As Stress Awareness Month comes to an end, it leads me to reflect on stress and the journey I have been on throughout my career.

The topic of mental health and stress should not be taboo. We should feel empowered to be open when it comes to verbalising issues surrounding our mental health – particularly if it occurs in the workplace. In 2021, there were an estimated 882,000 workers affected by mental health within the workplace in the UK. 

Often, change can be the corkscrew for stress to arise. I found that when I retired from a professional rugby career at the age of 29, it seemed to leave a big old mark!

Quitting rugby has a big impact on my mental health 

Rugby had been my life since I could walk. It had consumed so much of me, and I am grateful for every experience. Much of what I knew was training, playing and thankfully a lot of the time…winning! Don’t get me wrong, playing sport at any level is stressful, let alone internationally! 

Stepping away from the sport left me feeling as if I was lost and I soon realised that the way I dealt with issues in rugby, did not translate to the corporate world. 

mental healthAfter entering the workforce and being faced with intense imposter syndrome, I too, along with many other workers developed an immense amount of stress with my new job. I felt as if I had no purpose, and I was uncomfortable with the way my life was panning out. Yet – I knew I couldn’t just let this get the better of me. I knew I had to better understand myself and be more productive if I wanted to stop feeling like this. 

Here, I have also penned some thoughts on how leaders can help with work-related stress: https://www.optimistperformance.com/captains-blog/news/how-can-leaders-help-with-work-related-stress-by-optimist-performance/ 

“When I realised, I was struggling, I decided to seek therapy.”

I understand that the way to work with mental health issues is to address them head-on – and understand where these issues derive from. When I realised, I was struggling, I decided to seek therapy. This would be one of the best decisions I would ever make. 

Just as walking away from rugby felt like it left a major hold in my life, you too may also in your life feel as if you are searching for a purpose. Struggling with mental health is something many of us will struggle with and we can all benefit from seeking to improve it. 

Distractions can be a haven, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and Everest, and raising money for charity in the process was something I enjoyed outside of rugby – thus keeping my mind at ease. These were major factors in the founding of my leadership and behavioural change business. 

But when we talk about stress, everyone views it as a negative. I recently wrote about Eustress and the ability to use stress positively. I was able to do that throughout my playing career, and even now professionally, a large part down to my mindset. I didn’t always get it right, but when I did, stress was such a powerful tool!

Take a look at my blog on Eustress here: https://www.optimistperformance.com/captains-blog/news/why-you-shouldnt-completely-avoid-stress-by-optimist-performance/ 

 An attitude of Gratitude

mental health I have spoken previously about the idea of the eternal optimist. This idea stems from a serious attitude of taking gratitude for everything life throws your way.

Good days, we make memories from. Bad days – we learn and take experience from. Being appreciative of life itself, using the days that often leave us stressed or anxious as lessons. Also, understanding that living the ‘perfect life’ is virtually impossible. This way of thinking set out the idea of my company ‘Optimist Performance’.

Looking back, I learned a lot from change and transition – despite that being the same thing that kickstarted my struggles. Yet – I see that as the lesson, as I said – taking gratitude in everything.

“Attitude of Gratitude” as a mantra has really helped me. It offers perspective on everything and has helped me deal with much of the stress I have had to deal with.