Opening up about your mental health is not necessarily easier said than done. That first conversation, the first time you share how you are feeling is arguably one of the hardest parts of your mental health journey. It’s when you feel at your most vulnerable. And when you’re finally saying - I need some help. So how do you push past this uncomfortable feeling and continue to forge this level of vulnerability with other people in your life? World-class spin bowler Monty Panesar shared his thoughts on mental health and insights on how he now manages his mental wellbeing with the help of a support network. With his first-hand experience to guide us, we’ll take you through some initial steps to making moves with your mental health. 

Taking the first step 

When talking about the first step in a journey to better mental health, we often focus on the part where we share it with someone else. But really the first step is an internal one. It’s the recognition that there is an area that you need help with and accepting that you’re not ok. 

Monty remembered a time when he was in denial ‘I used to think this doesn’t happen to British Asian men, we’re supposed to be the providers. Mental health doesn't exist to us, we are sportspeople’ But that couldn’t be further from the truth for him. Regardless of all of the professional and personal success he had - his seemingly perfect life wasn’t make him happy. 

And it’s this same notion that can lead us to deny what we’re really feeling. You might be in a position at work that doesn't allow for vulnerability, from a culture that shies away somewhat from mental health, feel pressured by gender stereotypes or you simply have everything you’d ever want on paper. All of these influences can lead us to play down our feelings, bottling them up and never speaking about them. 

But the first step of self-recognition is the most powerful. From there you can only treat yourself with compassion and look to seek out ways to change it. 

Time to share 

Once you’ve got acceptance, sharing with others can be a gamechanger. Monty notes how useful getting an outside opinion from his professional team, colleagues and loved ones was. Sharing his fears or anxieties about his career with his team was useful - they could find ways to help him work on the areas he felt weakest in. Admitting he was emotionally struggling gave his loved ones and fellow teammates something to bond over. But how do you start and continue to share in a way that can benefit your mental health? 

  • Choosing the right people to share the right things with: sharing doesn’t necessarily mean sharing every feeling with everyone. Having a varied network of people you can go to for different things is the key. 
  • Bring it up in casual conversation: it doesn't have to be this big scary chat. Bringing it up in casual conversation somewhat normalises and removes any stigma around it. 
  • Allow others to share: often when you are vulnerable people are vulnerable right back. Being there to listen to their struggles or shared worries can be a great way to fortify the relationship.

Keeping up your internal dialogue 

You’ve accepted where you are and are on track with sharing, but what about the conversation you have with yourself? Monty highlighted the importance of your internal dialogue. When he was having a difficult mental health day, he recognised that he wouldn’t be able to see the positive aspects of even the ‘most beautiful flower in the garden’. But on these days, it’s more important than ever to assess your mental chatter and give yourself the space to work through it. Here are just some of the techniques Monty uses to manage his mental health on a daily basis:  

  • Sitting with the feeling: we often run away from uncomfortable feelings. Monty recommends sitting in them - being patient with yourself and giving yourself some time out to work through them rather than brush over them. 
  • Writing them down: writing down your thoughts and worries can be a way to see the sense of them. 
  • Give yourself a new way to speak to yourself: negative self-talk is usually something we routinely do. So working on replacement narratives or new ways of speaking to yourself can be really helpful. Giving you an alternative route and retraining your mind. 

🧠 Ultimately managing your mental health is a self-driven journey. One that is always helped with the listening ears of others - so don’t hesitate to reach out. Want to hear more mental health (or cricket) knowledge from Monty Panesar? Book him for your own private PepTalk by speaking to our team or check out his full talk on The Weekly.