Joe Wicks interview four celebs about their mental health journeys (Richard Tilney-Bassett/PA)
10 October 2022

World Mental Health Day: Joe Wicks’ advice for dads on how to look after their mental health

10 October 2022

Currently on paternity leave following the arrival of baby daughter Leni last month, Joe Wicks is relishing the time he’s been able to spend with the new arrival (who is, he’s happy to report, “really relaxed and chill”) as well as daughter Indie, four, and son Marley, two.

“I’ve always done the school run now and again, but I’ve been doing it five days a week, I’m doing the lunch and breakfast and everything,” he says on a video call from the home he shares with wife Rosie and their kids in Surrey.

“I’ve loved being with them. I’ve realised the more I’m around, the more our relationships improve, and I see their behaviour improve, because we’re just more connected.”

The 37-year-old fitness instructor and author, who earned an MBE in March after his PE With Joe videos got the nation moving during lockdown, is taking a quick break from daddy duties to talk about his latest passion project.

My Journey With Joe Wicks, in collaboration with Lululemon, sees the exercise guru and mental health advocate interviewing four celebrities – documentary maker Louis Theroux, boxer Nicola Adams, Love Island’s Dr Alex George and broadcaster Adele Roberts – about how they’ve coped in the face of life challenges.

“I took a lot from every conversation,” says Wicks of the video series, launched to coincide with World Mental Health Day (October 10), with some common themes emerging. “All of them said that exercise was one of the most important things to them to help overcome those emotions.”

Reuniting with Theroux (they previously worked on a documentary about Wicks’ childhood and did a workout video together), he learned more about the filmmaker’s struggle with anxiety. “You always imagine him as this really confident, really amazing investigative journalist, but actually, he said that he also has self-doubt and anxiety and he’s had to overcome that.”

Having become firm friends, the pair are aligned in their approach to parenting and work-life balance.

“We both want to have a successful career, but we also really value the importance of being at home and being present for our children and helping raise our children,” Wicks says. “It was nice to hear from his perspective as a parent who has young teenage sons.”

At the same time, the father-of-three recognises the importance of parents looking after themselves as well as their kids, and has lots of tips for dads on how to maintain their mental wellbeing no matter what stage of parenthood they’re at…

Get early nights 

“Sleep is everything,” Wicks says. “Because with the lack of sleep and the broken sleep it’s very hard to wake up and exercise, it’s very hard to make good food choices, and you become irritable and snappy.”

While there’s not much you can do to control the waking hours of a newborn, he says that heading to bed earlier has a positive knock-on effect: “The quickest way to have a calmer, easier morning is to get to bed early so you wake up fresh, you wake up with a bit more energy.”

Get active

Even the fittest fathers may not be able to maintain their usual exercise routine when a little one arrives, but building some movement into your day can be a real stress-reliever.

“You might not wake up with the energy to do a proper HIIT session,” Wicks says. “Even if you go for a little walk or do something for half an hour or 20 minutes at home, you release that stress and that frustration from your body.”

Take as much paternity leave as you can

As well as helping out with all the practical aspects of parenting, be sure use your paternity leave as a time to bond with your baby.

“If you can, try take as much as you can,” says Wicks. “And enjoy that time, because it’s over so quickly, it’s really a beautiful time to be there in those early weeks.”

Batch cook healthy meals

With prolonged tiredness, you might find yourself reaching for sugary snacks that only lead to another slump after a short-lived energy surge.

“That definitely happens to me as well,” Wicks admits, which is why he recommends preparing some nutritious meals in advance so you don’t succumb to cravings.

“Try and batch cook on a weekend and get ahead of yourself so that you’ve got a few breakfasts and a bit of lunch sorted out. I make things like overnight oats, bolognaise or veggie chili, stir-fries and risottos – things which you can freeze or just keep in the fridge for a couple of days.”

Ask for help when you need it

If you have family or friends nearby, don’t be shy about asking if they wouldn’t mind babysitting so you can take some time to recharge your batteries.

“Getting a bit of help every now and again, even just for a couple of hours, is amazing,” Wicks says. “Because it means [Rosie and I] can have an afternoon to ourselves, we can have a little nap if we want to, or we can just like go for a bit of lunch just to get some fresh air.”

Go with the flow

Wicks has a WhatsApp group called the Daddy Gang where he chats with dad friends and they swap parenting tips.

Ultimately, however, he recognises that everyone’s on their own journey and trusting your instincts is often the best option: “Every child is different, so there’s no better advice other than just crack on and just keep doing the best you can really.”

Lululemon collaborates with ambassador Joe Wicks on World Mental Health Day to launch 4-part series: My Journey With Joe Wicks. Find the series on The Body Coach TV YouTube channel.

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