For some, self-care is yoga and meditation. For Paralympian Jonnie Peacock, it’s playing Fifa on his Xbox with mates. “I know it sounds weird,” he admits. “But when you play Xbox you kind of go into autopilot where everything else just goes, so you’re only focusing on the task at hand – no stress in the world can touch you in that situation and it’s nice just to deload.”
The 26-year-old gold medallist, who says he tries “not to stress too much about life in general”, even kept his cool when appearing in the 2017 series of Strictly Come Dancing. But, he tells HuffPost UK, it’s taken years to discover and maintain this positive attitude.
At five years old, Peacock contracted meningitis and as a result had to have his right leg amputated. Coming to terms with his disability as a teenager was “a constant mental battle”, he says. “With hormones going around, I think everyone has a tough time during their teen years – but for me, there were those added questions of ‘why me?’, ‘why has this happened to me?’” he recalls.
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“On days when my leg was really sore and I was struggling to walk to school – it would take a long time compared to my friends – it hit me really hard.”
He was helped through that difficult period by wise words from his dad: “He always told me it’s going to get better and it did,” Peacock recalls. “You grow up and your perspective changes and you worry less.”
Over time, Peacock learned to focus on what he could do, rather than things he couldn’t – and advises anyone struggling with a newly-acquired disability to do the same.
“The most important things in life are still going to be there,” he says. “For me, the only thing I find annoying now is if I have to go to the toilet in the middle of the night and I haven’t got my leg on and I have to hop!”
Accepting that life is unpredictable can help us all, he adds. “We all want to be the perfect version of ourselves, but unfortunately that’s not what life has planned. Sometimes things happen and life throws you curveballs and it’s just realising that you’re still here.”
“We all want to be the perfect version of ourselves, but unfortunately that’s not what life has planned.”
Peacock says his awareness has improved, meaning he’s better equipped to spot when friends are feeling low, but he also has greater self-awareness, too.
“I know that when I take a break from athletics and I’m not training for six weeks, I can get quite down mentally and depressed because actually, exercise does produce endorphins,” he says, adding that when he’s not using Xbox to de-stress, a quick workout helps.
“A healthy body is a healthy mind and I am an advocate of that. Sometimes, just going out for a run or getting a small sweat on can help your mental health.”
On the whole, he says he’s in a happy place at the moment. His biggest life stress? Forgetting to pay bills on time. “I’m incredibly disorganised!” he laughs.
“My girlfriend hates it, but I’m like ‘Oh it’s cool, we’ll deal with that later,’ and the next thing you know you’ve got a fine because you haven’t paid something on time. That’s probably my biggest stress at the moment, when a brown envelope comes through the door.”
Peacock credits his first coach, Dan Pfaff, along with his dad, for with helping him develop mental resilience and a positive attitude, on and off the track.
He used to spend a lot of time dwelling on how his competitors were training, but Pfaff taught him: “There’s no point worrying about things you can’t affect, all you can worry about it what happens in your lane.” It’s a mantra Peacock has carried into all areas of his life.
“You sit there and you worry about a thousand possibilities, when only one is going to come true,” he explains. “You’re always preparing yourself for the worst, when in actual fact, you should just relax and see what happens.
“I try to think about every day individually and cross each bridge as it comes.”
The Müller Anniversary Games will take place at the London Stadium from 20-21 July 2019 as part of the IAAF Diamond League calendar, featuring some of the biggest names in global athletics, including Jonnie Peacock. Tickets are still available at britishathletics.org.uk.