Rebecca Adlington: how I manage my mental health

Our Not A Red Card Ambassador, Rebecca Adlington OBE recently shared why she is backing mental health, her personal journey and her experience of running a business during Covid-19.

In this article Becky shares why being a Not A Red Card Ambassador is important to her, insights into how she manages her own mental health and the power of talking therapies.

Why being a Not A Red Card ambassador is important to me

Being involved in Legal & General’s campaign is important to me as I think the area of workplace mental health needs more attention. Not that people’s individual mental health doesn’t need focus, of course it does, but I think the area that has got a long way to go is at work. People personally have taken on their own journeys, but more often than not people still don’t feel comfortable talking to colleagues, so I think that’s an area that can massively improve.

At Becky Adlington’s Swim Stars we’ve certainly seen as a business that as well as asking people if they are OK, we do things like asking them if they like working here, taking the time out of the day job to reach out and ask in a genuine way. Genuinely caring for someone is different to just asking how they are, and I feel ‘you OK?’ just gets batted around too easily and people just give a generic answer.

I hope by being the Not A Red Card ambassador that it helps raise awareness of mental health at work, to normalise it, but also celebrate those people who are doing things right, because we can all learn from them.

We all need to help and support each other. This isn’t a competition. Mental health is not a competition between businesses. You don’t get a medal for having good mental health. But initiatives like the Not A Red Card Awards is great because it gives you that acknowledgement that you’re a good person and you’re caring about your team. That is amazing and needs to be celebrated more.


How to manage mental health and be well

Finding things that have worked or not worked when managing my mental health and wellbeing has really helped me and my life. Everyone goes through their own journey.

On a basic level, I just try and accept how I am feeling that day. If I want a day in my pyjamas, then that’s OK. Don’t judge yourself. About a month into lockdown I felt so demotivated. I felt knackered for no apparent reason and just went into this little hole. But I also accepted that I was feeling that way instead of dismissing it.

We all feel sad and down sometimes, unfortunately some a lot more than others. I have found it really helpful to recognise it, sit with it, and say to yourself that tomorrow is a new day. Accepting each day is different and it comes with different challenges.

Having a routine – no matter how simple – really helped. For me it was working out in the mornings which just sets me up for the day and I feel a lot better. If I left it to the afternoon I’d put it off, or find little excuses.

I also think it’s about having a purpose, a vision as well, what is your drive? How do you look after that side of you, but also cater for the other side? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you looking after yourself enough, your diet, drinking enough water, so you can be well?

I think it’s really important how you fuel your body. I’m not saying don’t eat chocolate cake, I love it! But it’s important to have the energy throughout the day. We all have physical and mental lulls, it’s normal. You can’t concentrate 24 hours a day, you can’t physically do something all day, so how do you cater for each of those hours? Are you getting what you need personally as well as work wise? Are you catering to a whole mental, emotional and physical package?

The power of talking therapy

I’ve always had this feeling of panic that has come and gone and it came on around 7 or 8 years ago. This anxiety feeling that I always thought was just normal for everyone. It wasn’t until someone asked me what my New Year’s resolution was one year that I decided that I wanted to take control of my mental health. I wanted to go to therapy.

I hadn’t sought professional help until that point because I felt I didn’t want to burden my family and friends. I thought they would give me a biased opinion and just try and fix it because they care so much. At first when I went to talking therapy I almost felt guilty, like I hadn’t been through anything I think a lot of people with mental health experience.

I think sometimes you don’t want to open up because there’s always someone going through much bigger things than you are. But that doesn’t mean that yours isn’t affecting you in your life. It took that realisation for me, that I’d been feeling panicky for years, I get panic attacks, I feel really anxious and I don’t know how to deal with it.

After talking therapy I did stop having panic attacks altogether, and it’s been over a year since I’ve had one, and I am very grateful for that. I know I also have something to fall back on, a security blanket if you like by having a therapist who I know and who knows my story. It’s definitely given me the ability to control my life in a way I wasn’t able to before.

Mental health in the workplace

If you want to find out more about Becky’s experiences with mental health as an athlete, business owner and parent, register to attend our 2020 Not A Red Card Forum, where Becky along with a number of other speakers from across the worlds of business, sport and mental health with be sharing the latest insights into how businesses can take action and implement best practice when it comes to mental health provision in the work place.

Register here

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