While here in Australia the memories of the lockdown are drifting into obscurity, in many other parts of the world the harsh reality of a covid world is still disrupting livelihoods, economies and mental health.
From this side of the world, it is worth looking back on the lessons we have learned from this long episode. It needs to be remembered how staying fit and active played a crucial part in us facing this hurdle, as well as coming back stronger than ever. Keeping these elements present in our lives will give us the tools to face these obstacles if they ever rear their ugly heads again in the future.
The first lesson that we learnt was about being humble and realising that in the end we are all human beings. From a sporting perspective, we were used to admiring pro athletes and High-Performance Coaches and staff members as people who are untouchable. Lockdown broke down these pedestals and brought us to accepting our mortality and the fact that we are all the same regardless of our titles, certificates, studies or medals. In terms of mental health has taken us to the point of accepting that inside all of us, we are prone to panic attacks, depression and falling victim to the emotional pressure of being locked at home. Accepting that any of these situations can happen to us, as well as everyone around us, is a good trigger to prompt each of us to pay more attention to our mental health as well as to that of those around us.
Second, we learnt about the importance of being fit and active. In the same way we are told to eat healthy and sleep 8 hours to keep our body healthy, Mental Health can be taken care of by following certain guidelines. In this scenario, exercise was one of the activities that protected both Physical and Mental wellbeing. From professional athletes to a gym trainer for beginners, it not only works as a way of keeping our senses sharp by increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain, but exercise also serves as a way to cope with the different demands and stress from our day-to-day life. This situation has taught us to give our mental and physical wellbeing an important place in our everyday routine.
A third lesson is the role of social media in our lives. For most of us, lockdown meant that our only window to the outside world was Instagram, Facebook, or for athletes it was Strava and other exercise apps. Although it is always positive to see some of the outside world by connecting to others, these platforms have been reported to bring negative thoughts to many who were under stressful circumstances. Seeing other people running in the trails, swimming in the ocean or riding hundreds of kilometres was a sure way to bring negative emotions to those who were not allowed to do such things in lockdown. The solution here would be to focus on ourselves, put the phone down and do what we can, where we are, with what we have. This develops personal traits such as creativity and innovation and allows us to help the community by trying to connect with what is close instead of trying to do what others do far away. Anxiety, Depression, anger or sadness can equally affect a very beginner athlete and a Top-level Triathlete, we are all human after all.
The last lesson is about accepting help even when you don’t feel like you need it immediately. A Mental Health professional provides a way to check our mental functioning. We tend to visit the doctor every now and then to check our physical health. In the same way, sometimes just to check that our mental functioning is optimal is a very good idea. It allows us to ensure that our biases or schemas (which are a pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them) are not driving us to develop self-sabotaging behaviours. Counselling and mental health is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone, regardless of background, personal history.
All these lessons fluctuate around the feelings of compassion towards others and us. We as humans grow by connecting to others and by accepting our own physical, social and emotional reality. Having this acceptance as a ground point will help us build every day. It will create new, better and more durable connections and develop healthier activities in our lives. All of these things being necessary to face the myriad of hurdles and obstacles such as the ones the lockdown and the pandemic brought upon us.