Your Mental Health Matters
Updated: Jan 28
Today is World Mental Health Day! I’m not sure about you, but for me every day is about good mental health. Over the course of my life, I have needed both mental and emotional strength to tackle what life has thrown at me. Whether that was recovering from broken ankles 6 weeks before the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 and still believing that I could win as I stood at the top of the inrun ready to take that final jump, or surviving the loss of my first son Finnan to a Congenital Heart Disease in 2011.
Ironically though, it’s been every other day that my mental health has been the most important for me, because that’s where the regular constant stress sits as I try to be my best self. Whether I’m drawing on courage in the Boardroom, providing performance expertise to others, running a challenging workshop, speaking in front of thousands of people or juggling the relentless demands of being a working parent... stress is always present and if I don’t proactively manage it, it becomes a bigger problem. I’ve had to learn the hard way that priortising myself and investing in regular self-care is imperative for performance, as well as health and wellbeing. Only then, can I be at my best to serve others.
The stigma around mental health is slowly fading and the world has become more aware of the internal battles that many people face. However, not everybody has a diagnosed mental health issue and not every day is a good or bad one for everyone. Yet how we are each coping on a spectrum from good to bad, and the skills that we have to manage, has never been more important. An unbelievable 1-in-5 Australians will experience a level of anxiety that greatly disrupts their personal or professional lives. In a given year, some 2.5 million Australians battle a type of anxiety disorder, which is now the most common mental illness in Australia and the top condition that prompts people to visit a GP.
Humans are wired to escape uncomfortable situations; in the survival of the fittest, we are biologically programmed to look for threats and act accordingly. Unfortunately, in this 24x7 digital age, a large proportion of people are ‘on guard’ far too often and feel chronically stressed or overwhelmed by all the demands in their lives. This is leading to an increase in numbing behaviors such as excessive drinking or eating to ‘cope’ or using online shopping, online gambling or social media scrolling as ways to ‘relax’. None of which help!
So what does help? Organisations like Beyond Blue and the Black Dog Institute in Australia provide important support, and of course, your GP should always be your first visit if you are not feeling well. There are also great awareness campaigns like Let’s Make Some Noise that are elevating and broadening the conversation on mental health, particularly in regards to anxiety.
10 things that have helped me to manage stress and enjoy my life more, that might be helpful to you:
Recognising what I can and can’t control, then focusing my energies on what I can control and letting go (practically and emotionally) of what I can’t control.
Working out what is a high priority for me and needs to be done well, what can simply be performed to an adequate standard, and then what should be stopped, has helped me manage the breadth and depth of what I do/don’t do.
Using micro-breaks across my working day to lower stress and improve my energy, focus and performance. At a minimum, I have a small, nutritious mid-morning snack and a 15min mindfulness break (watering plants, grabbing some fresh air, a quiet cup of tea, listening to a few upbeat songs) and then doing either a 15min meditation or short walk mid-afternoon.
When challenges come, I ask myself to stop, breathe, and then look for the first three things I can do (my action plan). I remind myself that “this is just a problem I haven’t solved yet” and not the end of the world.
Practise saying, “thank you but my plate is full right now”. In other words, say ‘no’ more often without guilt.
Avoiding processed or sugary foods that make me feel mentally and physically sluggish, I try to drink more water and up my fruit/veggies and protein to crowd out the need for quick fixes.
Exercising 3 times a week in whatever form works best at the time - walk, run, hike, tennis or YouTube pilates on the living room floor to clear my mind and move my body.
Identifying wasted time in my diary and then turning that into me time. I now have a better morning routine, the right amount of quality time with my family, and 7:30-8:30pm is my personal hour of power where I fill my own bucket doing joyous things that nourish me - painting, listening to podcasts, chatting with my husband, walking/talking with friends, journaling, etc.
Sunsetting my phone at 9pm so I can start my night routine, which now includes listing 3 things that I’m grateful for and 3 things that I did well, every day.
Building a strong and positive support structure of friends, family, and colleagues has given me greater access to resources, guidance or support. I also feel valued and respected as a whole person, by these special people which, has enabled me to be more courageous and vulnerable as I navigate my life.
Nobody has everything they need to tackle life and there are no quick fixes to improved mental health. So begin by tuning into yourself and acknowledging how you feel and possibly why, so you can start moving towards the small but necessary changes you might need. It certainly took me a while to make adjustments to my life (and I’m still going) but I definitely feel much better for it!
If you’re struggling to manage, personally or professionally, then please reach out for support. Asking for help is a sign of true strength, not weakness.
Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.