Mind over matter: How I’ve looked after my wellbeing during lockdown in prison

1 November 2021

By Ricky

Spending lockdown in prison I have thought a lot about what I’ve found helpful for my wellbeing. I break it down into Awareness, Mindset, Focus and Motivation. I have always been sporty and these ideas come from my training, which I have been applying in prison over the pandemic.

Motivation is key: to keep myself motivated I make a weekly schedule with targets for the week. Targets keep me focused as I keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Training with friends also helps keep me motivated. Having someone who is a similar level to you and settings targets together really helps.

I apply my thinking outside the box mindset to help keep me motivated. During Covid-19 the gym closed so I had to adapt and work out in my cell.

Being aware of the link between exercise and wellbeing has kept me focused during this time. I know that when I’ve been stressed, training helps. When I have trained, I feel a sense of achievement. It’s about having small achievements every day. If I set targets for myself then I achieve every day. If I think like that, then I can be successful each day.

One of the most important things is to create a routine for whatever is important to you, if it is studying or physical training. Too much time creates stress because if you have too much time to think then that’s when you start to stress about everything.

Remember to talk: a problem shared is a problem halved. Having someone you trust to talk to helps. It stops the fizzy bottle from overflowing. When there’s a lot of stress around the bottle can overflow. When I go through a difficult time, and I find out someone else is going through difficulties, it makes me feel less alone.

My advice to people going through this would be remember that whatever it is you’re going through will come to an end. I may be in a difficult place but it is not the worst; at least I have food, I can cook. When it was Ramadan, it had me thinking about people who are fasting in the world and they’re not just thinking ‘when can I break my fast?’ but ‘what will I have to eat to break my fast?’ They have no food to eat or clean water to drink.

A wise saying I hold on to from Islam is that God wouldn’t burden us with more than we can handle. There are difficult things happening around the world and horrible things happen. When something difficult happens it makes me think, why has this happened to me? I try and hold on to the idea that God wouldn’t burden us more then we can handle.

This gives me a sense of hope, I can manage this.

Someone who inspires me is bodybuilder and trainer Simeon Panda. His philosophy of starting from small and building up are ideas I hold on to. When things are tough I remind myself of my goals, what I want to achieve and how I can stay positive. Simeon talks about accepting what you can’t control. There will be problems in life that you can’t solve; when it’s out of my control, I accept it and keep it moving.

Over the past year I’ve held on to these different ideas and strategies. They’ve helped me stay focused and helped me keep going.

Illustrations have been co-created by the author and a London-based wellbeing service for young men – for more information, contact felix@mih.org.uk

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