Mental health affects us all, I am no different.
With mental health awareness week drawing to a close this seems an appropriate time to talk about this year’s theme, stress. We all have felt stressed at some point and know what it’s like to feel stressed, this is part of everyday life. However, when you become overwhelmed by the negative chatter or are unable to implement sufficient coping mechanisms, this may lead to mental health problems or make existing problems worse.
Mental health issues affects us all at some point in our lives and it is important we are able to talk about these issues more openly, find advice and receive support.
For the last two years, I have worked daily to control my thoughts and feelings, improve my focus in and out of competition and most importantly to remain present in the moment.
Rewind 18 months ago and I was struggling within and outside of athletics to be fully present and enjoy training and competitions. I felt elements of fear and anxiety about competing which certainly didn’t enhance my performance in these competitions. This coupled with everyday life stresses also had an impact on my relationships and work, albeit some larger impacts than others.
It seemed that just as I was getting to grips with managing these everyday stresses in an efficient and effective way, and feeling in a much more positive mind set, that a spanner was thrown into the works.
On Wednesday 18th April I fully ruptured my Achilles on my left (Talipes Equinovarus affected) leg. There was no pain or pre warning before it happened. It just happened seemingly out of nowhere. Training was going extremely well, I was achieving personal bests in many different aspects and felt in the best shape of my life, ready to challenge for gold this year at the European Championships in August. I had made every right decision; leaving my clinical practice to focus on athletics, taking the right recovery measures, making many sacrifices and still this happened.
I started to notice almost immediately following the injury that there was an increase in the number of negative thoughts I had. I have had days where I have felt low and frustrated at times. Fortunately, through practicing mindfulness and meditation daily over the past two years I was able to regulate my emotions and my ability to handle these stresses.
“I think this idea is perhaps best reflected by the blue sky analogy, where no matter how cloudy the sky becomes, there is always blue sky on the other side” – Andy Puddicombe, Headspace
That’s not to say that it hasn’t been challenging, but immediately following surgery, I began meditating twice a day, in a bid to calm myself and remain as present as possible. Being aware of these thoughts and accepting them for what they are, as just thoughts, is a skill I’m working hard on. No matter how turbulent your mind can feel, there is a place of stillness beyond it all.
I have been fortunate to have an extremely supportive team of family, friends and medical staff around me. It has made the experience a lot more manageable. Remembering that your loved ones can offer a great deal of support and sharing how you are feeling with someone can make a huge difference.
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” – Helen Keller
I know the journey has just begun for me and I can only keep positive, work hard, continue to make the right decisions and be patient with the process. Rest assured, I will be back to my best before long. As a final thought, meditation has been a portal for me to improve my mind and my life and it is something simple that anyone can get to grips with.