Bermuda’s Daniel Maguire lives with athletic anxiety, and the 20-year-old Dalhousie runner continues to make strides to help himself and others.
“A lot of athletes feel anxiety before they compete, or even during competition,” says Maguire. “Anxiety issues cause me to question whether or not I am at the level I need to be. I look around me during a race and say, ‘can I do this?”
Maguire who finished 2nd during the 2015 Sir Stanley Burgess 5K Road Race is now in school at Dalhousie University, writes Jeff Harper/Metro.
In a sport measured by individual results, cross country runner Maguire often finds his toughest opponent in the mirror.
Maguire lives with athletic anxiety, and the 20-year-old Dalhousie runner continues to make strides to help himself and others.
Running mixes with Maguire’s anxiety in different ways. He describes it as relaxing and meditative – taking in the sights and sounds, unwinding from the stressors of life.
Then comes competition, and the stressors of chasing success.
“Last year, I came into the season in great shape and the night before the first race, I couldn’t sleep,” Maguire recalls. “It would affect my performance. This year, the issues moved to mid-race anxiety. My best races are when I almost treat it like a practice, don’t take it too seriously.”
Maguire’s anxiety became an issue as a sophomore while attending boarding school in Delaware. He describes those early anxiety attacks as a feeling of isolation. The attacks often occurred at night, leaving him awake and pacing the halls of his dorm.
“There was a strong support system at boarding school, but I never felt I could reach out. I felt alone. You begin to think about everything – I’d tell a joke at school and if nobody laughed, I’d spend the night wondering if people didn’t like me, or thought I wasn’t funny.”
Maguire also found running in Delaware. Although never previously focused on athletics, he gave running a try and was a standout amongst his classmates. His sister Erin also ran cross country, and he followed her footsteps to the Dalhousie University varsity team. Maguire found a home.
“I love the Dalhousie athletic community,” he says. “This sport is a big part of who I am. My friends and roommates are on this team. I feel comfortable here.”
Maguire now does “strength training” to combat his anxiety. Sometimes, it involves thinking of positive things to help feel calm. Simple thoughts such as “your family loves you” or remembering a great race result.
Then there is the support of teammates, whom he says understand the mental strain of a big race. They offer encouraging words and understand his journey. In turn, he’s been approached by close friends looking to talk about their anxiety issues, athletic or otherwise. Maguire is involved with Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 25th. He’s seen growth in support for mental health issues through the annual campaign.
“We need to be open about mental health and stop seeing these issues as weaknesses,” Maguire says. “Not everybody lifts the same amount of weight in the gym. Mental health is the same – it doesn’t define your strength or who you are as a person. We’ve come a long way in realizing that talking about mental health is ok, but there’s still room to grow.”