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Experts advise on how to cultivate and protect mental health

As the new saying goes, Everyone has mental health. To help contribute to the wider conversation, we have brought in some experts in the first season of our podcast At Source, starting with long-time mental skills coach and now All Blacks manager Gilbert Enoka, who is an expert on dealing with performing under pressure.

Gilbert says on the podcast (out 30 April on all major platforms) that skills like mental toughness, resilience and coping aren’t things we can possess, but rather exhibit in a given moment. “There are strategies you can lean into to navigate your way through whatever is happening. In mental skills training, we give people permission to bend and wobble and buckle so they don’t break.”

Gilbert is especially interested in the effect of social media on mental and emotional health. “The issue comes with how people define themselves, the marketed brand versus the real brand – becomes problematic when the marketed self consumes the real self – we do a lot of work around remaining who you are – people need to disconnect from devices to connect with each other –  I have seen it be very damaging and problematic.

But he says we’ve become a lot better at sharing, and it’s making us better. “Ten or 15 years ago, if you shared a vulnerability, a lot of people would think you were weak. You could be chewed up and spit out. It was a brutal mindset that forced people to hide their fears and insecurities – but now there is a much broader understanding that vulnerable is the new strong.”

Also speaking on an upcoming episode of At Source is Sergey Brazhnikov, the personal training manager at Les Mills New Zealand and an award-winning fitness and wellness educator and nutrition expert who takes a holistic approach. He says, ““I can relate to people dealing with issues because I’ve been there. I tell people what they can do – the solutions are there, there are different tools. It is talking to people, being empathetic, and gently guiding them in the right direction without any criticism or judgement, because that is their experience.

Sergey is a big proponent of mindfulness for mental health. “I started experimenting with different meditation practices during split shifts at the gym, doing one-hour meditations in the park with earplugs in, focusing on my breathing. I started to surprise myself with decisions I was making, talking to people differently – just from sitting still and being in the present. We never stop our brain and the mental chatter, but it is about being able to sit and observe what is happening right now. People can meditate for five seconds or 30 minutes, it is just going back to the breathing.”

Check out our Facebook and Instagram page for further updates on the At Source podcast.

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