Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Blog post posted on 13/05/21 |
Richard Gladman, Head of Driving & Riding Standards & Product Development at IAM RoadSmart 

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week precedes the Government’s next step on the Roadmap out of lockdown restrictions. Step Three means from 17th May we can start to venture out more and see more people. 

There is no denying the last 12-14 months has had a huge impact on our lives. Whether that’s due to working from home, being restricted to the local area or changes to traffic levels we need to consider how we and others will be adapting. As we venture out, we shouldn’t ignore our mental health and wellbeing before getting into a car or onto a bike. 

Our recent Driving for Work report highlighted how a dip in wellbeing and increased pressure won’t just impact us but all drivers and riders. As we return to work, the school run, or leisure activities and spending longer on the road, are we as fit mentally as we should be?  

Why not take this opportunity as a ‘restart’ and before you get going, investigate strategies around resilience and wellbeing? There are five fundamental principles of resilience and wellbeing. Consider each principle as a pillar and the aim is to achieve a balance across all the pillars. Acknowledging and working towards achieving a balance can help you positively respond to pressures and demands in our daily lives. 

5Pillars600x600 Wraw's 5 Pillars of Resilience

How has COVID-19 affected your anxiety levels, fatigue, job security and health? All these things combined will have a negative impact on your mental and physical health.

Anxiety alone can make certain tasks and situations seem like they are too much to take on and we may feel overwhelmed. Anxiety can cause many different symptoms, whether they are physical, mental, or how we behave.

The five pillars relate to the Human Factors in driving and riding and the synergy in preparing for your drive can be carried forward into your daily life.

Good diet, enough sleep, sunlight, exercise and taking a break or time for yourself all impact on our energy levels. You wouldn’t try to run your bike or car on an empty tank, would you? Again, we encourage you to check your vehicle is in good condition oil, lights, water, battery and tyres etc. Generally looking after yourself, making small changes will have a positive boost on your energy levels. Keeping activities and good habits high or ensuring certain things don’t dip too low will help you balance the energy pillar. 

Future Focus 
Start to dare to plan. Having something to look forward to, not something too ambitious, but a local outing is a great place to start. Getting back on your bike or into your car for a ride or drive can be great for your mental health. However, before you plan a long trip consider if you’re ready. Balance it out with shorter journey’s first. Plan those around friends or locations. Consider where you’re, going your route, who you’re meeting up with etc. If you need a longer focus look at events or activities for later in the year that are further away or trips you’ve always wanted to make? 

Inner Drive
This is often something that you’ve developed over your life, but it can also be built upon. Think back over the last few months/years, when have you had to ‘dig deep’ for that extra motivation? What unfulfilled ambitions do you have? Maybe you want to start a new skill, buy a new car or bike, rebuild one, take your advanced course, masters or join a new group? Writing down your goals will help. Visualising them is better.  Pop that picture of your dream bike or car on your phone or plan a trip to see a vintage car show or join a group who share your passions.

Flexible Thinking
Something we’ve all had to come to terms with I’m sure. We’ve been restricted on seeing people, taking to the road, and leaving our local area. How have you adjusted? How can you be more flexible going forward? Manage your time but also gain something for yourself? Could you convince your work colleagues to still use the odd virtual meeting to save people time, money and stress? What could you do with that spare time? Go out on your bike?  Spend that extra money on your dream vehicle?

Strong Relationships
Social contact has been hard to come by in the last year. Seeing people in person is now becoming possible. Meeting both inside and outside will become a reality by next week. Seeing people that share your passion, meeting up with people who understand why you want to ride and drive, that you haven’t seen for months is an exciting prospect. If you belong to a group, now is the time when you can start getting together again and making plans to meet more often. That social contact, talking about a passion we love, like riding, is fantastic for our health on all levels. If you are feeling wary, just turning up and listening is a start. 

It really is a balancing act to manage all of these. Your preference or resilience in some pillars maybe naturally stronger. The trick is to work on those that are harder to achieve. 

Richard said: “People are relieved to be getting back to a more normal way of life but understandably anxious too. Let’s make the new normal a positive one. Drivers and riders should not hesitate to check their own health as well as the health of their vehicle, and maybe this will encourage us to consider the wellbeing of those we share the road with!"

“Remember it’s good to talk and a problem shared can be a problem halved. Unfortunately, mental health is still something people often won’t talk about, but stress is not something you should hide. Every small change, visualising the resilience pillars and balancing them really can help. Too much focus on one can tip another off balance.”

Whether you’re looking for a new group, challenge or would like to investigate a refresher course as you return to driving or riding after an extended period off the road, driver and rider assessments are available. Visit our courses page for more information.