At varying stages of our lives, most of us will experience heightened stress, anxiety and potentially adverse feelings towards ourselves and others. These COVID-19 days we find ourselves in have only amplified issues more. The good news is that with the right tools, support and understanding, we can overcome anything. In this insightful and incredibly needed piece right now, Evolution Travel Collective co-founder Pete Rawley reflects on his experience with the mission of helping others along the way.
I have come to understand over the past few years, that the importance of good mental health is paramount to the success of so many other elements in our lives.
To be honest, it’s not something I used to give much attention to or invest time to take care of. It wasn’t until my life took a series of backflips, mistakes and complete stuff-ups that I found myself having a more honest look at what the issues were, what I was responsible for and how I could make a commitment to improving it moving forward.
At a time when COVID-19 has completely upended so many people’s lives and decimated so much that I care about, now more than ever, it would be very easy for me to slip back into old habits.
Previously, I’d have probably run away from the realities of things in an attempt to ‘numb the pain’ and avoid the responsibilities I have to my partner, family, friends, professional life and most importantly, my general well-being.
Further to this, I could have ignored the signals that told me my anxiety levels were rising fast and racing towards another ‘train wreck’ moment as my ability to calm my mind, be grateful for what I have and make better decisions quickly gave way to finding a more immediate self-gratifying, yet ultimately destructive outcome – for me and for those around me.
Thankfully, I didn’t drift back to old and destructive habits and instead made the choice to look at things in a positive way.
During the ever-changing landscape of life in a pandemic, I felt it was really important for me to personally frame these challenging times in a way that would give me the best chance of working through everything in the healthiest way possible.
Seeing the potential triggers for mental health challenges, understanding them and planning to work through them was always going to be key.
With this in mind and the unavoidable negative thoughts that come with having to place our new business into hibernation, the emotional decision to stand down our team and the heartbreaking understanding that so many of my travel industry friends were losing their jobs, I made a commitment to shift my outlook to one of opportunity.
I put in play some simple processes that would keep me on track and in turn help my mental health and well-being.
So what are they? And how can you take solace from them if you’re feeling similar emotions? Read on.
1. Gain not take
One of the first things that became evident to me was the opportunity of what we could GAIN during this time if we open ourselves up to that.
This is as much about remaining positive and grateful as it is to keep the ‘big black dog’ at bay when focussing on everything that is being TAKEN away.
The more I have opened up to what I could gain and achieve during this time the more I feel I can embrace the opportunity rather than let it take me down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts.
I absolutely believe that this re-framing of the situation has already led to several new opportunities and positive outcomes both professionally and personally.
2. Set goals
I have made sure I set goals to strive for. I write them down and commit to them, just as I would have pre-COVID-19.
These are a combination of professional and personal goals, but I have set them so I have something to work towards rather than finding myself procrastinating or Netflix bingeing – every day!
The saying goes that ‘idle hands are the Devils tools’. Add in increased boredom and too much time to get inside my own head and that is a dangerous cocktail mix I want to avoid.
For me, it is about keeping engaged and enthusiastic about the ‘new’ opportunities that are now presenting themselves, rather than focussing on those that have been previously available.
3. Reward your achievements
If I reach my goals, complete them or improve something then I reward myself. It’s this reward that allows me to ‘enjoy the moment’ and help drive the self-motivation levels.
The acknowledgement of achieving a goal I set myself supports a positive mental health position and in turn motivates me to set and achieve further goals.
These don’t have to be huge rewards at all, but something that allows you to acknowledge and enjoy the achievement is important.
4. Take ownership of things not completed
It can be pretty easy to ‘put off today what can be done tomorrow’, especially for many of us in the travel industry right now who find ourselves out of work.
So, don’t let that happen.
Hold yourself accountable to what you said you would do and if you don’t, then ‘own it’ and don’t make excuses. I have found that this honesty has allowed me to then re-set and re-start the process of working toward achieving that goal.
5. Give and you will get
Staying connected has become something that we are giving increased focus to as we develop different ways in doing so.
Whether it’s your partner, your family, your friends, work colleagues, teammates or professional business relationships, we are all looking at new ways to stay in touch.
These connections have never felt so important nor been given so much focus, with media awash with advice, new apps and technology to support us all staying in touch.
As such, I have made a conscious effort to reach out to different people every day.
These have been people I work with, other people in the travel industry, my personal friends outside of travel, my family and the sporting clubs I’m involved in just see how they are going and ‘check-in’ on them.
I also get pretty bored with my own company and that can lead to a trigger for my anxiety and poor mental health and well-being.
To my surprise, what I have found is that this connection has ‘given’ me much more than I was thinking I would ‘get’.
It’s been great to touch base, share stories, support each other and engage in day to day life with people who just like me have a new set of challenges to work through at this time, and are perhaps dealing with feelings of anxiety themselves for the very first time.
Bonus tip! Only control what you can: Embrace change
With everything going on, no one knows what things will look like when it settles down in a post isolation or social distancing world.
We hear terms like the ‘new normal’ and ‘unchartered waters’, but in all reality, these ideas and thoughts are just that, ideas and thoughts.
Nobody really knows what will happen.
What I DO know though is that we can control the NOW and how we use this time to positively change, innovate and grow. Opportunity is everywhere.
To be honest, I still have more questions than answers, but I do know one thing, right now I can control how I look at this situation, and with that in mind, I’m taking that control and really enjoying what I’m gaining each and every day.
Have you got insights you’d like to share too?
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