Last weekend I gathered with 4 other Animal Training Academy premium members to play some PORTL (see below);
We had a tonne of fun and I shared the above image in the Animal Training Academy members only Facebook group. Being in New Zealand I momentarily forgot that the images of us sitting so close to each other – & a busy cafe in the background – is something that is actually surreal for many people around the world at the moment! (& now seemingly us again here in NZ 😢)
Haven’t heard of PORTL? Hear it’s co-founder (Mary Hunter) describe it in this free podcast episode: http://bit.ly/ATA_Mary_Hunter
Additionally this week we had a really ‘long time active ATA member’ have to end their membership, out of necessity of not being able to work due to the global pandemic. All of this made me feel a little bit emotionally drained! Something which I sense many around the word have felt at least some point over the last 6 months!
Consequently as the founder, connector & facilitator of Animal Training Academy & paired with being a brand new dad (of 5 month old Summer – see below) I have acknowledged that to be the best leader, father, husband, friend, family member, pet parent & community contributor I can be … it’s imperative I do what I can do to be on my A game.
This obviously isn’t always easy though and a few weeks ago I did what I would label as burn out. It’s not the first time this has happened – but it’s so unpleasant when it does I’m very motivated to minimise or decrease it happening again. More specifically I realise that when everything gets too much I have – what I would label as – mini panic attacks. Operationalised and for me these can be expressed in terms of tears, hyper-ventilating, dizziness, shortness of breath, unclear/cloudy thoughts, shaking & nausea.
It’s not easy to talk about all of this, but I acknowledge mental health is SO important and I feel it’s not always discussed as much as it possible should be. Therefore I am trying to be brave for myself and also to hopefully help others who might have had similar experiences & either don’t have anyone to share with and/or it’s too challenging to talk about.
Talking about brave learning BTW, I’m going to link to another free podcast where trainer Petra Edwards (bravely) shared her story with us, This podcast really helped me understand what was happening to me and inspired me to reach out for help >>> http://bit.ly/ATA_Petra_Edwards
And to stay on top of my A game (as I framed it above) there are a number of changes/strategies I have to/do employ. These are what I call my “survival guide” and what I wanted to share them with you today – see below;
A animal trainers survival guide (mental health in a pandemic)
1) Work on improving the quality of sleep
Totally not the easiest thing to do when you have a baby lol … however having recently hosted the amazing Dr. Gregory Hanley for a live ATA web-class on ‘A behavioural approach to improving ones sleep’ I have taken action on some of his suggestions. Here’s four things I have done;
- Removed all screen time (i.e. on my phone) paired with the behaviour of lying down flat in bed. I still look at my phone in bed only I will sit up to do it… Aiming to have my bed supporting my horizontal body be an antecedent to cue the behaviour of sleep.
- intentionally & consistently thinking about my day & the following day to come – whilst I brush my teeth & get ready for bed.
- Using the mobile phone app ‘sleep cycle’ to measure my sleep quality and sound my alarm when I’m in light sleep rather then at a certain set time. https://www.sleepcycle.com/
- If I lie awake for 10-15 minutes and can’t get back to sleep then intentionally sit up and read a book for 10 minutes,
- Have a noise machine on non stop in the background. I use an app on my phone to play ocean wave sounds all night.
Want to see the whole 2 hour web-class from Dr Hanley on a behavioural approach to improving your sleep. Check it our here via your ATA membership >>> https://www.animaltrainingacademy.com/membership-2020
2) Focusing on gratitude & love
This is something I can do when out walking my dog Fibi! I intentionally spend 5 minutes focusing on everything I can think of that I am grateful for. Additionally another 5 minutes focusing on all of the people and things that I love in my life. Doing this daily has a profound influence on the rest of my day, how I view things and my interactions with others. Focusing on gratitude has been revolutionary for my mental health.
3) Stop drinking alcohol
During New Zealand’s 1st lockdown I got into a pretty bad habit of finishing the days work and cracking open a beer… and then I might having another one with dinner and sometimes 2! Not so bad if you do it once in a while, but I was doing this numerous times a week. The cumulative effect of this was not only bad for my health but draining on my energy and making me, what I would label as, groggy. So personally I have just gone cold turkey at home. I will still have one if we are out at a restaurant but this one small diet change for me is a small hinge that swings big doors.
4) Doing something for me every week that is not related to Animal Training.
For me this is gardening. Gardening helps me get my hands dirty and be active, I do planting, trimming, building and making our little pocket of land a pleasant, tidy and well groomed place to exist, I really enjoy my time in our garden and look forward to it every week,
This is my current survival guide. What’s yours? I invite you to respond to me via this email & let me know. I won’t share with anyone else but want you to know that If you are having a hard time, feeling lonely in your role or just in the need of support from a group of compassionate people – we are here to help!
Animal Training Academy