Q&A with Jamie Peacock MBE
Published: 17th July 2021
Jamie Peacock is a Wellbeing Champion, Motivational Speaker, Business Mentor and Business Development at Leeds Rhinos.
Sarah Simpson - Office Managing, Senior Executive Recruiter spoke to Jamie Peacock MBE, the ex-professional rugby league player who captained both Great Britain and England at international level.
Jamie is a big advocate of health and wellbeing and recently published a book called ‘Be a Champion’, centred around a 30-day wellbeing challenge. Coping with mental health problems in the first lockdown was harsh enough for some but now after three lockdowns and the prospect of people heading into the ‘new normal’ there’s an expectation that this will bring its own issues and anxieties for various people.
Here, Sarah speaks to Jamie about the significance of taking small steps to improve wellbeing.
We can all recognise that the pandemic has caused or exacerbated anxiety and depression in the population. Now that we are emerging from that, what do you see being the main issues?
The problem is people are not conditioned to deal with change – we like things the way they are. That’s why the first lockdown was really difficult for people - accepting that COVID was happening, and accepting the rules and restrictions. I think a different kind of coping was required for the first lockdown, whereas during the third one people had just had enough and were tired of the restrictive circumstances.
If you’re worried, it’s about adjusting yourself in small steps back into how things were pre-COVID one step at a time, remembering how we used to judge what normality was. Try and focus on the things you can control. Whenever we have an event in our lives, the event itself is neutral – it’s how we perceive it that’s down to us; whether we perceive it as positive or negative. It’s great to try and see any changes that you make, or any events or obstacles, as a positive - that’s what a positive mindset is, and being a positive influence on yourself. A really good thing to try and do is to write down one thing each day that’s been positive about coming out of lockdown – it’ll help you improve your mindset and adjust back into the world. It’s a really simple action that’s personal to you that will help you deal with the change that’s coming. It’s a really good thing and is not hard to do – it takes maybe five minutes a day, and I believe will help with adjusting to the restrictions being lifted.
What advice would you give to someone who is anxious about physically returning to work?
It’s going to be a big change for people going back in to the office and being around lots of people, and just the change of routine. It’s about trying to see the positive side of that rather than the negatives. We have a choice to see the glass half full - you’re no longer working inside on your own, you’re going to be getting outside, working with the rest of your team; there’s lot of things
we can find a positive in.
There are lots of different reasons for finding a positive about going back to work –but if you’re really stressed, you need to speak to someone about it – a problem shared is a problem halved. Speak to someone at work – HR or a colleague. It will make you feel better as actions can be put in place and also your colleague might be a good influence on you or may be feeling the same – don’t suffer in silence. Think of some positives and focus on them.
For those people who find it really difficult to adapt to change – maybe a staggered approach might be best. Gradual small steps help – any change or adaptation to change begins with small steps and you need to create a new habit – it won’t happen overnight. Tweak one thing, do that small thing every day and eventually you have a habit. That’s the right mindset for approaching going back to work. Change things slightly and you give yourself chance to get used to your new routine, taking small steps along the way.
Do you believe there will ever come a time when there isn’t a stigma attached to mental health issues?
I think with mental health, and I know from my own experiences in professional sport, there’s been some huge changes in mindset in the last ten to fifteen years in that it’s acceptable, and the right thing to do, to talk about it if you don’t feel well with your mental health, and to reach out. The more people that do that and show their own vulnerabilities, the more it becomes acceptable for others to do that. Of course you’ll find some people who find that really hard to do but the more people open up, the more chance you’ve got of those people not keeping things to themselves and doing themselves serious harm – which comes from feeling like you’re not able to talk about it. There’s been a big shift but there’s lots more work to do there, it’s a constant thing we need to work on, particularly in the male psyche as it’s about keeping problems to yourself and we all know that doesn’t work. If you have friends who have that mindset you have a duty (if you feel mentally well) to scan the horizon of people around you and make sure they feel well too. Check on friends and see if they are OK, encourage them to talk.
What do you think we can all do to affect change?
The difference we can make is to help people who are not conditioned to change. Spending five or ten minutes a week thinking about other people – has someone in your social circle gone off the radar quietly or has someone else dropped off social media? The clues are in and around us but we are all self-absorbed to some degree and can get too involved in our own little worlds but if we could all spend five to ten minutes thinking about the people around us and whether they have issues with their mental health it would be a simple, small step where anyone can make that difference.
Your book ‘Be a Champion’ which talks about developing new habits - can you tell me a little bit more about that?
There are four main pillars to the theory. Building new habits is accomplished through simple small steps – tiny changes over a period of time to create significant behavioural change. We don’t always have huge seminal moments in our life where we change forever, it’s about making small changes. I understood this from playing in my professional career - I wouldn’t be able to pick up a new playing skill overnight, but over a period of training and doing it every day I’d pick up a new skill.
It’s the same in wellbeing, all areas of wellbeing – positive mindset, sleeping well, eating well and being physically active. We can make positive significant behavioural changes in all these areas through small steps.
I wanted to show during lockdown that wellbeing is something that everyone can achieve – I had to get rid of this myth that it has to be about three hour yoga sessions or living your life like a monk. It’s not. It’s about slightly moderating your lifestyle in four areas to improve your wellbeing – sleeping patterns, physical activity, mindset and diet. Once you create a program that everybody can use and you give people some guidance and get the information out there – rather than feeling overwhelmed people feel empowered to go and do something. That’s how I made the book – I knew from my own experiences that I’ve personally got good wellbeing but that’s due to having solid wellbeing habits.
For example I don’t have a television in my room; I get to bed at more or less the same time and get up at the same time daily; I am physically active most days even if I just go for a walk; I try to eat healthily – I still have takeaways and doughnuts, but I moderate things on that front. No-one wants to deny themselves the things they enjoy. Life is about enjoying ourselves but we get into bad habits when we have too much excess in terms of eating the wrong foods or becoming too sedentary or getting into a bad sleep routine that affects our wellbeing. If we make small steps it’s going to get us there eventually. For example, instead of driving to the shop to buy a full fat coke and sandwich at lunchtime – if you walk to the shop and buy a salad, over a period of 60 days that kind of change makes a huge difference. You have to stick with it.
What are your thoughts around restrictions lifting and what we need to be concentrating on for our wellbeing?
Yes of course:
1. For a positive mindset think of one thing that you’re thankful for each day.
2. For good sleep for an hour before bed don’t use your phone. We should control our phones and not have our phones controlling us.
3. Eating healthily - just drink 6-8 glasses water a day, most people don’t drink enough water and it makes such a difference.
4. Physical activity - try to be active for 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week – it can just be a walk.
That’s it - if you can change those small things you will start to level up your wellbeing.
If you like to know more about Jamie’s 30-day wellbeing programme, simply visit www.jamiepeacock.co.uk
This article is featured in UP Magazine Issue 10