Beat Stress with mindfulness. Find out more during Mental Health Awareness Week

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All RPA members have access to free confidential advice and counselling through the organisation LPP. Dr Phil Hopley, Managing Director and Consultant Psychiatrist at LPP outlines why the mental health of players is so important both on and off the field.

“We know the number one cause of sickness absence and a major cause of poor performance in sport and business in the UK is mental health problems. Thankfully, the RPA signs up to the theory of prevention being better than cure, thereby saving its members heartache and money while contributing to improved performance on and off field.

This week’s Mental Health Awareness Week provides us with a great opportunity to highlight the importance of taking proactive steps to look after our state of mind.

We know that in rugby, transition can be a big issue for players. For example, turning professional and its associated pressures; transferring to different clubs and undergoing major upheaval and perhaps more obviously, coming to the end of a professional sports career, whether it’s planned or not can be particularly stressful – especially if injury has cut short a career.

On behalf of the RPA we offer rugby clubs psychological resilience training workshops to give them the mental skills to cope more effectively with pressure. As part of the training and we focus on ‘mindfulness’ which is the focus of this years Mental Health Awareness week.

Mindfulness is a simple practice which helps us to avoid falling into common ‘mind traps’ which drive us towards anxiety and depression. Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment and can be practiced standing, sitting and walking; indoors and out; at home, training, or simply out and about. You can practice mindfulness for five minutes or five hours and you can tailor it to suit your own needs.

The great thing about mindfulness is that you can start practising it yourself without professional help. The excellent Headspace app is a great place to start www.getsomeheadspace.com

I have seen mindfulness work in all sectors of society including significant beneficial impact on performance for sportspeople. It is a great way of minimising the negative physical & psychological impact of stress. This enables players to remain focused on the essential issues at critical times by bringing balance to the way they think.

However, just like the rest of the population, there are players who have established psychological difficulties, for which mindfulness is not quite enough. There are always a proportion of people struggling, but working jolly hard to put on a brave face and cover their problems up. However unchecked this generally leads to under performing and performance errors. This is where we step in with psychological support.

LPP can help players to deal with any of these challenges. Whether you are struggling with injury, burnout, bereavement, or relationship, alcohol, drug or financial problems, in confidence.  Our helpline is open 24/7/365 and can be reached on 01373 858080.

To support Mental Health Awareness Week, go to www.mentalhealth.org.uk.