Former hostage Stephen McGowan shares some lockdown survival tips

Stephen McGowan, left, who was held hostage in Mali from 2011 to 2017, has shared his survival tips to help South Africans cope with life in lockdown.
Stephen McGowan, left, who was held hostage in Mali from 2011 to 2017, has shared his survival tips to help South Africans cope with life in lockdown.
Image: YOUTUBE

Stephen McGowan‚ who was held hostage by Islamist militants in Mali, has shared his survival tips from captivity to help South Africans cope with the lockdown.

McGowan was released in 2017 after being captive since 2011.

In an eight-minute video he took in his backyard, McGowan says he has been receiving messages from people battling to cope with life in lockdown.

“I can take you through what worked for me and things I had to focus on to see things clearly and to keep it positive,” McGowan said.

“Life is completely out of control all the time. We think we have control. Life can change at any second, so we aren't really in control. I had this constant fear in my head. One has to cope, one has to pick oneself up. There's a lot of insecurity, everyone is worried about their jobs and school fees.”

McGowan said he had to find a sense of normality when he was in the desert and a sense of something he could hold on to.

“I had to focus on survival. I had to understand the problem. I focused on my stresses. Once I could understand what my situation was and what my stresses were, I could tackle them one by one. I would do a lot of introspection,” McGowan said.

He said he found communication and sharing his concerns a great way of dealing with his problems.

McGowan also focused on being active and doing exercises so “at least you know your heart is not going to stop”.

“I had to have daily tasks and things that could add purpose to my time at the desert, keep my brain moving, [and] having practical things to do.

“Know what is stressing you. Puff your chest up and tell yourself you are on top of this situation even if you are not, just bluff. Talk yourself into a positive state of mind.

“Look around and appreciate what you have and know there is somebody else who is worse off than you are. In the desert I was alone, at least here we have friends, we have the telephone. We have the internet,” McGowan said.

“It would be an incredible tragedy to not recognise what we have. Focus on your attitude Have objectives and keep a balanced life.”


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