Why did you speak with Renault UK’s Mental Health Champions?
I feel it’s an important subject and everyone needs to speak up about mental health and feel happy to do so. It’s prevalent in all walks of life and it’s all about sharing experiences and knowledge. The discussion with Renault UK’s Mental Health Champions is a perfect example of this and that you don’t necessarily need to know each other to talk openly and confidently about the topic.
When on the track, do you use any tips or tricks from everyday life that help your mindset or focus?
I like to listen to music to help alleviate stress both at and away from the track. I find I can relate to the lyrics of certain songs and they sort of speak to you, which I enjoy. I also think it’s very important to be able to switch off and things like music help me to do that. In my job as a racing driver it can be easy to not switch off. The night before a race can be tricky for this, as you’ve had all that adrenaline going around for qualifying. To combat this, what I find helps is knowing within myself that if I’ve prepared the best I can, then it shouldn’t be occupying my mind during my rest time. Something else I find very useful at the track is getting away from your work and taking a break, whether it’s something simple like a five-minute time-out or spending some time in your own head space listening to music. For me this helps reset the mind and means I can have a clearer thought process.
How has F1 and sports in general helped you and your experiences of your own mental health?
In my job there are so many variables and that alone will create stress. For example, even after a good qualifying session it quickly shifts, and you can easily start experiencing doubts about how the race will go. In order to remove these doubts and added stress factors, you have to acknowledge these thoughts and then take action, which for me might be sharing thoughts or having a conversation with the team or engineers. Maintaining good levels of fitness is also important for me and helps me deal with stress. I think lockdown could have so easily gone the other way with me stopping exercise and training, but I didn’t and by maintaining a good fitness programme I felt mentally good during the break and still do now. It’s at a point now that I think even when I finish racing, I’ll still keep this level of fitness up as it really helps me.
What did you find valuable about talking to Renault UK’s Mental Health Champions? What did you learn?
We were all strangers to one another before this chat and the fact is, we were still able to discuss the topic of mental health so openly. It’s widened my eyes to think if we can do this with people who are strangers to us initially, then imagine what we can do for our nearest and dearest. I work in a fast paced, high pressured environment and so do many others, but I think no matter the job, the industry or your experience level, managing stress and mental health is important across the board. I hope by us talking about this it can lead to others doing the same and not feeling any guilt or shame about talking it out.
Everyone is different, but is there anything you would suggest someone can do to promote or achieve more positive state of mental health?
Nobody really knows what the other person is going through and it’s important to not judge a book by its cover. What you can do is make sure that you are always there for someone and most importantly listen. Being a good listener is key. And, being patient, as you might have the answers that they might not have found yet.
Another important thing is to have perspective too. I make sure to bring perspective into my thought process regularly and can do this by remembering all the positives. For example, focusing on the positives of why I love my job, it’s my dream job after all. It’s important to be able to remind yourself of things like this and not lose sight of why you are doing it just because something stressful has happened.