Millions of people live with mental health problems each and every day. Mental health is not something to be feared, by those suffering with it or by those exposed to it through friends, family or colleagues.
My name is Jack Green; some of you may know my story and most of you probably have not.
By the age of 20 I had represented my country at the London 2012 Olympics and at the 2011 World Championships. I had won the European U23 Championships, finished fourth in an Olympic Games and was ranked 11th in the World for my event, the 400m hurdles.
At 21 years old I was diagnosed with depression. I took a break from my sport in 2014 and learnt to manage my illness and return to the sport of track and field, a better person and a better athlete.
I now train in Florida and I am preparing to go forward and represent my country once again at the upcoming World Championships in Beijing. I have learnt to manage my depression and thought I would share my tips and hopefully help others.
There is still a stigma against mental health, yet it’s thought that 10% of the entire population is struggling with this at any given time. In a country such as the UK, with 60 million people, that’s a staggering 6 million.
So few people speak out about mental health, I hope I can help remove the stigma surrounding mental health and make it easier for others to speak about it too.
BEING SOCIAL AND USE DISTRACTIONS
It’s important to surround yourself with good people. You will enjoy yourself and your mind will continue to be occupied with happy thoughts. We are human beings and we love company. When you start to feel low just message a friend or a member of your family. Skype them or meet them for a drink, anything!
People are a mental distraction. You can use other things such as beginning an educational course or learning a language. It can even be as simple as chewing gum; I chew gum everyday and it’s enough distraction to control my thoughts.
GET IT OFF YOUR CHEST
Don’t hold in your thoughts, find someone you trust and let your thoughts out. I work with a psychologist on a weekly basis who has to put up with my ranting but I feel much better afterwards. Thoughts can be self-destructive and your worries can take over, don’t keep it in!
OVERLOAD YOUR SENSES
Your senses can change your thoughts. Be it sounds, smells, tastes or touch. If there is a song/album that relaxes you or makes you happy, then listen to it. If a certain smell relaxes you, then buy a candle and light it. (I use lavender; it takes me back to my childhood)
I’m sure you can think of a few examples that can work for you.
MINDSET AND GOALS
Educate yourself on mental health, if you know what you’re fighting, the easier it is to understand and manage it. There are hundreds of self-help books and useful resources on the Internet that can help educate you.
We all have demons in our head that say negative thoughts. How do we beat them?
Self-talk is one of the most important tools, in my opinion. My demons are very powerful and try to hijack my brain. When your demons are winning or begin to think negatively just imagine a STOP! sign. Don’t allow them to win, it’s your mind, it is yours to control. After you use your STOP! sign try to think positively and use those distractions I mentioned earlier.
For the sports people reading this. How I stop demons during a difficult session is to draw a square on my wrist. That square stands for all my dreams and the people who believe in me. Every time I see that square it puts my mind back into focus and stops me giving into my demons.
Set yourself some goals and when things get hard you will have the motivation to pull you through. Have lots of small, daily goals that allow you to be successful everyday and then have your ultimate goal. It’s like climbing a ladder and each step is an achievement and takes you a little closer to your ultimate goal.
RELAXATION AND BREATHING
It is important to schedule time to relax. Sit down; enjoy some free time in front of your TV or a good book.
Consider meditation; it is something that is highly recommended as it empties your mind and allows greater control over your thoughts.
Anxiety is a huge part of mental health issues. One simple yet incredibly effective way to manage this is through your breathing. Breathe through your nose and then out through your mouth. Repeat until you feel in control of yourself, trust me, it works!
I am a long way from home and miss my friends and family. It was a big decision for me to move away from my support network but I am able to because I am confident in my management of my mental health. One way I combat being away is through my positive memories. I have kept every single card and gift I have received from my loved ones and keep them visible around the house. It reminds me that I have fantastic people who care about me and helps me remember the happiness I have felt in my life and wish to continue to feel until my final breath.
The world is not fair and s*** happens. Remember that and you will be happier. When things don’t go your way, that’s fine because you know that things aren’t fair and that s*** happens. If something is not in your control then anything can and probably will happen. Accept that and move on!
Why worry? We spend a lot of our time worrying about things that never happen. It’s a waste of your time and energy, live your life!
SLEEP AND NUTRITION
Sleep as much as you can at night, as an athlete I sleep 9-10 hours a night. That’s not possible for everyone but you need more than those few hours you’re getting currently. It will allow your body and mind time to recover and function properly each day.
Eat well but not too well. You need to eat good food and be healthy but you also need to have that takeaway every now and then. Allow yourself some treats but overall, keep it good and you’ll feel better in yourself.
By helping others you are helping yourself and you are improving the world around you, your world. When you help someone else you get this fantastic sense of fulfillment. So volunteer, write blogs or offer your skills to someone. Do what you can to help others and you will feel the benefits.
Take what you feel is useful from these ‘tips’ and use them. Some will work, some wont. Remember we are all individuals and respond to different things but I do hope one or two will be beneficial to you and improve your well-being.
I still have bad days but they are now rare, I hope you can learn to manage your mental health too.
Please share this with people; it may save someone.