Olympic gymnast Rhys McClenaghan discusses the importance of mental wellbeing
How much time do you set aside to maintain your mental wellbeing?
My mental wellbeing is a priority, inside and outside of my sport. Most things I do are to benefit my mental wellbeing. Some specific activities include attending regular psychology sessions and setting aside time in the morning for mindfulness practice, where I follow a guided meditation.
How closely linked is it to your physical wellbeing?
I see mental and physical wellbeing going together, they are inseparably linked. One can’t do well without the other being ok, so when I stay physically fit, I feel mentally fit. When I look after my mental health, my body also tends to feel good.
Is it something you’re looking to work on for 2022?
Mental health is something I will continue to work on for the rest of my life. Like anything, sometimes it needs a little more focus. Just like exercising a muscle, it needs attention.
With 45% of young people in Northern Ireland saying their mental health has worsened since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have never been prouder to be an ambassador for this year’s Lidl Community Works Sport for Good programme. It works in partnership with children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust and aims to encourage and support young people to make the most of the physical and mental benefits of sport participation.
Lidl Northern Ireland shoppers were invited to nominate their local secondary school to win a place on the Mental Health Athlete Mentorship Programme and I really think the winning schools will learn about managing and taking care of their mental health.
What keeps you feeling mentally well?
I think above everything, maintaining a regular exercise routine keeps me feeling mentally well. That is why the Lidl Community Works Sport for Good programme means so much to me. It’s highlighting that physical exercise keeps you fit and healthy, but it also impacts your mood, how you feel about yourself, your connections with friends and can keep your mind fit and healthy, too.
Do you have a good circle of friends/family who you can speak to if needed?
I have a very good circle of friends and family that always support me in everything I do. It is still an area I would love to improve on. However, this can take some time to make sure you are surrounded by the right people. One or two people you can really trust and open up to is so important. I think men sometimes struggle with that a bit, but we really need to talk to each other if we have worries or need to open up about something.
How do you spend your downtime?
My downtime is mostly spent doing different activities outside. I balance that with a small amount of time playing Xbox with friends! I find this to be a good way to keep in touch with my friends as I am away from home a lot.
Rhys McClenaghan is currently an ambassador for the Lidl Community Works Sport for Good programme. The scheme aims to encourage and support young people to make the most of the physical and mental benefits of sport participation. Over the last two years, Sport for Good has supported more than 80 sports clubs and schools across Northern Ireland and provided more than £220,000 in funding to encourage more young people into sport. To find out more about the Lidl Community Works Sport for Good programme please visit: lidl-ni.co.uk/lidl-community-works