Why life is like Snakes & Ladders…

Paul ExtonWhy are we doing this again? What more do I know about Mental Health? Is it age-related where we get pressure like no other? Is it the times we’re living in? Is it a collective toil of life events?

A year ago, I noted I’d rode through a tough stretch – which was before the cycling challenges. Looking back, I thought I was invincible with the full set; family, house, career, cars, holidays, health. Then, quite suddenly like with the game of Snakes & Ladders, my luck ran out and one thing after another meant I landed on the proverbial snakes in the metaphorical board-game of life. My mental health was kept in check and improved through; how I learnt to cope with the snakes and how I took positives from the snakes.

Perhaps, we all need a coping mechanism which works for us, individually. I added cycling and the gym to my activities and this lifestyle change significantly helped me – through developing a protection to cope with any ordeal; whether a long bike ride or daily life pressures. A deeper understanding of nutrition too has been a massive mood and performance factor. It helps I love cooking and I’ve noticed my mood raise and fall –in-line with a healthy (or not) calorie intake! I’ve realised that sometimes this comes in waves, I have a nature of being level-headed – more recently I’m aware I experience higher highs and lower lows – and I’m not just talking training rides across the peaks of Derbyshire! Time and rest are life’s natural healers but adjusting to change is key, too.

You’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt. You never fold. I’m a half-full type so I’ve looked at these changes in my life as an opportunity to create bucket-list goals, which I will achieve. Cycling up various French Alps in September is one of those ambitions I’m planning, which I never seriously thought I’d get the chance – may seem crackers to some but to me that’s a positive opportunity created which has only become possible due to change. As I’m a positive guy overall I view life-events as enablers to learn and grow; I read recently “sometimes you must hurt in order to know, fall in order to grow, lose in order to gain, as life’s greatest lessons are learned through pain”. This sums up the way I look at it.

The more I’ve opened up about life events – the more others have reciprocated. There are more people than I realised with chapters they do not read out loud. Talking is the best medicine I could prescribe. Once you talk to someone about your troubles it lifts a massive weight off your shoulders. Get the help that’s out there, family, friends or relevant professionals. Everyone will want to help you and perhaps they will think more of you. You never walk alone and never will. I understood this after others supported me, for which I’m eternally grateful. I have a fantastic network and feel I’m a better friend in return since getting to know people fully. Next time you’re asked the humble question ‘Are you ok?’ think hard, don’t just dismiss as ‘Yeah, fine’ and if not ok, that is ok, but you could draw up a list or chat through what would help. I have deeper conversations with people I care about these days, borne from a ‘been-there’ and personal keenness to share any experiences.

There are parallels to our world of Insurance – in the last year the penny dropped. Looking after each-other and society as a whole is what Insurance is all about. If you can relate to what I’m writing this may well make sense. If not, you may be lucky enough to be where I was a few years back, and have experienced very few negative life events to shake you. If that’s true, I’d recommend reviewing claims’ examples and seeing how much insurance helps people and businesses, exactly when they need it. Mind and mental well-being feels so close to what we’re all ultimately working in Insurance for. I’m proud to work in this Industry and promote the likeness to mental well-being.

Birmingham to London is beyond 200km in one go, far from flat and likely to have elements of head and cross-winds, it’s hard to train specifically for simulating this challenge. There is no true rehearsal, there will be a large element of the unknown – just like real-life. I’ll continue the training rides and hope that in 5 weeks I’m mentally and physically fit. This weekend for example; I’m cycling from home to Leicester and back which is 300km with 8,500 feet of climbing, to visit a friend for a few drinks – convenient and social half-way stop-over. Work hard, play hard, do what makes you happy.

Akin to the famous board-game, your luck changes and it’s as easy to land on a ladder and climb up. Come the ride in July and my attempt at the Tour De France route in September; I’ll certainly be hoping this is the case! If you would like to sponsor, please give what you can  https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/LutineRide4Lifeteam2019

Cheers……..Paul

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