New guest blog series by John Barclay
Former Scottish Rugby Union captain John Barclay was recently announced as a brand ambassador for Vidatec’s new employee and wellbeing engagement app Engage4. This is the first in his new blog series.
Once the storm has passed and a new “normal” life has resumed, I for one hope that the old adage “old habits die hard” does not prove to be right. For if this is the case, part of that would mean that our attitude to our own wellbeing, and that of those nearest to us, is a secondary consideration. Walking the streets, on a rare outing from the house, I have never seen such a sheer abundance of people exercising.
Men and women of all ages out exercising; taking care of their physical health. Taking care of your mental health can be harder undoubtedly, but improving your physical health is a fantastic way to start the process.
The more inquisitive readers of this will by now of course have realised that no, I am not a doctor. However, I feel my 16 year career in elite sport has given me a real insight into the highs and lows of life, the trials and tribulations that it throws up, the importance of mental strength and resilience in times of adversity. The times we are experiencing are strange and tough times indeed. Unable to lean on our normal emotional network, lacking variety in our social life, a happy work life balance has all been throw out the proverbial window. Uncertainty around finances. Uncertainty around careers and the physical wellbeing of our loved ones. The list goes on. One thing is certain however, that when normal life resumes – and it will – we will have a newfound appreciation for the things we took for granted prior to COVID-19.
In my career I was fortunate enough to play in some great teams, and some decidedly average ones. It is not a coincidence that the best teams I played for invested the most into their own culture, standards and values. It is because of this, I know first hand the importance of community, culture and your workplace being not just the place you go to to work, but also an extension of your family.
Creating community, and improving engagement across all levels of a team is crucial in any walk of life. Forging bonds and friendships at work creates a sense of trust and an increased sense of driving towards a common purpose.
Dealing with adversity comes in many different forms in a rugby career. Form, injury, non selection, financial concerns all abound aplenty. But the values and cultures I took the most from prepared me well for times of adversity and disappointment. Becoming comfortable with discomfort became a skill I tried to learn and I hope displayed on occasion, although not all the time.
I am extremely proud to be partnering with Vidatec and becoming an ambassador for Engage4. Too many businesses are guilty of paying lip service to the increasingly big pink elephant in the room. Mental health, and struggling with it, affects more than we like to admit.
Burying your head in the sand and the patronizing “come on mate, get on with it” no longer cuts the mustard. We live in a time where we have never better understood the impact mental health can have on an individuals life. And individuals make up teams. Therefore individuals struggles have a direct impact on teams, whether that team is a sports team, or a team in business. Investing in your people is crucial.
And so as lockdown continues to ease, instead of focusing on what we have lost, (as there will undoubtedly be a new landscape we live in) look for the opportunities with your friends, family and peers. Look out for each other and understand we all have good and bad days, times we struggle and times we thrive. Sports people are not immune to these struggles. In fact they are part and parcel of our lives, just like everyone else.
I found throughout my career that the public had a particular perception of sportsmen and sportswomen and too often viewed them through rose tinted spectacles. I for one have struggled with a lack of purpose during this period. I love the sporting environment and all it stands for and the values and behaviours it has undoubtedly provided me with. However I probably took for granted just how much I enjoyed it. Without realising it, I have always had a clear purpose; a match on a Saturday created a natural rhythm to my week and gave me structure and an identity. That has been gone for nigh on 3 months now and I am now not sure if it will continue. And so it is with this I now know I must look forward, find a new purpose, engage with friends and peers. But above all, I must look forward and be excited about what could happen, rather than focusing on what hasn’t happened.