• Ollie Roffey - The MA

Covid in Tears

Well so much for following my own advice! My last blog post was on April 1st – and the reason for that – you guessed it! Mental Health. What a wild ride we have all been on since then.

When this whole Covid situation started I was, obviously, worried about those that would be directly affected by the virus, but with the lock down and "slower" pace of life I was also excited about being able to do so much of the stuff I'd been putting off. I felt like I was rich with time, dreams and enthusiasm. For a few weeks this bore fruit and then…poof…the motivation disappeared.

I am not totally sure where it went, but my motivation bucket had a the Niagara Falls of leaks. I have spoken to a lot of people about their Covid coping experience and it doesn't seem like I'm alone in having felt like this.

I guess that’s the nature of mental health struggles – they creep up on you when you least expect it and when you least desire it. Ironically, the hardest times, the times when you need your motivation the most, when I want the motivation to share my "suffering self" with you all, so we all know we're not alone, is the time when I am least able to gather that motivation.

I’m kind of used to it, but let’s be honest it sucks. However, there is only one thing we can do now, after the fact – learn, share and grow together. In the hope that next time we have an FFT (more on what that means later) we'll be ready.

So I wish I could have posted this a few months ago but I couldn't gather myself to do it so I'm doing the next best thing.

I didn't really have a plan for this blog because I just wanted to let you know where I've been during Covid but now I'm in to it I'm developing a plan on the hoof. I think I’m going to look at why Covid is so hard on mental health (I’m one of those people who likes to understand stuff), lessons I’ve learnt to help myself during Covid and how we can help each other moving forward as we continue to navigate a new world.

Before all that I just wanted to give a quick shout out to all those resilient folks out there who somehow weren’t affected in this way during Covid – in fact I know a couple of people who did the opposite and doubled down on training/motivation. I guess it’s something we’re all aiming for and recognising that it is possible to handle experiences differently is the first step to knowing that we are the masters of our soul, and despite some of us having pre-dispositions to certain thought patterns and behaviours our minds are malleable (neuro-plasticity) and no matter how long you have struggled, or the depths you have gone to, change is possible. Well done the resilient few (please tell me your secrets :p).

So why is this so hard?

Personally I put it down to two things I have read/heard:

1) FFTs (Flipping First Times) – the actual phrase doesn’t start with flipping but I’m trying to make this blog post "PG rated" so I'll leave what the first "F" stands for to your imagination. I heard about this on the Brene Brown Podcast (https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-on-ffts/). Essentially Brene talks about how anything that’s a “first time” is anxiety inducing, takes more energy and is just generally tough (think first day at school, first day in a new job, learning to drive a car etc) and guess what? Covid is a massive first time for all of us – our first pandemic. It has been a huge unknown when we crave certainty, a source of fear when we seek out security. It’s a significant FFT and therefore we’ve had to learn to adapt just like anything else new. It was always going to be hard.

2) Maslows Hierarchy of Needs: I saw this great post circulating thorugh the Twittersphere and I was like, “yes, that’s it…that’s why I’ve felt like I have.”:

(Image from Rachel Rhody – FaceBook)

Now the reality is a bit more complex as Maslows Hierarchy of Needs wasn’t really designed by Maslow as a pyramid (you can listen to the Sam Harris podcast interview with Barry Kaufman which talks about Maslow in more detail, and this is also great for considering how to look after yoruself - https://samharris.org/podcasts/209-a-good-life/). BUT, BUT , BUT… I think the simplicity of the pyramid message still rings true.

If we’re having to work harder and pay more attention to keeping ourselves fed (supermarkets struggling), safe/secure (not knowing who will get the illness and how it impacts us), not being able to nurture friendships/relationships in the same way, then of course it is going to be harder to find the space and energy to self-actualise (create, learn etc). Even if you have the time it doesn’t mean you have the energy and in this time especially we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for that but just do what we can and give ourselves a pat on the back for just meeting out basic needs. Remember the "Good for Me" Blog post (time for some self-love).

What should we be doing to look after ourselves...

You know I really haven’t got an answer to this properly as I had a really tough couple of months in May and June – I guess I didn’t really listen to my own advice and when I started getting back to my own basic advice is when I started finding my way out of the woods.

When I stopped beating my self up and got back to basics (meditation, ensuring connection with friends, achievable goals with training etc.) I was able to slowly work my way back to some level of what I felt was "normality" or a "non-depressed mindset".

I'd really love to hear what everyone else did/is doing to look after themselves. For now this blog is getting a bit long and we can discuss more about tools in later blogs but as a little guide off the top of me head...

Avoided cutting myself off – not totally but didn’t make marked effort to “Just turn up” for calls/messages etc which I know helps. Do not be afraid to turn up no matter how you feel. Friends and family accept you in any form 😊

Being realistic about sport and fitness. Exercise has always been my "go to" for mental health and when events were cancelled and pools/gyms closed and group training stopped happening I tried to maintain the same intensity knowing it was much harder to self-motivate. Then when I couldn’t do it I kind of just came to a grinding halt. Next time I’ll try and seek out the middle ground. Doesn’t need to be all or nothing.

Right that’s me – I’m glad I’m finally back and really want to engage more with everyone. No more promises for when the next blog will be but I really hope soon. For now I’d love to hear your stories about isolation, Covid times and what we can all do to support each other at a time when it's easy, and ok, to be Covid in Tears.

Finally I’d like to say struggle is a part of who we are, don’t be ashamed of that. I am here to talk to anyone as I know many are for me. Let’s learn and grow together.

Keep Adventuring to a Mentally Healthy Place!

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