After my last blog post - The 10 commandments of endurance training https://worldmultisport.com/2021/10/21/the-10-commandments-of-endurance-training/ I thought it was time to make a confession!
Earlier this week I wasn't able to coach my squad sessions for a couple of days. I said I wasn't feeling well.
Physically I was fine, in fact I had a couple of okay days training. However, mentally I was struggling!
I have debated to myself about sharing this because our natural response when someone says they are not feeling well is to think it is something physical.
But what would have been the response if I had said, "I was struggling mentally and just needed a reboot?"
Basically I needed a couple of mental health days. Recently, I penned a blog in line with World Mental Health Day, about it's okay not to be okay. You can read it here https://worldmultisport.com/2021/10/12/world-mental-health-day/
Being a coach is a position of responsibility. People I coach rely on me to be there at my best for the sessions they are paying good money to attend. And by not going to some sessions this week I felt guilty. I felt I had let them down and not held up my end of the bargain.
However, from previous experience I know that if I didn't take a couple of days to regroup I could have been away for a lot longer.
I am the type of person that absorbs things. When someone I am coaching tells me a problem, a stress in their life I can't help but feel it. I can't despite my best efforts not think about it afterwards and wonder how I can help. As a result I have learnt this comes at a cost for me emotionally and every now and then I need some down time to regroup.
Having spoken to many other coaches about this, it is quite common. Coaching is not your typical 9-5 occupation and I wouldn't have it any other way. I love what I do. Even after 25+ years of coaching I am still learning the best way to balance my own needs, physically, emotionally and mentally.
I have also learnt that I am not too different to many of the people I coach. Driven, likes a challenge and have high expectations. And funnily enough I know some have similar challenges to myself. Every now and then they need to decompress and chill.
I'm sharing this as I think it's important to be open about mental health and break the stigma that still exists. And to also share how I manage my health from a mental perspective in the hope that it may help others who have similar challenges.
The coping strategies that I use are:
- Routine - win the morning, win the day. I have a daily morning routine that involves 10 minutes of meditation, a cold shower, some simple stretching and strength exercises and sitting down to a cup of tea to read something for 10-15 minutes. It's no coincidence that I missed a few days over the last 3-4 weeks and it caught up on me
- Gratitude - every day I practice gratitude by writing down 3 things I am grateful for. I haven't missed a day for over 5 years and find this helps to keep things in perspective in times of stress.
- Exercise - I love getting out in the trails and roads and spending long periods on my own to reflect. Studies have proven that time in nature reduces stress and improves well being.
- Acceptance - when you feel the pressure is becoming too much, accept that it's okay, you're not failing and it's normal to have a break. We're not robots and everyone at some stage needs time to rest.
- Help others - by practicing empathy it releases feel good chemicals in your brain such as oxytocin and serotonin. Fortunately as a coach I get to do this every day.
I accept by sharing this some may think negatively of my actions this week and that's okay. In the past I have been told my vulnerability is a weakness and that as a coach I must display strength no matter the cost.
However, I chose to take a different path and like to think by sharing our challenges it will help others.