Feeling anxious and out of control due to the corona pandemic? Katherine O’Hara, 43, life coach, mum of two and former professional Ironman athlete, gives her tips on how to survive the uncertainty positively
Having never experienced a pandemic like the Corona virus in my lifetime, all I know is that, much like an endurance event we are going to have to pace ourselves and break it down into steps that we know that we can achieve. The only difference is, we do not know where the finish line will be and that line keeps moving.
The challenge is different for each of us, depending on our employment status and financial situation. We may also be faced with the added challenge of keeping children educated at home; keeping them occupied as well as reassuring them when they miss their friends.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but the tips below will hopefully help you to cope with that feeling of being adrift that we all find ourselves in.
Distinguish your week from the weekend and minimise uncertainty with a defined structure for yourself and family. Try creating a timetable and scheduling in regular breaks to exercise, be creative and have fun. If you crave variety then make sure each day has a slightly different focus, such as a new online exercise class.
Focus on what you CAN do
Missing what you can’t do and is out of your control is a waste of energy. Let it go and focus on the positives. This is a unique opportunity to spend quality time with your children and connect with family. Being with your family (even virtually) and making meals together, reading or watching a movie creates a positive focus.
We can’t train as much as we usually do, and so we may need to cut back on portion size. It’s a great time to also educate ourselves and children about food; think about eating differently, cook from scratch and cut out unnecessary snacks.
Chunks of daytime exercise, whether it’s your one outdoor allowance per day (in the UK) or at home live or streamed courses in yoga or strengthening exercises can help break up the day. We could all benefit from more yoga and strength, so make it part of your everyday routine now so that it becomes a habit that you can take forward.
It’s also a great opportunity to exercise with you kids, such as doing a circuit class. My girls and I have had skipping competitions for who could go the longest… testing the pelvic floor muscles is something else to work on!
Maintain realistic targets
There’s no point about getting stressed about the fall in the volume or intensity of your training Be realistic about what you can achieve, and focus on things that will give you a goal and improve your performance when you can return to training, such as running, swimming or cycling technique or core strength.
Connect with your first love
We all began training because of our love of running, cycling or swimming, which is easy to forget once you start training hard and for a goal. Now is the time to reconnect with the joy of why we first started.
Time off can make you stronger
The restriction of one training session a day will be here for sometime If you have ever been laid off with injury, you’ll know that the reduced intensity can often mean you will come back stronger for your next event. And having to motivate yourself, rather than training with a club or running buddies will strengthen your discipline like a muscle.
Connection is essential – map out work colleagues who you can virtually work alongside or friends who you know are there to support you through this.
Encourage children to do the same and reach out every day to talk to friends and family with Facetime or Zoom to bring you closer. Use this as a time to pick up with friends you have lost touch with across the globe.
Expand your horizons
We can’t travel but we can learn; what’s the ONE thing that you have always been meaning or wanting to do but never had the time for? Learn a language, transform your garden, bake, learn about the history of India, … now is the gift of time to slow down and reset.
In training for events, we often reflect on our performance and what we could do differently, but we rarely do it in life. Take some time out in your day to reflect. Focus on one day at a time, and this will help you to feel more in control and able to support your family and friends.
Don’t sink the gin!
It can be tempting to reach for the gin, particularly if you’re home schooling and missing your training. But keeping on top of this will improve your sleep quality and keep your mind clear and focused.
The routine can include going to bed and getting up at the same time which is a known way to improve sleep duration and quality. Reducing alcohol will also benefit sleep quality and keep your mind clear and able to focus and support the people around you.
Most of all, be kind to yourself and remember, we are all going through this together and there is support everywhere.
Katherine O’Hara completed five Ironman races, placing top 10 at Powerman Zofingen and is now competing in duathlon. She’s mum to two daughters, and runs a life coaching business, KOMotivation.