White knuckles and Wine


White knuckles and Wine

Keeping sane, that has probably been the biggest challenge of the last 10 weeks. I am not unique in my challenges, mom to two boys – earning my teaching stripes, navigating the business (we have slogged and slew over for so many years to achieve our current position) through a bombshell COVID crisis, watching money get tighter, watching my food bill rise, trying to nourish and educate and exercise my boys in adequate amounts alongside living with the overriding fear (for once more than just irrational) that all of my nearest and dearest are in imminent danger of catching a killer virus. I mean, really? Is this happening? I am sure many of us have asked ourselves this, many times over recent times. All are hanging onto reality by a thread. Unsure of our capacity to take more on board, unsure of what tomorrow brings – I for one have had days where the most menial tasks have just seemed too much, where I’ve lost the remote and found it in the fridge – where my normal brain function seems to have stopped, paused in line with the wider world outage. So how do we help ourselves, how do we protect our mental health, hold on tight and keep going on a diet of White knuckles and Wine?

Each of us is unique, with varying needs and challenges – coping mechanisms and tolerance levels. I am not here to preach, nor do I want kudos for taking a route that doesn’t involve crying in my bed whilst brunching on Doritos and wine (because this is exactly what some people feel they need to do to cope, and that is firmly correct for them, and their own needs). But, as its Mental Health Awareness Week, I just wanted to share some of the strategies I have been implementing to help me through, and if it helps another person, then all the better. I am down for binge eating and cursing but have found the below to help me a little bit more.

Exercise: Oh god, she said it, the ultimate cliché. And believe me, 10 weeks ago I would have been rolling my eyes in agreement. But, it’s true. It is a fact that physical activity stimulates the release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals play an important part in regulating your mood. Exercise also increases your heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. If anyone else is like me now (remote in the fridge), this is essential. I started doing the Joe Wicks PE every day with the kids and found this lifted my mood. I have now graduated to Chloe Ting, who is evil personified however her gruelling routines are defo helping me regulate my moods, they are making me stronger and I truly believe have become as essential to me getting through the day as the thought of that 7pm vino. There is a wealth of resources online, YouTube is great for this, so regardless of your fitness levels or floor space, there is something to suit. Why not give it a go?

Routine: I always liked to think myself a spontaneous creature, one who thrived on a lack of planning… a rebel to the routine. However, when every single thing you have ever known is suddenly turned upside down – your routine becomes one of the only things you can control (to a degree) I have found that being able to control something and have that sense of managing my own destiny amid crazy uncertainty has been vital for my mental health. So, I dusted off the clipboard and made sure that Monday – Friday we had a routine. This, as it’s been well documented, is crucial for children, it increases their mental well being by providing a sense of security. I am not saying you need to be banging on the door as a wakeup call at 7am SAS style – but having some structure, and enforcing it, will ultimately help create a sense of safety and give you milestones each day to hit and meet.

Nature: Thank God this has all happened in Spring. The season of growth and sunny days. I am lucky to be living in a very idyllic rural town surrounded by rolling countryside, bordered by acres of woodland and I also have access to a shared garden space which is lovingly maintained and full of beautiful floral displays. I know that many are not. And I do count my blessings here. I have always been an outdoors kind of girl, and it is something that I have tried hard to install on weekends with my boys. We walk, hike, and explore as much as possible. However, never, have we done this as much as we should have or could have. Until now. It’s quite ironic that going out for a daily walk has always been available to me yet not one I have made mandatory until I was informed it is all I could do. It’s also ironic that it has now become so important to me that it is something I will continue to do to the very best of my ability when normality resumes. It has been my saving grace. Getting outside, remembering there is a world still turning outside of my 4 walls. I know this all sounds very idealistic and Disney-esque but if you can go outside, to a park, a green space a field or even in a garden – then do. It will invigorate, it will allow you to breathe better and the vitamin D is like a coat of armour on your skin. No matter how long you are outside or how far you walk it will lift that feeling of claustrophobia and hopefully help ease some tension.

Chill: So, in contrast to the above, my final instalment of advice is to allow yourself to do absolutely nothing, and most importantly, not to feel any guilt for it. I have watched shed loads of TV. Like, loads. I have pretty much completed Netflix and I am merrily making my way through Prime and I also have one eye on installing Apple TV. I have sat alongside the nation and winced at Gangs of London, cried through Normal People, and laughed (and cried) through Afterlife… to name (literally) just a few. I have done this for escapism, because I am not in the brain space to learn a new language or write a 5-year plan or paint the kitchen. I need to sit and not have to use my poor brain, which is not functioning particularly well. I know alongside the workouts and routine and daily walks I also need time to rest. And I do not mean rest as in physically do nothing, I mean that in the mental capacity. It is a fact that in times of traumatic stress (and that is what this is folks) we need to protect our brains as much as our bodies. Whatever way that presents itself is okay, doing nothing is okay. Let us not try and keep up with the Jones’s today, let’s just do whatever it takes to get through.

One final note from me on this is that it is important to understand that there are resources out there to help. This COVID-19 world we have found ourselves in, ripped apart from our families, living in fear for our lives and livelihoods is not one that we should have to face alone – you are not alone. Our mental health is being threatened and our mental wellbeing is paramount to us getting through this. If anyone is struggling or needs further help with how to process what is going on, our industry (and beyond) has some fantastic resources available.

See you all on the other side,