Mental Health Awareness Day: "Journey into the Light" | Synnovate

Mental Health Awareness Day: “Journey into the Light”

Mental Health Awareness Day: “Journey into the Light” – What the C2C taught me about Resilience, Vulnerability, and Hidden Strengths. An insight into the ”Journey into the Light” by Synnovate Co-Founder, Seb Banks.

Over the years, I’ve consistently been compelled to plan significant events in months I believe could have a profound impact on those less fortunate or confronting life’s challenges. This also presents an excellent opportunity for me to test myself both physically and mentally, particularly for those who know me well.

Despite dealing with Lymphedema in my left leg, I’ve made progress by wearing a daily compression stocking and taking lifelong tablets for lymph fluid circulation. I’ve also faced severe cellulitis infections, with the last one necessitating a 50% chance of heart surgery to remove artery bacteria. Growing up, I faced school challenges that instilled a deep “fear of failure” and a drive to prove others wrong. This condition and mindset has significantly shaped my career and approach to challenges.

Over the years, I’ve conquered various feats, from the demanding “Dirty Weekend” in Burghley Park, Stamford, to the 20-mile, 100-obstacle Rat Race. I even took on the world’s longest monkey bars (making it through 1/10th!). Notable accomplishments include abseiling the Spinnaker Tower and completing the London Marathon in April 2023. I’ve also tackled the Olympic triathlon and the London to Brighton bike ride, among others. I’ve loved CSR initiatives, so these have been a great way of doing something good, whilst also achieving something challenging for myself as well. 

Despite my extensive involvement in charity and personal activities, achieving a body like Adonis and a relentless fitness-focused mindset has proven elusive. Life’s demands, including raising two children and indulging in good food and craft lager, have occasionally derailed my fitness aspirations.

Inspired by Dubai’s “Darkness into the Light” charity event, we created “Journey into the Light.” This event encourages participants to embark on early morning walks until dawn, raising awareness and support for mental health challenges.

Our vision was to craft a multi-day experience that would test our mental and physical boundaries. Planning this event revealed the immense challenge of covering 160 miles across three days in the Lake District. Our journey began with a gruelling 14-hour, 12-train trek to Whitehaven, from where we ventured through Carlisle to take in the breathtaking vistas.

Preparing for this journey has taught me that there’s always room for improvement, and the real frustration arises when it’s too late to do enough preparation. I’ve also learned that the little things contribute significantly to physical and mental readiness.

On day one, our plan was to cover 40 miles, but after just one mile, the rain began, and we realised a slight error in our mileage calculations – we ended up walking 20 miles more than intended. This challenge tested our resilience, especially when we found all our clothes soaked after the day’s journey. After a restful night, we faced an unplanned additional 60 miles on day two. Lesson 1: always prepare for worst-case scenarios; you can’t over prepare.

Day two brought cold, wet conditions, and we hadn’t even reached the halfway mark. Amidst it all, I realised the profound humility of this experience. It transcended wealth, status, class, level, or title; it was about digging deep, enduring rain and solitude, missing my family at times, and cherishing life’s small moments. It was then that I longed to embrace my family and questioned my purpose on this journey.

In those darkest moments, I found gratitude for what I have and a stark reminder of my good fortune. Despite the challenges, I oddly derived some enjoyment from the experience as it stripped away distractions and returned me to the essentials.

It seemed as though the Lake District itself embraced the concept of “Darkness into the Light.” On day three, as dawn broke, the weather improved, and the rain relented. It felt like we were literally riding “Journey into the Light” as we neared the finish line, greeted by better weather, sunlight, and refreshed legs.

We were just 40 miles away from completing our journey, but more challenges lay ahead…

At 10 miles in, I had a puncture with an ill-fitting inner tube, leaving us stranded in the middle of nowhere. After over an hour of unsuccessful attempts to fix it, we only managed to cover 3 miles of the remaining 40. This emphasised the need for thorough preparation, despite our overall progress.

Eventually, a fellow cyclist with the right adapter came to our rescue, helping us reach Durham and then Sunderland. There, we enjoyed a well-deserved beer and pizza before catching the train. Lesson 2: Surround yourself with supportive and positive people on your journey, as we do at Synnovate, where we adhere to a no-negativity rule.

Despite the challenges, our journey wasn’t over. Upon arriving in Newcastle, we discovered our train to Albert had been canceled. However, after all we had faced, nothing could deter us from getting home!

Lesson 3: The C2C journey revealed the remarkable resilience of the human body and mind, often underestimated. Commitment and necessity can push us beyond our perceived limits.

Lesson 4: Challenging moments on our journey highlighted the kindness of strangers. Connecting, sharing experiences, and offering mutual support provided solace.

Lesson 5: I’ve grown less self-conscious about displaying emotions. Shedding tears doesn’t signify weakness; emotions manifest differently in everyone. Tears often invite more support.

Lesson 6: Our achievement, while significant to me, pales in comparison to others’. This realisation led to Lesson 7: Avoid comparing yourself to others. Focus on your challenges, commitments, and goals. What you deem an achievement may be small to some but monumental to others. Embrace your unique journey, confront your challenges, and take pride in your accomplishments without comparison.

Strength comes from confronting your challenges, weaknesses, and struggles head-on, rather than avoiding them. It’s not about perfection but recognising your vulnerabilities and actively working to overcome them. Courage and determination drive this journey of self-improvement, leading to personal growth and resilience.

In a recent Jordan Peterson podcast, Dr. Ellen shared her positive mindset approach, asking herself, “Is this a tragedy or an inconvenience?” before emotions take over. She emphasised always falling forward, not falling down.

It’s your choice to decide whether the cup is half full or half empty!

Jordan Peterson Podcast Episode 383: Change Your Mindset, Your Health, Your Life by Dr.Ellen Langer

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