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Breaking the cycle: Five simple exercises that can help give you a mental boost

Brentford’s sport psychologist Michael Caulfield shares some tips on improving your mental well-being

12 October 2018

Football is beginning to talk, footballers are beginning to talk, and it’s is only the beginning. As Brentford fans, we are all enjoying the skill and artistry of this vibrant young team. These are young men at the top of their game and physical prowess, but as with all things in life, nothing is more important than their mental health and well-being.

In recent months, we have heard footballers of the calibre and experience of Danny Rose, Michael Carrick and, most recently, Marvin Sordell, talk openly about their mental health, and they are to be applauded for helping to break down the stigma around this most important subject of all, around the most important day of all, World Mental Health Day. 

Much as we admire footballers for their skill, they are no different to you and me when it comes to their mental health. Just because they are young, healthy, sometimes wealthy, it does not absolve them from the same things that we can feel, worry, anxiety, fear of failure, lack of self-esteem and yes, even depression. We now live in a world where mistakes are hardly allowed, we have to be seen to be almost perfect, and look perfect. But behind the Instagram or facebook profile can lie a different story, and the real story. 

That is why it is vital to talk. Suffering in silence, and even shame, is even more debilitating than the anxiety or worry you may initially be feeling. We all look for secrets, immediate cures, but sadly they do not exist. We must form habits, behaviours, thinking patterns and support networks to help us cope, and I am proud to say that Brentford Football Club leads the way in this field. The owner, management and staff don’t just care about their players as footballers, they care about them as people. 

If, as you are allowed, feel ground down, a bit low, worried, anxious or lonely, the “simple things” are always the best to help you break the cycle of thinking. Here are five that we can all do:

  1. Talk to someone, now, please do not wait an hour longer. I was once told by what I regard as one of the world’s finest teachers / coaches “the greatest strength we have as a human being is to ask for help”. Ask for help if you need to, it is a strength, not a weakness.
  1. Exercise and fresh air. This may sound so ridiculously simple but even going for a walk can and will brighten your mood and outlook. Whatever you do, get outside, move around outside. I am not saying you have to do hours of intense training but there is no downside to fresh air, even when it is raining and freezing cold.
  1. Sleep and rest. Again, beyond simple but without good sleep none of us can function, even if we think we can. We now live our lives online, we are virtually connected 24/7 and consequently we have “lit up the dark”. Sleep can seem so elusive and the secret to a good night’s sleep? Routine, develop a sleep routine, go to bed and get up at the same time where possible, and switch everything off, literally, including your smart phone.  Everything begins and ends with a good night’s sleep. 
  1. Spend part of your day off line. We are all virtually addicted to our smart phone, our lives revolve around them and so many people say it is their most treasured possession. But they are wearing us out, our minds never get a chance to rest, and believe you me, our minds need to rest. Try spending a period of the day without being on line, connected, viewing all the whatsapp groups we now belong to.
  1. Join a local sports team or group. Even though the world has changed, we have not evolved as quickly. We still yearn to be part of a group, team, community and sport is the most perfect vehicle for doing this, a bit like we do once a fortnight at Griffin Park. 

Michael was on LoveSPORT radio earlier today to discuss mental health in sport. 

Brentford FC Community Sports Trust, in partnership with West London Mental Health Trust, runs a range of football projects for children and adults with mental health issues.

For more information, visit

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