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To mark April’s Stress Awareness Month, the BAC’s Athlete Engagement Manager, Kristian Thomas, gives us his advice on coping with stress and dealing with pressure as an elite athlete. For further blogs on this subject, please see here (Lora Fachie) and here (Melissa Wilson).

“April is ‘Stress Awareness Month’ and this year in particular, can act as a timely reminder to all of us to take steps to ensure that we’re prioritising our own mental health.

“This goes for elite athletes as much as anyone else.

“During my career I competed at two Olympic Games, two Commonwealth Games and numerous World and European Championships – all of which were a real privilege, and very enjoyable experiences, but also came with the usual stresses and anxiety associated with an event for which you have spent a considerable amount of time preparing.

“Many of our members may be going through similar anxieties with Tokyo and Beijing both now only a matter of months away.

“Speaking from my own experience, the best thing any athlete can do at this stage of their preparation is retain the ability to switch off. Regardless of circumstances surrounding you, your team-mates or your competitors, having a focus outside of sport, which means you’re not fixated on the same thing 24/7, is much needed.

“For me personally, I took my mind off gymnastics by exploring and developing in areas I was interested in pursuing after sport, such as a personal trainer qualification.

“I had team-mates within the national squads who ran other business ventures, who developed their own channels by creating and filming vlog content, who explored hobbies such as photography, or who liked to take their minds off sport by tinkering with their car.

“Whatever your outlet, or your welcome distraction is, it can prove vital in dealing with the additional pressures that the build-up to a major Games can bring.

“I’d urge athletes to keep this in the forefront of their mind, and also to remember that there is an entire support network available should you sense that your mental wellbeing is starting to be affected.

“We work alongside NGBs and the EIS to ensure that everyone has somewhere to turn. Our support team is available to all of our members at support@britishathletes.org.

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