Mental Health is a huge topic of conversation at the moment and rightly so. It's severity can be so underestimated and there are so many alarming figures emerging that are helping us to really understand the enormity of this epidemic.
Statistics from the Mental Health Foundation claim that 1 in 6 people in the past week alone, experienced a common mental health problem. They also state that mental health and behavioural problems (e.g. depression, anxiety and drug use) are reported to be the primary drivers of disability worldwide, causing over 40 million years of disability in 20 to 29-year-olds.
It is important to note that its not just in the UK that people's mental health is suffering but it is world wide too and in all walks of life.
I think for many of us who live rurally, own their own businesses, work with horses or livestock, spend hours upon hours in a tractor or in the office (be it at home or elsewhere) alone, the challenge of maintaining our mental health can be huge. I think I can speak for many of you when I say it can be a daily struggle at times.
Fortunately the stigma around mental health is disappearing and people are far more open nowadays but still, the struggle is there.
I wanted to sit down and write this blog today, during #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek to tell you all, from my own personal experiences, it's ok to say no.
If you've followed me for a while, you might remember around this time last year I was training for the Magnolia Cup charity horse race. Whilst I was ecstatic to have been invited to participate and hugely excited about the prospect and challenge ahead, in hindsight, I should have said no.
You live and you learn and hindsight is powerful thing. For me, I learnt that the hard way. I pushed myself beyond my limit and completely blew out. My mental health was suffering hugely and I was struggling with everything, despite putting on a brave face to my friends, family and on social media. My business was beginning to suffer as a result, I had simply taken on far too much and something had to give.
The gruelling fitness regime, the stress and the pressure was too much for me to manage alongside running a business, producing a magazine AND planning for a major trade show.
I kept it up for as long as I felt I could until things came to a head, I was afraid of going to the racing stables, mounting up, the nerves began to gather in my stomach at the bottom of the gallops and I began to avoid the gym at all costs... I wasn't coping. I knew how I felt inside but I was afraid to tell anyone in case they'd think I was a failure, a quitter or a let down.
But here's the thing - all of those things are ok. If you need to quit or pull out of something because your own mental health is suffering as a result then do it. Its ok. You should never be suffering in silence because you feel obliged or pressure to stick at something, your body has a very clever way of telling you when enough is enough.
Letting people down is ok too. If they're genuine, decent people, they'll understand that you aren't coping and need to remove yourself from the situation. YOU ARE IMPORTANT. YOUR MENTAL HEALTH SHOULD BE A PRIORITY and not something that you put aside and gloss over.
I was terrified about letting the race team down, terrified of what my fellow jockeys would think. I remember having sleepless nights, tossing and turning, waking up in a panic over it. However, once I told them, they couldn't have been kinder to me on face value. That's all that matters.
So, if you can take one thing from this blog post or this week, is that it is ok to say no. Put your mental health first, if you're feeling under pressure or like you've taken on too much, it's okay to pull out, it's ok to say no to meetings, events, invitations etc.
If you're struggling, help yourself. You'll feel so much better once the pressure is off and the weight has been lifted. Saying no is something I still struggle with, I want to be able to say yes to every opportunity that comes my way, but realistically, it's not possible. I am not Wonder Woman and I do need my rest, down time and time away from the stresses of work. Just like you do too.
Until next time...
Lots of love,