January blues plus another dose of endless weeks in isolation are a recipe for a big hit on mental health. I will be honest and admit the night another lockdown was announced I really, really struggled. A lot of tears were shed in anger, frustration and sadness. Selfishly I was bemoaning the fact I once more had to train on my own again whilst thousands of NHS staff are putting their lives at risk every day. Once the tears were shed, I tried to pull myself together and plan how to get through this… but I was all out of ideas, motivation and optimism. Doing this a third time round was hard to get my head around.
I moped around for a few days, frustrated, negative and in the complete wrong mindset for any kind of productivity. The morning of the 4th day I hit a real low and the effort just to get myself to warm up and on the bike for my morning session was immense. Normally I feel better after doing a session, but it did nothing to brighten my mood. Full of despair, I had to somehow get myself ready for a maximal session next, despite being in the worst mindset possible. It is so easy on your own for thoughts to spiral and despair to engulf you, and I eventually realised I somehow had to find a way out of this and talk to someone. I began composing an email to my lifestyle advisor. It’s been too long since I spoke to him and about time I turned to someone different for help. Then, turning to the session I managed to put everything out my brain as best I could, give it my all and just get on with it.
A PB immediately lifted my mood and seemingly all my anxieties disappeared. But what if I hadn’t achieved that? What then?
As athletes we often resort to getting on with things, immersing ourselves in our training sessions to forget about any problems we have in the outside world. Don’t get me wrong- most of the time this works, and we leave sessions feeling a lot lighter and relieved, with a renewed optimism for the rest of the day. But those issues don’t always go away. Sometimes we need to face them head on before they come back to haunt us again.
Despite my mood lifting and positivity returning I still made sure I sent that email to my lifestyle advisor. It can feel like a big step reaching out to someone and admitting to yourself you need support, when really the hardest part is clicking the send button. I could not be more relieved I had that chat and to speak to speak to someone different, get his advice and come up with different strategies going forward was hugely satisfying. I only wish I had done it sooner!
So, I challenge you this lockdown: talk to someone. Talk to someone different. A friend, a relative, a member of staff, your lifestyle advisor! On TASS you have also unique access to Care First, give them a call if you’re struggling. Take that step and get all those things off your chest that deep down are bugging you. It might just help you in the long term.
Hopefully 2021 will get brighter and we can soon get back to training normally and competing again. But before that we face an uncertain few weeks which might be long and difficult. Let’s make sure we all get there in once piece.
Tips for mental health this lockdown:
· Telling yourself to “pull it together” or “man up” aren’t the most proactive things to do- talk to someone, arrange a chat, get things off your chest and feel refreshed.
· Keep the things that make you tick in your routine. What have you learnt from previous lockdowns that you know work?
· Don’t be hard on yourself. Lockdown is tough. Allow yourself to have a break, do something different and look forward to something each day.
· Get outside. Fresh air and sunlight can really help brighten a mood. Do a session outside for once or go for that daily walk- even if you have to drag yourself out the house, it will help!
· Use the TASS Community. There are so many different individuals you can speak to, athlete catch ups which you can attend and resources you can access. Make the most of it!