Mental Health Awareness Week

Hello everyone. I hope all is well in your world. I have been thinking about the busy week I’ve had and the fact that I haven’t given much of my energy towards promoting Mental Health Awareness Week. It is also Mental Health Awareness Month throughout May, so there is still time, I guess! I very much support the use of campaigns to raise awareness of different causes and organisations. However, it can be a competitive market for likes, clicks, shares and quite often funds and donations. I do find sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming to keep up with them all when they are vying for attention. I don’t know if you feel that. It struck me as ironic that during a week aimed to highlight mental health issues, I was feeling stressed about not having time to promote mental health awareness on my social media accounts!

It is a hard thing being self-employed sometimes. It suits me very well overall and I enjoy my lifestyle choices, so I am not complaining. There are times when it becomes more challenging, particularly when the world is unsettled like we have experienced over the past year. There is a huge amount of time and energy spent on self promotion, organising events/clinics, planning coaching sessions, self development, reflection on best practice, time management and generally trying to keep up to date with the sport and coaching developments. Being in my (late) 40s I am continually learning new skills in technology, social media and business management which I am not academically trained for or born into. I enjoy the challenges, but it can take up quite a lot of time to learn new tricks.

I work part time with my partner, Roy training carriage driving horses which adds another dimension to my equestrian skills. I help with the groundwork rather than the actual driving. We took a green horse to a show last weekend which went well but took a lot of preparation time in the lead up to it. We believe in doing everything possible to develop confidence in the horse for the task ahead. That involves going out to a training venue and working with other horses at home among other things. We had a 4am alarm last Sunday instead of a day off as we prepared to arrive for a 9am class in good time. This weekend we are hosting a carriage driving show for the BDS at the stables in Baylham where I work and am based with my horse. Although we don’t organise the show itself, we have been busy preparing the venue for the arrival of competitors.

I think it’s no surprise that when I went to a show with my horse on Wednesday and entered a slightly bigger class, it didn’t go as well as I hoped it would. I had not ridden many times during the previous week due to lack of time. It was an uncharacteristic lack of power I felt going into a double that convinced me to retire and come back another day. She felt quite out of breath which I believe was due to lack of a good exercise routine that week. There were no other signs of illness or distress so I will keep an eye, but all seems well.

So, looking back and reflecting on a week where Mental Health Awareness was the message, I was perhaps neglecting my own. I have been coughing/wheezing consistently since having the COVID vaccination almost 3 weeks ago. The lateral flow test was negative and I don’t have any other symptoms at all, so I am sure it is related to the vaccine. It has been annoying and pretty tiring, so that’s a thing. There has been a lot to do at my part time work, no day off, trying to keep up with organizing coaching sessions and coaching development – of myself and new initiatives for others, tackling my demons by doing Facebook Live sessions and failing with technology a little, attempting to reignite my own fitness routine, following my own ambitions in the sport of showjumping, and worrying I’m not keeping up with the latest hashtag #mentalhealthawarenessweek

It’s amazing how much we try to cram into our lives sometimes. I do want to do everything and I am happy to be busy. There is a limit to how successful I can be though if I try to do everything because a compromise will be made at some point on the quality of my work if I’m not careful. It is a trick to find a balance. I don’t always get it right, that’s for sure.

Try an exercise for yourself. Can you see where you can improve quality of the things you do and if you are spreading yourself too thin? Writing it down definitely makes it more clear to me. Perhaps it’s worth trying that yourself. What has gone well, or not so well this week? How has the previous day or days led up to that? Can you see a pattern emerge? What course of action could you take to improve the outcome next time? Maybe an adjustment needs to be made to expectations/ goals.

I am, as I have said before, very aware of mental health issues in general because I have had many, many years experience of caring for and being involved with family members who have a range of disorders. I too have suffered with depression and always will to some extent. A close family member is suffering right now with some complicated issues. I support the best I can and it is a constant concern. I search every day for new ways to make an impact which might be the spark of new hope. The professionals are aware, and I won’t make this a political post, but the help and treatment of mental illness is so inadequate it’s just heartbreaking. That has been my experience over 25 years under different governments so not just this one. COVID hasn’t helped recently of course.

I will continue to talk about mental health awareness long after this week or this month, so I hope a missing hashtag won’t be the end of the world!

On a brighter note, when I speak about mental skills, mental resilience and performance coaching I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with you or that I can diagnose anything being wrong with anyone. That would be far out of my scope – I am not a psychologist. I have had training to use some psychological techniques which is different. My aim is to give you some insight into how to manage your mind and help you to understand common human traits which could be unhelpful to your performance. The more we can understand, the more we can empower ourselves and enjoy our time in the saddle. If it’s competition results you are looking for then you also need to know how to be consistent and turn up with a winning mindset. It all starts way before the competition itself.

I have a few Facebook Live talks coming up to give an insight into some of the things I can help with. Monday 17th May 12.30-1pm is a repeat of Visualisation Techniques and how they could help you in the saddle. 
Thursday 20th May 12.30-1pm is all about how to thrive in competition (not just survive)
Friday 28th May 12.30-1pm is a talk about Inside - Out Mindset. I will tell you more about those on my Facebook page

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Have a good rest of the month. Take care and enjoy your time with your horses. Fingers crossed for a nice bank holiday weekend.