Jaffa Cake, anyone?

We’re often told to only worry about what we can control. It’s an admirable, if not truly important quality, in particular at these most challenging of recent times. Thinking back to this time last year, I was amidst my own, not insignificant, meltdown. And yet, not even in my wildest apocalyptic visions of how the next 12 months might pan out, did I envisage the impact that bat soup could have, the prospect of national lockdowns (and not being able to go the pub), or that I could be sitting waiting for British Cycling to confirm the Government guidance on where I am allowed to ride for the foreseeable future from today. Just 3 weeks ago, I was preparing for the Summer of Love. Today, it’s almost impossible to think beyond the end of January.

At the best of times, January sucks. So, if you have already or do ‘fall off the wagon’ in the coming days, and dry January was actually dry Week 1, do not give yourself a hard time. While we shouldn’t use the things we cannot control as excuses for breaking commitments, they may certainly be very good ‘reasons’ for changing our behaviour, and it’s important that we don’t punish ourselves unnecessarily at times like this. I’m not saying ‘hit the bottle’. But I am saying that, unless your doctor has said DO NOT CONSUME, if a wee dram of your favourite tipple or a couple of Jaffa Cakes makes you feel better about the world, why the bloody hell not?

Back in May last year, during the first lockdown, one of my friends and I remarked how lucky we were in that the lockdown was accompanied by the most glorious spring I think anyone could remember. We laughed at how bad it could have been if it had been in the winter with long, dark nights and cold, miserable days. We are not laughing now. However, collectively, I believe that the vast majority are conscious of the impact that this extended period of turmoil and imposed constraints could have on our wellbeing. I am no expert on ‘wellbeing’, though I do recognise that there are multiple facets to it. And that given how we are living in this continual flux, responding to changing situations from day to day, our mental health has collectively never been more at risk.

Awareness, acceptance and interest in mental health has been growing at pace in recent years, and I’m really encouraged by the number of friends and acquaintances who ask each other ‘how are you?’, and really mean – how ARE YOU? It’s not so long ago that a slap on the back, accompanied by ‘cheer up you miserable sod’ or at best ‘keep your chin up mate’ would have been as close as we (men in particular), would ever get to even entertaining the topic. However, given that we are all facing similar, if not the same, challenges, I see a new understanding that ‘it’s ok to not be ok’, and sincerely hope that as a society we learn from this period and embrace this new empathy as part of our future culture. It could be a quite remarkable legacy of Covid-19 that serves us all well for the future!

The ‘stiff upper lip’ served its purpose, but the world, society and our needs have moved on… it’s time to talk.

Jaffa Cake, anyone?

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