If you can’t go outside, go inside.”​ – seven words that made me wild with anger during the first lockdown. I’m sorry, but have you *seen* the inside of my head?! Served up on a multitude of social media platforms, this phrase struck me as a piece of fridge magnet wisdom. But why so triggering?

The truth hurts

I knew – I know – that as an individual I’m working every day on keeping an even keel. We all have our own internal work to do. And sometimes it’s challenging stuff. Harder still when you’ve adopted the role of ‘the strong one’​. Easier to seek external factors to drown out the noise or occupy the mind. Easier to endlessly scroll, to zone out over a glass or two.

know it, but do I do it?

So we know that drinking too much, playing Mario Run for hours, letting your chimp brain take charge or eating an entire box of Heroes in the car is not a good long-term sustainable plan but god is it tempting sometimes! I will happily put my hand up and say there are days when I just want to get in the car and drive. With a box of Heroes as my sole companion. And maybe some Celebrations. And an ENORMOUS bag of popcorn that nobody will say to me I’m “eating too loudly​”.

Practice makes perfect

What has been helpful at moments when I’ve felt like that is to reflect on the little practices that I do every day and the steps I take to shore up my foundations. In the same way that “​pelvic floor exercises are for life“​ so the following have become important to me:

1. Movement

The comedian, satirist, musician and all-round legend Blindboy describes running as “head medicine”​. Best term I’ve heard to describe exercise ever. If you’re a 90s raver, you might like to follow XPANSIONS order to “​move your body“​. Or if you’re sponsored by Nike then Just Do It.

2. Mind and body activities

In the weeks after my mother’s death when lockdown interrupted the normal collective family grieving process I found myself baking bread. Let it be known that I am a stranger in my own kitchen but this felt incredibly therapeutic. I also became a regular at our local garden centre and a gnome-like fixture in the front garden as I weeded, potted and generally got my hands stuck into the soil. More recently I’ve spent time doing Yoga with Adriene which is offering a release I didn’t know I needed.

3. Coaching

We all need somebody to lean on – right? Bringing coaches into my life has been such a powerful, positive step. From a professional and a personal perspective they have helped me work out some really knotty challenges that in turn have led me to realise some ambitions and to grow as a person.

4. Creativity

We all need play – especially given what the last 18 months have been like. Sometimes it’s enough for me to see the dogs going bananas, other times I feel the need to record a video about mashing potatoes. When we’ve got commitments and all the big stuff that life tends to throw at us it’s easy to forget the power of a moment’s play.

5. Space

I took myself off Facebook for more than 12 months. It felt good. Sometimes we just know when a space is not right for us to be in. It’s ok to step away. I did the same with a relationship, something that took professional help and was very painful at the time but it enabled me to take time and carve out a space to regain my strength and decide where I wanted to direct it.

Being strong doesn’t have to mean that you take on everything, to continually load yourself until you can’t take any more. Sometimes it means taking a pause, listening to what you need and having the courage to take time out for yourself, make that space, do the internal work.

I’d love to hear what works for you.

Toni x

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I speak and do stand up on social mobility and women in tech. Want to book me? Email bookings@tonikent.co.uk. Want to read more like this? Check out my books.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash