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22 July, 2020

“It’s the simple things that actually ground us”: Bláthnaid Treacy in conversation

Here at Walk in My Shoes (WIMS), we aim to spark conversations which promote positive mental health, tackle stigma and foster wellbeing.

As we all move through the different phases of COVID-19 lockdown, those conversations take on a new importance and help us all to get through these times together. So, for us, this is the perfect opportunity to meet with some special guests and chat about their mental health, challenges, and life experiences, and to find out what keeps them motivated during this time.

Our first guest is our WIMS Ambassador, Bláthnaid Treacy. Bláthnaid has been a regular on RTÉ for several years now, hosting entertainment shows such as Two Tube, The Electric Picnic Show, the European Border Breaker Awards (EBBAs), the RTÉ Choice Music Prize and, most recently, the behind the scenes series of Dancing With The Stars; Can't Stop Dancing. You can also hear her on Friday nights on RTÉ 2FM counting down the top 30 songs on The Official Chart Show.

She chats with our WIMS Project Manager Amanda McArdle about lockdown, career paths and launching a podcast. 

Amanda: The last few months have been a challenging and strange time. How have you been finding it?

Amanda: The last few months have been a challenging and strange time. How have you been finding it?

Bláthnaid: I think at the beginning I found it much like everyone else, quite difficult and strange when we were all very constrained and not allowed to leave our houses only to go for a walk. But I started to lean into it and thought, hang on a second; this is a nice opportunity to take some time for myself because we live in such a fast-paced world. It was starting to become quite nice to have some time to myself, so breaking up the day with different things was important. It was almost back to basics but there was something nice about that.

You present RTÉ 2FM's The Official Chart Show, you’re a roving reporter on Today with Maura and Dáithí, and you are a host of the National Lottery. All of these roles must be difficult to juggle at the best of times. How did you manage with all the restrictions in place?

You present RTÉ 2FM's The Official Chart Show, you’re a roving reporter on Today with Maura and Dáithí, and you are a host of the National Lottery. All of these roles must be difficult to juggle at the best of times. How did you manage with all the restrictions in place?

Because I work for the national broadcaster, we were essential workers… so, in a way, it was nice to get out of the house and go into work. It was weird because there was nobody in the studio or the office, and there were all these new rules and protocols.That was weird but you do sort of get used to it. It’s kind of strange how quickly you get used to things. 

So, I actually found work a relief from the restrictions because I was actually allowed to leave the house and go do something that I enjoy.

But because the restrictions are starting to open up, and we’re allowed to do a few extra things... in a strange way, I think I’m more happy in my little bubble. I think a lot of people can relate to that -  the stress of the word starting to open back up again. I’m just going to take it slowly and one day at a time. It isn’t gone, so we do need to be still very careful.

You launched your podcast series back in March, Untold with B Treacy, in which you speak to people with unique voices and stories, covering topics such as adoption and dating abuse. Was it a challenge to do it at the start of the pandemic; did you need to pre-record them?

You launched your podcast series back in March, Untold with B Treacy, in which you speak to people with unique voices and stories, covering topics such as adoption and dating abuse. Was it a challenge to do it at the start of the pandemic; did you need to pre-record them?

I launched the podcast just before the pandemic took hold and I had pre-recorded several interviews so I was able to still edit and work away and launch those. The series was meant to be a ten-part series but I actually only got six episodes unfortunately, but it will pick back up again.

It was challenging in a way because it was at the start of the pandemic when everyone was really stressed out and nobody knew what was to come, so I did find that difficult when concentrating and editing and thinking what’s going on in the world.

I’m so glad I had a few episodes pre-recorded and it was nice to have something to concentrate on. I’m looking forward to picking it up and I will finish the series.

Acting is one of the skills you honed from a very early age. Lots of people are talking about taking up new hobbies or skills since the restrictions began. Have you had the time to take up anything new?

Acting is one of the skills you honed from a very early age. Lots of people are talking about taking up new hobbies or skills since the restrictions began. Have you had the time to take up anything new?

I’m one of those people who just takes up a hobby and goes for it for three weeks and then I just forget about it. I’ll get the gym membership and sign up to all the classes, go once or twice and that’s it. I think a lot of people can relate to that. 

I do battle with anxiety quite a lot; yoga is something that is very mindful and all about getting out of your head and into your body and just taking some time to decompress and just relax and not worry about anything else and just focus on those moves. 

I’ve also been exercising - I’m lucky because my best friend's boyfriend is a personal trainer in London so we’ve been doing workout sessions over Zoom two or three times a week, which has been really good for mental health. My friend Holly lives in London, Leanne lives in Wicklow and I live in Dublin. But the three of us, seeing each other for three days for an hour was brilliant. 

Life gets so busy and that is something we really need to look at. You have to look at your time and how you divide up your time and look at what makes you the happiest. Focus more of your time and energy on that because, if something doesn’t make you happy, then don’t spend so much time doing it.

I hope people really take stock and really re-evaluate all these things and take ownership of their time.

We’ve all had more time to think and reflect with restrictions in place… is there anything new or positive you will take from this personally?

We’ve all had more time to think and reflect with restrictions in place… is there anything new or positive you will take from this personally?

I get very overwhelmed; jobs and stuff will come my way and I’ll just keep saying “yes” and it gets to a point where I think “oh my God, I can’t do all of this”. So, I’m getting better at taking time for myself because it's actually very important to have your own downtime and valuing your time properly.

The other thing is, I’m always in my car and I do think “why don’t I just walk there?”. Get outside and into nature more. The Phoenix Park is just around the corner from us and we don’t have a garden, so it’s nice just to get into the greenery, like walk through trees and see lakes. I think we’ve all come to realise it’s the simple things that actually ground us and make us feel more connected to each other and therefore happier.

You’ve spoken openly about anxiety and panic attacks you experienced in the past and how you learned how to control both. With the increased prevalence of anxiety currently as a result of the restrictions and school closures, what advice would you give to someone who is dealing with their own anxiety and panic attacks?

You’ve spoken openly about anxiety and panic attacks you experienced in the past and how you learned how to control both. With the increased prevalence of anxiety currently as a result of the restrictions and school closures, what advice would you give to someone who is dealing with their own anxiety and panic attacks?

It’s an ongoing thing. You can go through bouts of feeling great, then, all of a sudden, everything piles on top of you. For me, what I need to do in times like that is take ownership of my time and don’t just hand it over - say no to things. I think FOMO (fear of missing out) is a big part of people’s anxiety or comparing themselves to other people. I’ve noticed I’m not on social media as much. The less I’m on social media, the better I feel about myself. It’s only natural that you’re going to compare yourself to other people. 

Even reading books is such a gorgeous way I find to get out of your head. For me, what causes anxiety, it’s the thoughts you’re having in your head. Obviously, it can be more physical for other people. For me, it’s negative thoughts and letting them build up and going over, over and over something, whereas, if I’m reading a book, I’m not letting those thoughts take over. 

Everybody’s experience is very unique but I think that the most important thing is to stop ignoring the signs. If you are having a physical reaction to your emotions, there is a reason for that. If you can’t sleep properly, if you’re shaking or whatever the physical signs are, you need to take note of them and get help. There are so many different avenues and different ways that you can get help. Sometimes people can feel embarrassed to say it to family members and, if you do feel like that, just go to your GP. Doctors have patients coming in all the time telling them they feel anxious or overwhelmed; you can then take the next step. The first step is usually the hardest but once you have done that, you’re on the right path.

What message would you send to young people to help keep them motivated as we continue to live with some form of restriction and uncertainty during this time?

What message would you send to young people to help keep them motivated as we continue to live with some form of restriction and uncertainty during this time?

I’m a creative person, so, if I’m trying to write a proposal or come up with an idea for something, I can be sat at my laptop and think “ugh, I can’t come up with anything!”. The moment you close the laptop and go outside, go for a walk and actually breathe in the air and look around - that is such a great way to get re-motivated. You have more oxygen in your blood, your heart is pumping a little bit more - that’s when I find creative ideas come to me more.

Listen to your body, some people are more creative in the morning and some are more creative in the afternoon. So you have to look at yourself and really notice yourself and notice different patterns, and lean in to your strengths. You don’t have to be good at everything but look at what you are good at and what you take enjoyment from. Lean more into those things. 

What’s the plan for the remainder of 2020?

What’s the plan for the remainder of 2020?

We don’t know, and that’s the amazing thing. No one knew in January the entire world was going to go into lockdown. My plan for the rest of 2020 is to just maintain happiness. Look at what I want to achieve and take small steps towards that.

You’re never going to reach the top of a mountain in just one jump, it takes a couple of steps at a time. There are things I would like to achieve and places I want to go.

What I like to do is keep my eyes open for opportunities that are happening right now. Because there is always an opportunity coming your way. Every time the phone rings, every time an email comes in, that’s an opportunity. So, it's about asking what kind of an opportunity is that for me? Maybe sometimes it's not for me and, other times, I’ll say that looks interesting.

It's actually more about focusing on what’s happening now. For me, if you’re focusing on what’s happening right now, success will come eventually. Just lean into it. If it’s too hard, just take a walk and take a step back.

Continue to…

Tired but wired: Helping your child maintain a healthy sleep routine during COVID-19