Rob Temple blogs about how trying new things helped his recovery.
It doesn’t need saying again that 2020 was a tricky and restrictive year (whoops, said it again), and recent announcements of more isolation have added to my anxiety. During the first stage of lockdown, I felt like I was being put back in a box. For a long period in the mid to late 2010s, my own mental health issues with anxiety led me to trapping myself in my house, rarely venturing outside at all, mixed with heavy drinking that ended up with a lengthy hospital stay, losing my house and my wife.
One of the big things I learned was that adventures can be small
With the support of family, friends, medical professionals and local substance support groups, I spent 2019 trying to “get back out there”, to dip my toes back in the world (and I wrote a book about it). Then, Covid struck and it was “everyone back inside"!
Although initially there was a sinking feeling of back to square one, I found that what I’d learned during my year of what I call “adventures” helped keep my anxiety about the future at bay.
One of the big things I learned was that adventures can be small.
Everybody seems to love baking, but simply just buying a new type of bread or sandwich could lift my mood. And if I couldn’t go outside, I could try something creative (I made a very rudimentary bust of my dad’s head out of clay, you should see it, it’s terrible). One of the best things about my adventures is that it gave me something to talk about – for example being able to tell people I’ve held a tray filled with a thousand bees, or travelled all the way to Blackpool to go on the Big Dipper only to find it closed so came home again.
It was nice to have a response to “What have you done today?"
In fact, when I did try something out of my comfort zone, such as solo travel to a different country, or yoga (famously known to be relaxing!) but in a large class of people, it felt like a job, which on top of an actual job, just felt like a doubling of workload. But It was nice to have a response to “What have you done today?” even if it was “tried a new sandwich”.
Some days I didn’t do anything but admin and worry. I was either too busy, too tired or just wanted a day off. But I made sure I had some idea in my head of some adventure I could try tomorrow or the day after – using a new grooming product perhaps, or learning a magic trick, or trying a new walking route. I could collect some apples and make a crumble or do an errand for my parents.
I should say, I have a tendency at times to find blogs like this quite patronising or trivialising – “What, cure my anxiety by going for a nice walk? Thanks for that but I’m overdue on my rent, the kids are ill and my job’s going down the sink” – but I’ve had to train myself to try to pick the positives out of these things.
My two favourite days involved getting chips with a friend and visiting Britain’s largest motorway service station
I still use medication and I have plenty of bad days, so this isn’t a “cure yourself by doing x” post. I just really think allowing yourself to throw caution to the wind and seeing something in a new way can be helpful.
I’ve learned that I enjoy doing something where I’m being taught by an expert (sushi making, beekeeping lessons, museum tours from an art historian) and I also enjoy simple activities with friends and family. In my book Born to Be Mild my two favourite days involved getting chips with a friend and visiting Britain’s largest motorway service station with another, which sounds bizarre I know, but we had such a laugh.
I now know I’m not built for anything in large groups or going off on my own for a solo adventure. I’ll never be a traveller. I also know to keep things simple, and if I’m not comfortable in a situation I’m free to say “no, not for me, thanks” and try something new another day. If I don’t enjoy every activity it’s not the end of the world, it’s just the end of that activity – and I’ll still have a new adventure to talk about.
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