Let’s talk about mental health, exercise and lockdown

It hardly seems necessary to comment on the mad times we’ve all had to navigate – and continue to work through.

Perhaps, in time, we’ll all be able to work through the grief, PTSD and more COVID and lockdown has burdened us with. But, until I have those words ready to share, I thought I’d share a little on how I’ve been coping through the past 2 months or so of lockdown – you can get an idea of how I spent the first part of lockdown here.

Focusing on what you can control

As someone who takes medication daily for their anxiety (Generalised Anxiety Disorder, reporting for duty), control is a big part of how I get through life. I plan. I control. I plan for every eventuality – ironic that a pandemic was never on my radar as far as “worst-case scenarios” go. And, as the weeks of lockdown went by, so did the areas of my life I felt I was able to control. My job? Apart from trying to be as good at it as I could be, it was largely out of my hands – seeing colleagues retrenched left and right. The economy? Entirely out of my control. My dream trip to Paris I had to cancel? Entirely out of my hands.

So, I started focusing on what I could control – no matter how small it was. And, most of that was limited to the four walls of my home. I couldn’t control what was happening in the street and beyond, but what I do in the corners of my home, I could control. And, that quickly translated into the microcosm of my body – I can control what I do to and with my body, what I eat, how I look after myself.

Finding something to fill the void

I’ll also admit that lockdown has left a significant gap in my life – obliterating pretty much all of my hobbies and social life, I needed to find something to focus on and do with all this time I have on my hands. Sure, work fills up my days – but, evenings and weekends are wide open. So, focusing on my health and fitness didn’t seem like the worst way to use the extra time I now have.

Exercising without a goal

And, because I started working out and eating nutritiously without the obvious intention of losing weight – I never really had a goal I wanted to achieve. I just wanted to feel better. There was nothing “wrong” with my body beforehand – and, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with any body at any stage of its lifecycle. Instead, I focused on the feeling that exercising gave me – that endorphin high is real. I started looking forward to my morning routine – working out, lifting heavy things – shaky legs in a hot shower and then fueling my body with whole, nutritious foods.

What is good food?

I truly believe that all food is good food. And that on some days, the effects of chocolate and pizza on your mood is infinitely better than forcing yourself to swallow broccoli while hating every mouthful. So, this isn’t about “good” and “bad” – it’s been about me learning what my body needs nutritionally, and to function at its best, both physically and mentally. And yes, there has absolutely been pizza and chocolate on occasion – and red wine, because goodness me, the world can be a lot sometimes. But, most days I give my body whole, nutritionally-dense, fresh food – mushrooms and broccoli, chickpeas and beetroot, pole-caught, local tuna, sweet potato and almond butter – and, I feel good.

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Let’s talk about mental health, exercise and lockdown