Written by John Walters, Co-Founder of Questae Collective
This morning, for the first time this year, I have woken to stunning blue skies, a warmth is in the air (it’s actually 11 degrees at only 08:20), and it really does feel like Spring is all but just around the corner.
I am definitely NOT a winter person, never have been, never will be…it’s not that I can’t cope with the cold, I can, I mean I did a week’s arctic warfare training back in the 80’s, so I can hack it, I just don’t like it!
Anyway, this winter has been different, for all of us hasn’t it? It has been tough in ways that current generations could never have imagined, we haven’t been able to enjoy the warmth of other people’s houses, no visits to or from friends, no cosy nights in the pub with mates, no socialising at all, and if we did manage to see anyone, heaven forbid we touch, or hug, or embrace. At least in the summer months we could meet up in the open (maintaining the social distancing rules of course) with the warm light evenings, it made it a little more bearable. In winter though…meh!
But this winter has challenged me, and my mental health (and I know other’s), in so many ways.
During the first week of January my father was admitted to hospital. He had been in decline for a few years but that week he realised he just simply could not carry on without medical attention. So the ambulance was called and off he went. We never saw him again. He passed away on the morning of the 25th, peacefully, with dignity and without suffering, and for that I will be eternally grateful.
That morning I had my eight-year-old twins with me, and thank God for that. I have always been open with them about emotions, and how crying, or showing emotion is not something to repress, especially so with my son who had been told by someone that ‘big boys don’t cry’. In our house, big boys DO cry, so that morning we all cried, we held each other, we shared memories of their Granddad and we comforted each other.
But I also recognised, and acknowledged almost immediately, that my mental health would be challenged hugely during the coming weeks and months, so I drew up a plan, I opened my resilience tool kit, I took an inventory, I polished and cleaned the bits that needed it and I slung the tool kit over my (metaphorical) shoulder. And boy did I need it!
So, the purpose of writing this down is to share with you what that resilience tool kit might actually look like.
It is made up of many parts, and these parts I have taken from many sources, my experience, others sharing their tools with me, books, articles, social media (yes you read that correctly), and experimentation.
To be fair, we already have these tool kits but sometimes we just need a little nudge in the right direction to realise.
They are simple, quick, and easily done anywhere or at any time. I do however appreciate that not all these things will work for everyone, but if you don’t try you’ll never find out. If you DO try and even just one works for you, well that’s one more than you had before so what have you got to lose?
- Breathing – just feel your breath, even if just for a couple of minutes, breath in, breath out and feel calmness wash over you. Breathe in for 4 seconds though your nose, then release for 8 seconds through the mouth. Repeat 3 or 4 times and feel relaxation and tranquillity set in.
- Meditation – I was sceptical at first, and it took some practice but boy does this work – there are so may apps with guided meditation now, try one out – I use one called Let’s meditate: Guided Meditation.
- Stopping/Reflection – just sit back and reflect, focus on a happy time, or a funny moment.
- Walking – get out, round the block for 5 mins, or if you can 20, 30 or more mins, in fact, any kind of exercise gets the heart rate up, the blood pumping, and the endorphins flowing.
- Looking out of the window – just do nothing for 5 mins, look out and engage your mind with nature, or if you live on a street, count the red cars…just take your mind away for a moment.
- Music – listen to what gets you going and have a dance, and I mean really dance, like no one’s watching, and if they are watching, well get them to join you!
- Podcasts – listen to a motivational, or funny podcast, or subject that you love. I really enjoy Fearne Cotton – Happy Place, or Rachael Hymas’s If Not Now Then When, or to get you laughing, That Peter Crouch Podcast, or anything Ricky Gervais!
- A nice cup of tea – but stop what you’re doing to enjoy it, you know, the British way lol.
- Writing – journaling, affirmations, gratitude or just a text to someone you care for, to tell them exactly that!
- Talking – a call to a friend, a family member, speak to someone who makes you happy.
- Cuddles – a really tough one if you’re single or alone, but if you have a bubble, cuddle the f**k out of them. I cuddle my kids, constantly, and they hug me, it is wonderful, and I can literally feel the change in me when they do.
- Watch a good film – I have really opened up some happy memories by doing this, yes I have watched films that have got me crying, and why not, having a good cry helps us release all that emotion. Or I have watched comedy, laughter is so amazing, even if I’m sat on my own, laughter is just wonderful.
- Take a break – set the alarm on your phone (or any alarm) to remind you to take regular breaks, maybe when you’re really busy set the alarm with a purpose – 10:30 Dance, 13:00 walk, 15:30 podcast 17:00 breathe…you get the drift!
So as said, these are my tools, this is just a snapshot of what my tool kit comprises, but it’s endless, literally.
The past few weeks I dug deep, I have used them all, multiple times. Especially when I have been on my own, feeling those miles between Margate and Manchester, between me, my Mum, my sister, and my older children. When the darkness envelopes me I accept that it’s there, and why. I don’t fight, but I do counter by engaging in all those things mentioned above. And by accepting and acknowledging, the darkness, having been paid no attention (respect yes, but attention no), it slowly and quietly pisses off, leaving me dancing in my pants to Wham, or Duran Duran or even sometimes a bit of Culture Club (yes and Kylie lol).
I miss my Dad, of course I do, but by arming myself with all these tools, it has enabled me to reflect, remember, appreciate, and give thanks for all the positives, and there are so many positives, even the ones dressed up with sadness there is happiness, gratitude and smiles.
So, there you have it, that’s my toolkit, well its some of it, and I wanted to share it with you, open it up to you all, and if just one person who reads this uses just one element, or passes it on to another, and they use it, then that’s a good thing isn’t it.
And if you would like to know more, then please do get in touch. Drop me an email, or a DM, or a text, or WhatsApp, or phone call, or carrier pigeon, or morse code, or BATCO, or if you see me, just shout out 😊