20 February 2019

As with most things in life, prevention will always be preferable to the cure.

About the author:

Robbie Hunter-Paul is a former professional rugby player; playing 19 seasons and representing his country, New Zealand, 29 times. Robbie graduated from Huddersfield University with a BA in marketing and pr. Never one to back down from a challenge, in 2016 Robbie launched his own company: Xtra Mile Marketing and is an official ambassador for Rugby League Cares.

As athletes, we spent countless hours weekly working out in the gym, building muscle size and density, stabilising our joints and building an incredible fitness base, and for what reason? It wasn’t to look good on the beach for the end of season team trip away, it was so we could stay on the field and away from injury. 

Rugby is a collision sport with features that are similar in force to that of a car crash. So, having the extra layers of muscle in the right places helped cope with the contact, and allowed us to keep doing what we were paid to do: play the game.

We all know an injured player is a less effective and productive player, and it’s the same for any walk of life, including a workforce. If they struggle with their mental fitness, they’ll under-perform. Recent research states that “mental health is one of the key contributors to productivity, and employers should do more to ensure the mental well-being of their staff”.


Learn about the Offload Program Here


As it will save resources and increase productivity, having a workforce that can actively manage their own mental wellbeing is a must for any forward-thinking organisation.

This involves developing coping strategies for a wide variety of issues, including mental wellness strategies, action plans and keeping to healthy daily routines.

These techniques are something very few of us were taught at school, so are often something we have to learn as adults.


In this blog we explore four key areas in preparing for, and understanding what coping and managing mental fitness in the workplace means:

  1. Prepare

  2. Where do we need help?

  3. Understanding triggers

  4. The Offload Approach


The devil is in the detail, so let’s start.

  1. Becoming prepared

One of the toughest things about mental wellbeing is that often many people are unaware they are struggling until it’s too late.

We’ve all had tough times before, dealt with them and have been resilient enough not to let it affect our professionalism or productivity.

But some situations can become overwhelming, leaving people feeling weighed down and not knowing where to turn, how to get help or help themselves. Somewhere throughout this journey they’ll identify things are going badly and when that happens, specialist training will help them to understand their emotions.

When you accept and understand that problems may occur, you can better formulate preventative solutions for yourself, colleagues and/or your entire workforce.

Being best prepared to understand and manage your mental state will keep you in control, and control will help you choose a clear and decisive direction to help yourself and those around you. This will allow you to avoid the need for intervention or external support – that cost.


  1. Where do we need help?

As mentioned earlier, understanding how you can identify an issue before it becomes a problem is the best way to avoid it all together.

The most common mental health issues facing workforces are often the same facing us in everyday life like:

Stress is an instinctual reaction for when we feel things are not going right, or we believe we are under attack. Our body moves into fight-or-flight mode getting ready to react physically and quickly.

In the workplace, an example of this is when we believe our workload is too high to deliver competently and productively.

  • Anxiety

Again, this is a natural reaction to concern and worry. Often anxiety can be created when we are uncertain about a future outcome.

As in the example above, in the workplace anxiety can be born out of stress as you worry about not being able to fulfil your workload and the implications of them being unfulfilled.

  • Depression  

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.

In the workplace, monotony of role and lack of fulfilment can lead to depression at work. It is also intrinsically linked to anxiety and stress.

Similarly, to stress, anger is a natural reaction that will also move you into fight-or-flight mode. It’s not all bad, as anger is a great motivator to find a solution but it becomes a problem when you have excessive anger or you cannot control it.

Often in the workplace it will be when you believe someone (maybe a peer or a superior) has purposely done you wrong that leads you to react negatively towards them and/or the situation.


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  1. Understanding triggers 

An emotional trigger (sometimes referred to as a ‘toxic influence’) is an external action that produces an unsettling physical and/or psychological reaction. This reaction can leave the victim in a state of panic, anxiety, depression, despair, confusion and/or a negative state of mind.

The key to coping and managing your mental wellbeing is understanding the triggers that lead you into an unproductive state.

When learning to manage mental fitness it is important to understand the root cause of these triggers and learn to avoid them where possible.

Examples of triggers at work:

  • Being emotionally attacked
  • Getting physically attacked
  • Financial pressure
  • Being spoken down to
  • Being embarrassed
  • Being dressed down in front of others
  • Loneliness
  • Boredom
  • Workload pressure
  • Reminders of painful experiences (anniversaries)
  • Traumatic attacks on your senses (loud noises, scents, sights and taste etc)
  • Unsettling information (bad news)
  • Working with incompatible people

We would guess that most people would be able to relate to at least one of the triggers listed above, if not more than one. Understanding your own triggers and the impact they can have on your state of mind will allow you to prepare coping and management solutions.


 Find out more about Offload


  1. The Offload approach to Coping and Managing 

Coping with, and managing mental fitness issues is key to living a life of fulfilment. We are often blindsided by mental health problems, so having an understanding of the principles of the wide variety of issues, how they are formed in the brain and the triggers that take them from being an uncomfortable idea to something more serious, will help us identify and deal with problems both before and as they arise.

Rugby League Cares’s Offload programme was created from tools and skills used by elite athletes to help them deal with the pressure of life as a professional sportsman: pressure that comes from areas such as media exposure, a competitive environment and, of course the weight of personal expectation.

As it leans heavily on the experiences of high-performing professionals, Offload now uses ex-professional sportsman and associated experts to deliver support and education on coping and managing mental fitness in the workplace. 

The programme will work with your staff to coach them on how to explore their own emotional state of mind, that of their colleagues, understand triggers and how to avoid and deal with them.


If you are struggling or know someone who might need support urgently click here for extra resources from Rugby League Cares.