Coping during lockdowns – A runners view of looking after your wellbeing

Lockdowns, social distancing, work from home, stay at home and safe lives.  All things that we have never had to cope with before and some the risks are greater, either you are in a vulnerable group or maybe you are worrying about how you can keep your income.  Uncertain times bring with it some unique fears and stresses, these are all a very normal human responses to the unknown, its okay to not be okay.  Many things are out of our control, trying times indeed.

However, when you scrape the surface of what is happening, you will start to see a positive change.  A difference in people and ourselves, that could have lasting benefits.  Not just the amazing volunteering that has been seen to help the NHS and the country, but a change where people are starting to do more to self-soothing activities.  The emotional regulation system has three parts to it.  They are Threat , Drive and Soothe.  The threat and drive are quite simple to explain.  We do things because we are under threat, we have a deadline at work to keep. Or if we relate it to running, we run faster in race if someone is trying to overtake us.  We also respond to drive, as in we will work harder to get recognition to maybe be promoted or get a pay rise. Then if we relate that to running we are driven to train harder to try and get a PB.  However, Soothe is something that we don’t often think about, in my mind this is what we need to refill, to replenish the Threat/ Drive bank account.  These are the times we take for ourselves, to look after ourselves. Such as, a long soak in a bath, time to read, do art, write, do Lego, do mindfulness anything that is restful and will help you be reflective and relax. Take time out.  In our busy worlds this is so often pushed to one side due to other demands that come with a modern lifestyle.  So perhaps lock down will help with that, perhaps we will come out more reflective than before?  

As a recurrent depressive my threat, drive and soothe balance is one of the many things I have to manage.  So much so that I have a self-soothe box. A physical box of things that if I open, it will remind me of thing that make me happy and soothe my anxiety and negative thoughts. It has photos to make me smile, things like an art kit, a Rubic’s cube, tea bags, my favourite book, all things that remind me to take that break and just breathe.  Here are some other tips and pointers that may be useful for you to maintain a balance during these unique times:

  1. Stay Connected.  With modern communications this is easier than ever.  I have found even group video calls of groups I belong, be that running, training or work, does lift your spirits.
  2. Stay Active.  Thankfully we can still go out to exercise, but even if we can’t and we are able, doing some form exercise has well documented benefits.  Some people are seeing the lockdown as a focus to help them get fitter with regular exercise and stretching.
  3. Take notice.  Appreciate what you have, and the world around you.  Take that time out to appreciate the good things around you and in your life.  This is something I struggle with the most and need to work on.
  4. Love yourself.  Take that time out to look after yourself, do that self soothe, treat yourself in some way, a long soak in the bath, make some time to read that book, enjoy watching the sunrise. 
  5. Remain Positive. Think of the best-case scenario rather than the worst, picture yourself in that. Avoid negativity, for instance not looking at the news after a certain time in day, or limit your exposure to things which have a negative effect on you. 
  6. Plan a Routine.  Plan ahead, have an aim, let others you live with now the plans, let them be part of these plans.  Establishing a routine can help you achieve what you want and get you one step closer to your goals
  7. Accept what you can control and don’t worry about what you can’t.  Don’t constantly look at newsfeeds. Saying out loud or writing down what you are anxious about and identifying the things you can’t control will help with that acceptance. 
  8. Give Something – even if it is a smile, saying thank you.  Obviously, the volunteer side of the coronavirus situation has been amazing.  But if you are not in position to help, a smile costs nothing.  The other day I was out running and a fellow running going the other way gave me a big smile, it really lifted my spirits.  When we do go out to shop or for exercise it so easy to look at people with a suspicion, worry and concern. Once you have realised, they are not threat and are in the same situation as you – SMILE, it can make a big difference!
Rob’s Running experience and pushing to the extremes, gives him a lot of time to reflect and think about his own wellbeing and mental health, here is on the desolate North Pole.
Rob’s quieter moments on the Marathon des Sables – 155 miles across the Sahara Desert in 6 days.
Half way through the highest marathon in the World. The Everest Marathon.