Chan took on the RED January challenge to beat the winter blues, but got even more from it as he opened up new conversations with his community. Now that RED is over for another year, Chan shares his experiences.
It’s widely known that many people suffer from the January blues. Every year as the festive season comes to an end and it’s time to go back to work, the highs start turning into lows. You start to notice the colder weather and darker evenings again. The return to a ‘normal’ daily routine suddenly preoccupies your thoughts for no apparent reason.
This year I was determined to have a positive start to the year, that’s why I decided to take part in RED January. The challenge of running every day allowed me to focus on one day at a time and put any feelings I had about the start of the new year to the back of my mind.
I started running just over two years ago. I’d just been made redundant after a career spanning 20 years and was looking for a job. I decided to join the local gym to keep fit and have a break from trawling through job vacancies and making calls to agencies. It was there that I came across a group of runners who I decided to join a couple of times a week, seeing it as a chance to make new friends at the same time.
One day our Run Leader commented on how much my running had improved and how well I was getting on with everyone in the group. He asked me if I’d considered leading my own community running group. I was enjoying my social running so much that the decision was a no-brainer. I soon got my Leadership in Running qualifications and established my own fun community groups for people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds.
The atmosphere and support you get from running in a group is fantastic.
Everyone who joined had the same mind set as me - they wanted to get out of the house and have a break from the same four walls. Some people were looking to make new friends, some just wanted to learn to run and others enjoyed social running and wanted to support their fellow group members.
As a Run Leader who helps others to run and keep fit, I decided to embrace the RED January challenge and get my running groups involved too. We ran together (and continue to do so) at least twice a week, and many of them joined me for a third run at the local Parkrun. The atmosphere and support you get from running in a group is fantastic.
Not only has it made me feel great, RED January has also helped me start conversations and raise awareness of mental health problems, particularly with other people in the Sikh community. Like in many other cultures, mental health problems and their effects remain a taboo subject. There’s stigma and a lack of understanding, which leads to embarrassment, denial and a fear of being judged.
This year I wanted to send a clear message to the Sikh community that anyone can have a mental health problem, regardless of their background, gender or age. I wanted to make sure that people were aware of the symptoms of mental health problems and to let them know that with the right support most people can recover or manage their condition to live a fulfilling life.
I’m hoping to take the message that there is no shame in mental illness further into my community by approaching and working with Sikh organisations and community leaders. Through this work I hope to continue spreading the word and help people in my community embrace and tackle mental health problems together.
The most enlightening moments have come from speaking to people in different communities, not just the Sikh community.
RED January gave my quest to break the mental health taboo a jump start. It allowed me to engage with people in my community, getting them involved in running for general health and fitness, as well as promoting how it can help them with their mental wellbeing. It has been fantastic to see people getting fit and having a positive start to the New Year. However, the most enlightening moments have come from speaking to people in different communities, not just the Sikh community.
My RED January journey wasn’t smooth sailing by any standard. Some days I didn’t want to run, on others I couldn’t wait to get out and run on my own or with my friends. I’ve had a lot of support both in person and on social media, not only about exercising every day but about feeling comfortable talking about mental health problems. I even continued the Run Every Day challenge into February, spurred on by support from my community, and hope to continue to raise funds for such a worthy cause.
|Find out more about RED January and hear the stories of other participants here.