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Stephen Miller: We will get through this

Decorated Paralympic athlete Stephen Miller's words of advice and encouragement in these testing times for sport.

What a time to be alive, eh?

This is undoubtedly the most unprecedented and challenging situation most of us will ever have experienced. Sure, there have been outbreaks and pandemics in the past but not one that has shut down the entire world the way that COVID-19 has.

The world can seem scary and stressful right now, worrying about our own health and safety as well as that of others, but the best way to help is to follow Government advice by staying at home as much as possible, avoiding social interaction and washing your hands.

We are very much social creatures and love to be outdoors so it’s very alien to have to stay in and avoid people, but we just have to do what we humans do best – adapt to these new conditions and be resilient. If we can do that, I’m sure we’ll come through this stronger and wiser, with a greater sense of togetherness and empathy, and perhaps the world might even be a better place for it.

With all live sport and entertainment events postponed or cancelled, shops and parks closed, the outside world feels a bit like a zombie movie right now. It’s easy to let fears and anxieties take over but it’s important to stay active and healthy both physically and mentally over the next few weeks or months.

It was recently announced that the Tokyo Paralympics has been postponed until next year, I was planning to try and qualify for what would be my 7th games this year and had been training and preparing all winter. Indeed, a Paralympics is something you prepare for over many years, so to have that target taken away and moved is a strange feeling, although the decision was totally correct and necessary in the circumstances. Just like people who have lost business and work, it leaves a massive void in my life – being told to stay at home and not go to work is probably most people’s idea of heaven, but filling time without purpose is harder than it sounds and after a few days when the novelty has worn off it may start taking it’s toll physically and mentally.

When this is all over, we don’t want another crisis with everybody being depressed and unwell, so here are some of my tips that I am employing to maintain good physical and mental health during this crisis.

  • Stay connected. Even though we can’t go out and socially mix, we live in an age where keeping in touch is easier than ever. Make sure you regularly speak to family and friends, especially contacting people who live alone.
  • Exercise. Try to do a minimum 30 minutes light exercise a day. This could be a walk around the block, a bike ride or a workout in the house. I’ve set up an indoor gym to keep my strength and fitness up, but you don’t need any special equipment to get active, there are lots of videos and live workouts on the Internet to help so there’s no excuse.
  • Eat well. It’s tempting with all this spare time to sit in front of the TV and eat your body weight in chocolate, crisps and biscuits but that won’t end well. So, try to maintain a balanced diet with plenty fruit and vegetables. Also make sure you stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. I’d recommend taking vitamin C and D to boost your immune system.
  • Sleep. Try to maintain a good sleep routine, going to bed at a regular time and not staying up until all hours. Sleep can be hard when you’re stressed and anxious, so try to avoid social media and news before bed, don’t drink caffeine after 5pm and don’t eat anything up to 45 minutes before bed. Reading fiction is good to aid sleep.
  • Journaling. This is something I find really useful. Try to journal in the morning and at night, it can help to get your thoughts and fears out of your head, it can be just one sentence or bullet points, it doesn’t have to be an essay. At night I try to write down things I’m grateful for and this is a great way to end the day I find.
  • Focus on what you can control. Modern society is all about information, and we seem to know everything that happens in the world as soon as it happens, very little of this is within our control but can cause immense worry and anxiety. Sure, it’s good to stay informed, but do it in a way and at a time that suits you, turn notifications off on your devices and focus on the things you can control and influence.
  • Stay positive. Two of my favorite quotes are, ‘Adversity is the way’ and ‘Nothing negative can come from positive’. The way you think has a massive influence on how you feel, I always try to get good from bad and find the positives in any situation. It’s through our greatest challenges that we achieve our greatest triumphs, but we can never triumph if we always shy away from the challenge. Use this time positively and look at it as an opportunity – it could be to refresh, reflect and refocus; to help others; to start a new hobby or restart an old one; to learn a new skill; to pursue a business idea; to reconnect with friends; to decorate the house; the list is endless. The important thing to remember is that you can’t control everything that happens, but you can control your reaction to it.

I hope you found this article interesting and maybe a little bit useful. Remember that we will get through this crisis, it will be something we will look back on and talk about for generations to come. Whatever struggles you’re going through, never give up and know they will make you stronger if you approach them in the right way. Make sure you’re able to look back on this time with pride in yourself and the human race, not with regrets of a time wasted through fear.

Right, now pass me the remote and the crisps!

Stay safe.