Mental Health Awareness Week – Jono Drane on managing stress

As the (two) years go by since my retirement, it has become an ever-increasing challenge to find ways to talk about myself. One strategy I’ve often used is to initiate rumours of a comeback.

However, having done a training session at the weekend, and despite my continued amazement at how bad Stuart McWatt’s newaza is ; ) – a comeback isn’t going to happen. As a result, there remains few aspects of my life left that I can use to elicit a temporal sensation of significance and make the name ‘Drane’ relevant again.

Not that it ever was, but where would we be without a little self-deception, bloody depressed! Whilst you, the reader, continue to appreciate how beautifully constructed that transition was, I am going to provide an overview to mental health:

  1. Mental health is a growing public concern (1)
  2. 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime (2)
  3. Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain (3)

How is the relevance of this applicable to sport? After all, athletes appear to be the epitome of good health. Yet, as many of you may be aware, there is an increasing number of athletes, such as 23-time Olympic Gold medal winner Michael Phelps (4), that are sharing their experiences with mental health.

It seems that even the sporting elite are susceptible to this rather dark facet of life. When you think about it, it really is not surprising given the insular context that comes with having such a narrow focus.

It is no wonder that the perceived severity of a particular event, for example, injury or poor results (competition), can seem disproportionate to the overall reality of the situation. Having experienced my fair share of injuries and poor results, I, as well as many others, know the cruel interplay that exists between performance sport and mental health.

Returning to my comment of self-deception, I understand mental health to operate as an immune system, filtering out those negative incoming thoughts, be it disregard or even to modify. Nevertheless, a healthy mind constructs a perspective that makes a life worth living – I will leave you to imagine the opposite of this.

Arguably everybody’s’ experiences with mental health are going to differ. As a result, it is unlikely that anybody would want to hear “this is what I did” or “[wo]man-up”, unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Nobody is immune to mental illness and it may not be necessarily ourselves, but loved ones who fall under its unforgiving grip. Under the stresses of performance sport and everyday life, becoming more aware of our triggers, such as injury, poor results and team selections, gives us a better chance of having good mental health.

Building relationships and a sense of community was one the major strategies put into place to help support mental health.

Another resource I used to deal with stress was mindfulness. Mindfulness can be used as a resource to distil the mental chaos that exists during moments of stress. One way of doing this is through meditation. In essence, meditation is the process of finding awe in breathing.

A bi-product of this is shortly forgetting about what you had been stressing about – often, with a bit of distance, comes a solution to the most complex of problems. I now use the same techniques in my university studies, whereby I try to monitor my thoughts for biases, and/or emotional responses to things that I disagree with.

However, from experience, the most important step to improving our mental health is to talk about it. Having conversations has the potential to save lives. It is an easy illness to mask but by seeking help, with time, you are giving yourself a break and learning to manage ‘trigger’ situations.

Good mental health for all

Mental health statistics: UK and worldwide | Mental Health …

Mental health problems are a growing public health concern. They are prevalent not just in the UK, but around the world.

  1. 2McManus S, Meltzer H, Brugha T, Bebbington P, Jenkins R (eds), 2009. Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England 2007: results of a household survey. NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Aug 2015].
  2. 1NICE (2011). Common mental health disorders | Guidance and guidelines | NICE. [online] Available at:
Common mental health problems: identification and pathways …

This guideline covers care for people aged 18 and over with common mental health problems, with a focus on primary care. It aims to improve access to services for adults and how mental health problems are identified and assessed, and makes recommendations on local care pathways …