced since her college days at Auburn University. “When I had meets, I would have anxiety attacks and my coach would be like, go journal,” recalls Lee. “They'd be like, ‘Here's your journal, here's a pen, write down how you're feeling.’ There were times where I couldn't even go out there. I’d be like, ‘Can you pull me out of the meet? I'm so nervous.’ And they were like, ‘Just write it down.’ And then I would go out there and be fine.”

There were times where I couldn't even go out there. I’d be like, ‘Can you pull me out of the meet? I'm so nervous.’

Another major component in her mental health journey? Emotional support by way of her sweet Australian Shepherd puppy, Bean. “Literally I'm like, this is my child,” she says with a smile. “But yeah, I like to take him on walks and just spend a lot of time outside.”

Because of her strict training schedule, when she’s not in Olympian mode, the gymnast says she likes to let her body rest — and indulge. “I don't like to mix my personal life and gymnastics together,” says Lee. “I like to have a little bit of a balance. So when I'm leaving the gym, I'm leaving everything at the gym. And when I go home, I like to just get my rest time.”