It takes empathy to see the energy challenges of others in our community. It requires vision, courage, and grit to take action on those challenges and to dedicate ourselves to those issues we are truly passionate about. Finally, it takes a selfless nature and a level of maturity to think outside yourself to help others.
Regenerate founder, Andrew Deutscher, recently had the opportunity to interview a young man who is working to make a big impact for young people facing mental health challenges.
Landon Denker is a student, an athlete, and the founder of Five Star Comeback.
After being sidelined by a lacrosse injury and seeing similar issues affect his friends and peers, Landon saw a need for helping students struggling with both the physical and the mental impact of sports injuries. He developed a website that provides educational resources and inspirational stories to help student-athletes through the challenges of resting or rehabbing an injury.
We’re sharing some of the key insights from their conversation, along with takeaways on how you can apply the same thoughts to your efforts at work.
1. Being tough isn’t all it’s cut out to be.
During their discussion, Andrew and Landon noted there are “definitely some stereotypes in sports about being tough, toughing out an injury, and playing through pain – both physical and mental.” When others are pushing you to succeed, to come back before you are ready, or to take steps that you’re not comfortable with, it can be difficult to find the mental strength to stand up for yourself and advocate for your own wellbeing.
Work world takeaway: You know yourself. You know your limits and your bandwidth. It’s up to you to guard your energy and advocate for yourself if you need recovery or support.
2. It’s not just coming back. It’s coming back stronger.
Landon shared one of his favorite comeback stories with Andrew. “One of my good friends broke his leg in a football game last year. They had to bring an ambulance onto the field, put him on a stretcher, and take him to the hospital,” Landon said. “He had surgery to have a metal rod in his leg. You can just imagine how anxious he was about if he’d ever be the same. After time and healing, he was able to come back and is better than ever.”
Work World Takeaway: You can’t protect yourself from every physical and mental strain. However, you can control how you respond to it, and how you channel your energy. You don’t have to let yourself be burned out and drained. You have the ability to step back, look at the situation, and determine the best use of your physical, emotional, and mental resources.
Rest is where you really get stronger and get better. If you are able to rest and mentally tell yourself that you need the time off, you’re going to come out stronger on the other side.
3. Rest can be hard work.
Regenerate teaches people to use rest and recovery as key enablers of sustainable performance. For injured student-athletes, forced physical rest can be equally draining because they had envisioned a specific sports path ahead of them (leading their team, playing collegiately, etc.).
Landon’s observations were in line with Regenerate’s philosophy, as he shared, “I think rest is where you really get stronger and get better. Forcing yourself to play can just end up making it worse and put you back even further from going back to your strong self. If you are able to rest and mentally tell yourself that you need the time off, you’re going to come out stronger on the other side.”
Work world takeaway: When you have a full slate of responsibilities, you may feel the urge to ignore your body and push through anyway. Take a minute to evaluate. Will you do better work if you’re worn down and exhausted or if you take time to recover before tackling a challenging task? Will your communications come across better if you send them when you’re rushing between meetings or at the end of a very long day, or if you sleep on it and send them with a fresh, rested outlook? It can be hard to discipline your brain to put something away and to really rest, but if you give yourself that time, you’ll be able to approach it with more vigor and truly come back stronger.
4. Mental struggles can be even more challenging than physical ones.
In Landon’s personal experience, people are much more likely to ask about the physical ailments they can see than to inquire about someone’s emotional or mental health. When he was dealing with his injury, people were quick to ask about the splint on his hand and inquire about the healing process. It was far less common for him to field questions about his mental wellbeing and the impact of losing a season to injury.
Work world takeaway: Human beings are far better empathizers with physical pain than mental pain. Just being aware of this can help leaders be alert and ask the right questions to ensure their people are thriving. A team member may act invincible and take on a full workload, but leaders need to be attuned to the toll work is taking on both their physical and mental wellbeing. Let them know you care about their overall wellbeing, not just what they produce and the results they’re able to achieve.
5. Small gestures can mean a lot.
Since Landon launched his website, he’s received positive feedback from both student-athletes and their family members. “I’ve been surprised by how much a small gesture can help,” Landon said. When people reach out to him on social media about Five Star Comeback, he makes sure to ask them about their wellbeing and has been impressed at how often they open up and say that the stories and the inspiration meant a lot to them or someone they cared about.
Work world takeaway: A social anthropologist noted that while mammals need attention, all human beings need acknowledgment. People want to know they matter and that their leaders acknowledge what they are contending with or challenges they are facing. As a leader, appreciation, connection, acknowledgment and support help to fuel your team’s energy and give them purpose during their workdays.
We look forward to seeing Landon and 5 Star Comeback’s ongoing success and to hearing more stories of athletes, students and leaders coming back stronger. You can follow 5StarComeback on Twitter and can visit Five Star Comeback website for updates on the program’s ongoing development.