Our mental health reflects our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing which greatly impacts how we perceive the world around us.  As individuals, we have a personal responsibility AND a collective responsibility to create an environment and cultures that enhance people, not take from them.   

That’s why Mental Health Awareness week is so important. It is an opportunity for all of us to take a step back, take stock and assess our mental health and – most importantly – to make changes if we need to.  Likewise, it enables workplaces to consider the impact their environment and culture is having on their teams.

When I reflect on my own mental health challenges throughout my career as a boxer and now a business owner and coach, two challenging periods of times come to mind.

1.      Post-Games -  the ‘grey’ periods in the weeks and months after a pinnacle event (like the Commonwealth Games and Olympic) games. During these post-Games periods I struggled with motivation and drive while feeling a little lost and unsure of the next step. What helped was accepting these feelings and not fighting against them. This was important for me. In addition, taking it one day at a time and asking for support when I needed it helped guide me through these thoughts and feelings. When I was out of the grey headspace, speaking out and advocating for others was important to me. It encouraged a collective movement with mental health/ wellbeing while supporting each other.  

2.       Supporting Others - Supporting a loved one who lives with depression was a tough journey. Concern for them and just wanting to make them feel better (even though I understand, I could not) caused turbulence in my mind.  Learning how to support the loved one struggling while taking care of myself at the same time took a while to figure out.  Understanding that I could take a break and ask for help when I needed it was essential.  

We all have ups and downs.  For me, the struggles felt bigger when I wasn’t looking after my own wellbeing; for example, when I wasn’t getting enough sleep and eating well when I tried to squeeze too many commitments into a day or week and when I did not take the time to exercise. In isolation, the things listed above didn't seem to be an issue, but if I added them all together over an extended period of time, it created a situation where I felt overwhelmed and very stretched. 

Coming back to the basics has always helped me steady the ship - sleep, nutritious food, water, sunlight and exercise. Meaningful connections with loved ones allowed me to share honest conversations with people I felt safe with. Sometimes if I was sharing a struggle and all I wanted was for them to listen. I would say, "all I need from you is to listen." When I wanted advice or help with a problem I would say, "could you listen and help me work towards a solution, please?" 

Yes, it takes courage and vulnerability to open our hearts and share our experiences.  Sharing our stories in safe places takes the power away from our thoughts, we can control the narrative, the story stops controlling us.   

If a part of my journey resonates with someone else and shows them they are not alone, that is a good thing.  When we feel alone, we can isolate ourselves more.  When we understand and know others can/do/have felt similar things we are more likely to reach out and ask for help.  We all struggle with life; life's tough. If we can all be a part of a world where we hold space for each other and elevate each other when and where we can. As individuals and as a society we will be in a much better place.  

Support reminders: 

Carded athletes have their HPSNZ support team who can directly support or refer to external specialists 

Non-carded athletes can access Jason McKenzie 

Coaches and staff can access EAP services through Vitae 

To speak to a counsellor or psychologist, call or text 1737 

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