Walk n' Talk with Al Viney

Victorian Institute of Sport Performance Lifestyle team caught up with para rower Al Viney, to check in and see how she has been prioritising her own wellbeing and mental health.

Al, How are you? 

Thanks for asking! 

In all honesty, I'm actually having a weird week. I'm currently running off about 3.5 hours of sleep after my brain wouldn't go to sleep last night. Just preparing myself for a clumsy day and trying not to be too hard on myself because I know I won't be firing on all cylinders today. I'm just taking things day by day while focusing on my goals and capabilities.

What have you done to prioritise your own wellbeing and mental health?  What are your key self-care activities? 

Through my past experiences, I have become relatively aware of the signs of fluctuation in my wellbeing and mental health. One of the first things I will do if I notice a change is to spend more time with my golden retriever Charlie. Over the years Char has been dubbed my 'anxiety dog' which is very much true. Char gives me purpose and the responsibility I have for him keeps me accountable. 

When I have felt like I don't want to or can't do anything, I have had a fluffy, puppy-eyed reminder to get up and go for a walk or just go outside on the balcony and play. Charlie really has been a key role in prioritising my mental health and wellbeing.

I have a pretty big collection of sporting goods - I like to muck around and learn different sporting skills. I have just put up a cricket ball on a string in the garage and have been knocking around down there quite a bit. This keeps me entertained and also I find it a bit like mindfulness. Focusing on a small aspect like the sound of the cricket ball hitting the bat. Before this I was practicing juggling the soccer ball.

I also like to write things down. Journaling can be really expressive and helps to release any feelings or situations that I might be bottling up inside. I do have a tendency to bottle things up and this helps me to get the ideas out of my head and to see things a little clearer.

During the pandemic, I made the decision to connect with a psychologist - I cannot recommend this enough.

What message might you have for the wider VIS community about RU OK? Day and Mental Health awareness?  

All sides of asking 'RU OK?' are important - both those involved and the conversation itself. 

To the person asking the question I say thank you for your willingness to care and listen and providing a safe space for those around you. I also say please take care of yourself because sometimes the answer to your question is 'No, I'm not". Supporting someone who may not be feeling ok does require energy and there are support networks and tools available to assist you. It is also ok for you to need support before you can offer your support.

To the person being asked - take a deep breath. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it is brave and courageous to be vulnerable, honest and to speak up. You and your feelings are relevant. It is ok to not be okay, but it is not okay to go through that on your own. 

Together we can break the stigma. Together we are stronger.

Tomorrow is 'R U OK? Day' and our Performance Lifestyle Team is encouraging everyone to make some time to prioritise your own wellbeing, to reach out and connect with family and friends via phone or virtual communication and ask the question - are you OK? 

The simple question could be very important or vital for someone you know. For tips and resources on how to start and have a conversation, click here.

Olympic champions, Tokyo 2020 hopefuls and a global music star will help empower athletes' mental health this September, as The Australian Olympic Committee released the official lineup of 12 athletes and experts for Wellbeing Week, presented by Allianz. With daily live streamed shows from 7-11 September, Wellbeing Week will showcase how Australians can improve their mental health and wellbeing. Click here and tune into today at 1pm.

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