It’s been a year since the UK went in to lockdown. Overnight everything changed for me. The pause button was pressed on the business and almost all of the team were furloughed. I didn’t quite plan for the impact this would have on my life or understand the knock on effect this would have to my own mental wellbeing. A once busy office was empty and I was sat alone spinning many plates just like the early days of when I first set up my business.
Over the last year, it has been more evident the importance of taking care of myself. Due to pressure of the uncertainty and the overwhelming fear that I was failing, I found myself surviving on 3 hours sleep a night, drinking more than I should and eating unhealthily. The effect this was having on me included the inability to think straight, becoming very withdrawn and feeling like I had no energy. My concentration was poor and I lacked focus. Fear had narrowed my field of vision, and it had become harder and harder to see the bigger picture and the positive, creative possibilities in front of me.
There came a point where I had to make a change. If I had carried on then I’d just be stuck in “survival mode”. I needed to clear the clutter out of my head. In January 2021 the clouds started to part. This only happened before I started to take better care of myself after feeling panicked for 9 months. The way I dealt with it was to find mental resilience by finding my calm. I found that distractions where I had to clear my mind were extremely helpful. Golf, boxing and horse-riding are hobbies that enable me to focus my mind away from the daily stress and anxiety I was feeling. All three activities take an element of concentration and whilst you are doing that, you do not think about anything else going on in your life.
The continued practice of unhooking and focusing my mind built a muscle of resilience that has served me well when I was struggling. These hobbies help to keep the mind from wandering and getting hooked on things I cannot control, and it reduced the pits of stress and worry that I got very easily get stuck in. They provide pure escapism which is vital to keep a calm mind.
Despair and fear can often lead me to overreact. Whilst I could sit around and feel frustration with the impact coronavirus has had, I felt my time was best served in using the time to plan and reflect. I have taken myself away from the barrage of bad news and settled into a more constructive position from which good planning has emerged. I’d like to say I have been trying to work less and to spend more time doing the things I love, but I have to acknowledge that this just isn’t always possible. Instead, I timetable in sections, to make sure I do the things I love and make me happy.
Acceptance for a situation has been the turning point for me. When fear runs high within, the need for courage runs even higher. The worst times can bring out the best in people both collectively and individually and finding coping mechanisms is instrumental in successfully navigating through the pandemic. Once my head was clear I found ways to solve many of the challenges I face to emerge not only successfully from the other side of this crisis, but with knew found skills.
The UK economy still has a challenging year ahead, but the lessons of the last 12 months has shown me that looking after my mental health is key to navigating through these challenging times with clarity and calm.