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  • Cherron Inko-Tariah shares about her experience

The 'Clean Room'

Do you remember that programme called Monk? The former police detective who suffered a breakdown after the death of his wife Trudy. Monk had numerous compulsive habits and a number of phobias but had a sharp memory and could solve the most complex of cases.

But one nearly got the better of him.

The binmen went on strike and there was rubbish everywhere. The sight and stench of it affected Monk deeply. He couldn’t focus or concentrate. He just couldn’t function. His fears and phobias magnified – all because everything that was going on around him.

A colleague takes Monk to a "clean room" in a computer factory. It was hermetically sealed, soundproofed, and 100% dust and germ free, and they had to wear white bodysuits to keep it that way. It was the cleanest room in the city and the perfect place for Monk to think. Within seconds, he solved the case.

I share this story with you because I have to confess something. I thought long and hard about this and realise I need to practice what I preach. I encourage people to #sharetheirstory because you never know whether what you say will affect someone else.

So here goes.

I struggle with social distancing. I really do. As a speaker, facilitator, and coach, my business is all about people and human contact. So when the COVID19 crisis hit and we were advised to stay at home, I thought I would be ok. On the surface, I convinced people (and almost myself) that I was ‘fine’ and enjoying the time at home to catch up on little jobs but it wasn’t 100% true (and to be honest, I didn’t know why I wasn’t coping).

I saw other people share their coping strategies and I would think, 'yeah, I can do that'…but I just couldn’t muster the energy. I've heard that this crisis is a marathon but for me it's more like the Marathon De Sables! I felt that I couldn’t tell anyone how I was truly feeling because everyone was in the same boat. AND I’m usually the strong one; the encouraging one; the positive one…and yet here I was not being strong, encouraging or positive! I just felt blah (and it was only week one!).

There was one point last week when I said to myself: “I can’t do this”. Like Monk, I just couldn’t function and all my insecurities felt 10ft tall -towering all around me. I forgot what day of the week it was, and I actually started to look forward to watching things like Quincy for heaven’s sake.

I had enough tea and coffee to fill the river Thames. I felt out of control and a little manic. I wanted to laugh hysterically and cry all at the same time. I would fire up the laptop and look at the screen shouting "come on Cherron”

Something had to change.

I went for a walk (as permitted) and felt much better. I realised that I needed to create the right environment. I needed my own “clean room”.

While the right physical environment is important, I had to focus on my mental clean room.

How can I create my mental clean room because the motivational memes and posts just weren't cutting it. I had to get back to basics and start doing those things that trigger my creativity, and energises me such as music, prayer, quiet time, making lists, dancing, watching comedies, listening to inspirational talks etc. I also thought about what I can control: my response, routine, diet, and my thoughts.

I'm learning to take things step by step and day by day.

“Crisis doesn’t make a person; it reveals what a person is made of”

Yes, I may struggle throughout this crisis and it may take me a while to adjust but it doesn’t change who I am and what I am made of. If anything, it has increased my empathy and taught me not to be hard on myself. It’s ok not have everything together all the time (I have to repeat this to myself).

Once we get through this crisis (and we will get through it), my clean room will be a place that I visit regularly. A place where I can breathe, reflect, find my peace and get renewed. In the words of Rag ‘n’ Bone Man: “I’m only human after all”.

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