Learning from The Body Coach

Yesterday The Body Coach (Joe Wicks) posted a touching video to his followers on Instagram following the blow of yet another national lockdown announced in Boris Johnson’s public address.

Drawing upon his own anxieties during this very weird time, Wicks reiterated that despite keeping himself occupied with work throughout the duration of the pandemic, the reality of the COVID-19 situation is really affecting him, particularly recently. Wicks is known for his fitness regimes and cookbooks, and has served as a strong advocate for keeping fit, for both physical and mental health benefits, throughout the pandemic. He founded a weekly, fancy-dress virtual PE class during the first lockdown, which was imperative for the sanity of many people, not just the core demographic of children exiled into studying from home. He’s provided consistent online content, spreading his positive/proactive take on muddling through the pandemic, and has been a crucial uplifting and inspiring figure for the general public when times have been dismal.

The nicest thing about this video was his complete transparency as a public figure, his very ‘human’ response to the trials of a troubling time. It helps to break the facade of ‘the grass is greener’ and shows that even those who appear to be doing well can be struggling.

Wicks’ main points of discussion were conversational, the kind you’d have with a stranger in a pub or a neighbour on your street. He talked about his role as a father and husband, as well as the inherent need to appear strong in order to support his family. He also became quite emotional as he reflected upon his current privileges, a consequence of years and years grafting away at his career, and the contrast between his current status and his childhood roots, which briefly consisted of living in a council house with his family who struggled financially. Wicks noted that the main cause of his upset, among all the disarray at the moment, was his concern for those living alone, unemployed and/or attempting to support families whilst financially strained and under the pressure of social restrictions.

He’s definitely not the only ‘celebrity’ drawing attention to the inequities of socioeconomic backgrounds in the UK. Recently, we’ve all heard of the fantastic work Marcus Rashford has done, but also figures like Ellie Goulding have used their positions to raise awareness for charitable causes that help to support an end to homelessness. It says a lot when our celebrities and TV personalities are capable of more compassion and action for those who are struggling in the UK than those who are in actual political power, with the capacity to introduce legislations and major changes that could really help on a larger scale.

But we don’t need to get into that.

This post is just your daily reminder to normalise talking about mental health, especially at a time of crisis like a global pandemic. Joe Wicks is an absolute hero for being real candid about his experiences with this whole situation, and I think his strong emotional response to the struggle of others right now is a testament to his strength as a powerful yet vulnerable man.

One positive of 2021, so far, is that amazing people like him are using their platform to start meaningful conversations like this. I believed him when he said we’re going to get through this and now I’m ready to smash my day: let’s abolish the shame culture around talking mental health. It ain’t helping anybody!

PERSONAL BLOG: Lockdown and low self-esteem (a lewk)

I am trying my hardest to wade through the woes of the pandemic. I can only do my best with the circumstances I’m limited to, and I think for the most part, I must be doing well. I’m still here, aren’t I? I’m still functioning in basic human terms, and for that I’m grateful.

I wake up on a morning. I get dressed, even if it’s only into baggy shirts and slacks, as opposed to all the pretty office-wear hanging dormant in my wardrobe. I put make-up on, for no other reason than it has become a staple of my self-care routine. I wear it like armour or a mask to disguise whatever I’m feeling within from the outside world. If you look strong, you can feel strong. I think of it as a form of method-acting and for the most part, it does the trick.

But then, some days are really hard. I’m challenged. I let myself down, somehow. Something minor, something major: the outcome is equally as catastrophic. The fundamental question is always there: am I good enough? And if so, why doesn’t it feel like that? Why does it feel like I’m totally unequipped to deal with life? Why do I find myself wobbling so frequently, back-tracking on plans before I’ve had the chance to fully realise them? Why do I self-sabotage? Why do I always feel as though an achievement isn’t enough, that the bar is immediately set higher and a new goal immediately has to take it’s place? Why do I feel like an imposter when I describe myself, as if I don’t belong?

Today has been one of those days, and we’re only on 14:38. My fierce make-up wasn’t strong enough to withstand the anxiety-fuelled cry I had, so now I’m donning the Phoenix-era joker look. This aesthetic was not what I had in mind when I got out of bed this morning, but beggars can’t be choosers.

I’ve surrendered. I’ve had my cry. I’ve smoked two consecutive cigarettes, sobbing in between puffs. I’ve told my friends and my wonderful partner, vented it out so that the negativity doesn’t brew within me all day, seeking a toxic way to escape. I feel the relief of having taken control and owned the situation, but that doesn’t change anything. The reality is that I feel shit. This is simply the way I feel. It came on strong, from nowhere, and it will inevitably dissipate the same way. I can choose to mope in it all day, all weekend, perhaps even longer, or I can accept that this is just a feeling. That it is not a sentence, if I choose not to see it as such.

It is 14:38 and I have already cut myself down to smithereens. I have punished myself with the thinking and the gruelling internal monologue of all the reasons I amount to nothing. But, it is only 14:38. I have the rest of the day, the rest of the weekend, the rest of however long after that to focus on rebuilding myself.

So that is what I’ll do. I’ll pick up the deflated balloon-sack that is my body off the floor and start working on gradually blowing it back up again. Hot air and hope.