How to manage your mental health in motorsport
Motorsport doesn’t usually offer a normal nine-to-five schedule. You’ll work long hours, weekends and evenings. As with any job, sometimes you’ll be around people you love, sometimes you won’t. The work can be physical and demanding. You’ll get tired and drink too much coffee. Sometimes you’ll feel battered and bruised.
But we still do it because race cars, right?
Motorsport is wonderful and rewarding but like anything, it can seem like a struggle when you’re not managing your mental (or physical) health properly.
While I’m relating this post to anyone in a motorsport, this is relevant if you own a business or work in another industry entirely.
People are often afraid to talk about their mental health. Once upon a time, it was seen as a sign of weakness to have depression or anxiety and there was a lot of stigma attached to those conditions. Thankfully times are a-changin’ and people are becoming more open about their mental health.
Here are some tips for managing your mental health in a motorsport job.
Be mindful of the hours you are working
I know what it’s like when a car build just has to be completed, you have no choice but to work through the night but sometimes you need to take a step back. If you burn out, you’re not going to be able to get anything done so be mindful of how you feel working longer-than-normal hours.
If you feel like you’re struggling, take a break. I promise you, this will make you more productive.
When dealing with my own anxiety, it took me some time to understand what tools and techniques worked for me when managing my mental health. With the help of an amazing life coach, I managed to create a toolbox of techniques that I could call on whenever I felt my mental health starting to take a hit. The life coach helped me to understand myself and the reasons why I felt the way I did.
This is something you can do alone or with help but if you can better understand your triggers and what makes you feel better, you’ll be better equipped to handle the dips.
Make sure others understand you
I know it can be hard talking to colleagues about your mental health, especially in the often-macho world of motorsport. But I think it’s important that your boss, at the very least, understands any mental health conditions you have and how they might manifest. This is important because an anxiety attack can be made so much worse if you’re worried about getting in trouble with your superiors.
One of the best tools for quieting any mental health monsters is to take some time to yourself and just breathe. how you do this depends on your and your situation. I’d start by using an app such as Headspace to get used to regular meditation. The app guides you through simple meditation that will get you used to regulating your breathing and taking some time to relax.
When you find yourself in a stressful situation or feel your mental health starting to wane, you’ll be well practiced in breathing techniques to calm you down.
Remind yourself of your achievements
The pressure within motorsport doesn’t help those of us who occasionally suffer with imposter syndrome. If you lack confidence, for whatever reason, it’s unlikely that your performance is to blame. A lack of confidence often comes from within ourselves. If you are starting to wonder if you belong or are struggling with the work, remind yourself of all your achievements so far.
Similarly, when you feel really proud of something you’ve done or get praise from your boss or colleagues, hold onto that feeling as it can help you get through the tougher times.
The endorphins released during exercise can go a long way to making you feel better mentally. Not to mention the fact that you’ll feel good because you got your run in. If you’re trying to manage a mental health condition, keeping on top of your physical health can really help.
There’s often the temptation to just stay inside and do nothing when you feel rubbish but even a brisk walk could make you feel better. Experiment what works with you. A run around the block, a bike ride, a weight lifting session. We’re all different so work out what works for you and what’s easiest to stick to.
Speak to someone
If your mental health reaches debilitating lows and you worry you can’t continue your work in motorsport, it might be time to speak to a coach or counsellor. Who you speak to depends on what you’re struggling with. Don’t see this as giving up or failing. At some point in our lives, most of us will need this and it’s those of us brave enough to seek out that help who are going to come out of the other side more quickly.
I have a Facebook group called The Road Less Travelled, which is designed to support people building careers while managing their mental health. It’s open to everyone and I regularly post inspiring stuff but you’re more than welcome to post there with questions and cries for help too. Join here.
How do you manage your health in a demanding job?