Lucas Marang'a

A man at 40

Mental Push-ups.

This week is a scary one. I’m replaying the scene one year ago when life was so uncertain. The education cabinet secretary has announced that physical learning in schools will resume on May 10th. My baby sharks resumed school on Tuesday 20th April. For school to happen it had to move online. I have resumed my role as a full-time class assistant and teacher. Back to ensuring computers and internet connections are working, protecting the fridge from constant invasions for food, supervising assignments, and reviving WhatsApp groups with the class teachers.

I love being a dad and I would do anything for my small people so don’t get me wrong. So why has this been a scary week? Because it means I’m grounded at home. While I love being at home with my clan, online school means I spend much less time working on stuff that will pay the bills. I struggled with that for many months last year. I managed to do some coaching online but not all work can be done virtually. Anyway, bora uhai. In fact, on the flip side, being occupied with my baby sharks got me through that tough period. That said I look forward to their return to school on May 10th.

I have had to psyche myself up to relive this season. Fighting the feeling like we are going round in circles has been difficult. Our minds are stretched whenever we push them to rise above undesirable circumstances. If that fails then we run the risk of dimming our lights and that would be tragic.

A major benefit of covid to the human race has been increased physical exercise. Working from home and prolonged lockdowns left us with more time on our hands than we ever thought possible. As a result, we escaped to the outdoors to deal with cabin fever and try to keep our anxieties at bay. Corona has been a Godsend to businesses dealing with sports gear though. I once heard that some shops dealing with gym equipment and bikes had run out. Truly one man’s curse is another’s blessing.?

The sidewalks in my hood have been crowded with joggers, cyclists, and folks taking brisk walks. Outdoor locations like Ngong hills, Karura forest, and the Nairobi National Park have been flooded with Kenyans since last year. That’s a plus for local tourism. We hear the earth is healing from all the pollution we have caused. That means the air outside must be good for our lungs and brains.

In the last halftime roundtable, we held in February one of the participants mentioned how he feels doing online fitness instructions was his thing in this season. He informed us there’s a whole market out there of folks who want to keep fit at home. Guys who take social distancing seriously. So why not invade their space virtually.

All this effort to keep physically fit is good but it’s got me wondering what we are doing to keep mentally fit. There’s a problem because, on the one hand, more folks have achieved their physical fitness goals. But on the other hand, many are sliding down the slippery slope of depression and hopelessness. How are we coping with the world as it is now? do we need help to process stuff and get by? what kind of help? who will help us? All these questions and more run through my mind when I hear of someone who has lost the fight for survival.

I wish there was a mental fitness shop where we would just walk in and buy weights to strengthen our minds and spirits. My main coping mechanism has been bonding with my family and keeping a close-knit group of friends. Few chaps who have earned meddling rights over my life and I in theirs. We check on each other often and help where we can. We truly go further when we go together.

A support system of genuine and caring folks (over a good drink but joints are closed so tea will do he he) does as much good as the CrossFit at the gym or home. There have been many conversations on mental health but something is still missing if the high rate of hopelessness is anything to go by.

I think we may be overcomplicating things sometimes. Maybe start by taking a walk in your neighborhood jioni instead of watching TV or scrolling social media aimlessly. It will give you some alone time to interrogate your thoughts and feelings. Also, consider inviting a pal or neighbor to walk or run with you. You might be amazed how folks bring down their guard and fungua roho in a relaxed environment. What may start as an evening walk may be the opportunity your friend was looking for to turn their life around.

We all have different coping mechanisms that we adopt in getting us through tough times. Some are positive and others not so good. Being in touch with the real world is key to making progress. I started by reading more and watching fewer screens, journaling my thoughts and ideas, and listening to an audio (and myself often too) that would equip me to cope better. That’s my attempt at mental stamina. Photography has also been therapeutic.

Spending time with positive folks doing simple things that we enjoy will go a long way in keeping us fit mentally. To get through this pandemic and thrive beyond it we will need to work not only on our six-packs physically but a fit mind that can withstand life’s pressures is also required. Our athletic bodies won’t serve us very well if our minds are obese and weak. They both need to be exercised regularly.



Friday, April 23, 2021 | Reflections |

3 thoughts on “Mental Push-ups.”

  1. Tom Thiongo says:

    Very well said, Lucas. The ‘mental fitness shop’ aka bookshop exists.

  2. Frank Ireri says:

    Fantastic and very relevant article Bro. Last Saturday was great mental exercise 😜

  3. Mike Eldon says:

    Excellent reflection, Lucas. (And you know where I am coming from!)

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