As we are now several weeks into a new reality and the cycling season is on hold, maintaining mental and physical health is a priority. I’d like to share some tips I am using to stay well while at my base in the Netherlands as we face these challenging times. I do recognize everyone’s personal situation is unique when it comes to living accommodations, kids, access to training facilities, health status, government regulations, etc., but my hope is that you might find my personal strategies helpful.
Control media intake:
We live in a world with a 24-hour news cycle and it can be addictive to keep checking for the latest updates. I found myself sucked into this trap during the first few weeks as the situation around COVID-19 escalated. I eventually realized this habit began to affect my sleep and mental health. Checking the news before bed is especially not helpful, as it can put your body into fight or flight mode right before you need to relax in order to fall asleep. My tip is to choose reliable and credible news sources, and plan when and how often you check them. I check enough to be informed, but not so often that it affects my well-being.
I also find it helpful to follow some good news accounts, such as Upworthy and Goodnews_Movement on Instagram. There are incredible frontline heroes working tirelessly to help the world. Companies are stepping up in creative ways to help where they can, such as Team Sunweb’s partner DSM, donating 130,000 litres of disinfectant to the Dutch government. There are also amazing stories from the cycling world, such as Bigla rider Elise Chabbey trading in her cycling gear for scrubs to help her own community. These stories bring light and hope to all of us in a time when we need it most.
Physical distancing, but social connection
It is a challenge for many to go from social freedom to total disconnection from friends and loved ones, as we are told to socially distance. I recognized this feeling might be a bit similar to the transition I go through as an athlete living and competing abroad. I go through periods where I do not see friends or loved ones in Canada for months at a time, which can feel lonely. I like how the message has changed from “social distancing” to “physical distancing, but social connection”. You need to be really intentional with making plans to maintain connection during these times. Ironically, these last few weeks have felt much more social for me than usual, as we all become more aware of the importance of connection.
Keep a routine:
In between racing, I spend a lot of time at home and have some strategies to stay focused and productive when the day is open and I am surrounded by distractions. As a structured person, I also find it helpful to write a to-do list, and schedule for the day. I have also found following a routine can create some much-needed daily structure. Once a routine becomes a habit, then it also takes less mental effort to get it done because it is just automatic. Keeping the same wake and sleep time is also a really good routine to get into.
Movement is essential for everyone to promote mental and physical health. I know most athletes are just trying to maintain their training routine however they can. I’ve enjoyed seeing how creative people are getting with staying active while at home. There is an abundance of at home workout videos available now, including weekly Monday classes from Voxwomen! My teammates from Sunweb are also sharing Wednesday Workout videos on the team platforms. The added benefit of some online classes is that you get to be a part of a community, and this also gets you that much needed social connection! The same goes for the abundance of opportunities to join e-rides and competitions. If you can get outside to exercise, then do so with caution and maintain that crucial distance from everyone around you.
Actively practising gratitude is something I have tried to make a habit of this past year, writing down a few things I am grateful for at the end of each day. Gratitude is shown to increase feelings of well-being, as you recognize and appreciate what you have received in life. I find this practice helps because it makes me reflect on positive things, even when I have a challenging day. In time, you also end up with this amazing collection of all the things you appreciate most in life that might otherwise be forgotten.
These are just a few strategies I am putting into practise to maintain my well-being in these challenging times. I hope you are able to take away something helpful from the tips I’ve described and put them into your own practise. Be kind to yourself and take it one day at a time!
What strategies are you using to stay well while at home?
You can follow me in the meantime on Instagram @leahkirchmann or Twitter @L_Kirch