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Start small

May 12 2020


Hope you’re all keeping safe and well. Let me introduce myself: my name is Claire and I’m a Mental Health First Aid England Instructor, founder of the Mind Map project and the Anxious Exercise Club and programme lead for the Tricky to Talk programme at Nottingham Forest Community Trust.


I also live with a long-term anxiety condition, which I manage day to day. Back in 2015, I had a relapse, which made leaving my home very difficult. Some days, it took all my strength just to walk to the car to go to work – and that didn’t leave me very productive for the rest of the day! I knew that activity and exercise was good for me and that it would ease the symptoms of my mental ill health. But the anxious voice in my head was a lot louder, telling me the outside was scary and there was no point in even trying…

Towards the end of 2015, I became more and more unwell, with long term pain, muscle stiffness and overwhelming fatigue. I was referred to the hospital and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was given guidance on how to manage my condition and one of the overwhelming pieces of advice was to do more activity. I knew I had to listen to the doctors, but I also still had the anxious voice.

So, I made a compromise. I walked to the post box and back.

It was about 500 yards and I started doing it once a day. Then I walked to the church, just next to the post box, and then on to the bench. Every week, I added a small chunk onto my walk, and it didn’t feel unmanageable. Even the anxious voice quietened down. I began a circuit each evening, I simply did three or four rounds of the circuit.

This simple activity allowed me to rebuild my life. It wasn’t instant, there wasn’t a miracle cure. I still live with a long-term anxiety condition, which I manage each day. But I do experience the benefits activity can bring to my life and how it helps me to manage my anxiety.

The reason I’m writing about this today is because I’m finding myself in a very similar situation as we live in the current lockdown situation. I’ve found exercising very difficult due to fear and anxiety. So, I wanted to take some time to talk about getting active while living with a mental health condition and while living in lockdown.

Today, I went for a small walk.

It took some bargaining with the anxious voice, but I felt able to get up a little earlier and take a few steps outside. It wasn’t about distance or the amount of steps I completed; it was about breathing and feeling the sunshine.

It was about letting my whole body know that while these are extremely frightening times, these few small steps can benefit our mental wellbeing and help us to get through it.


There’s lots of information out there currently about how we can get active in our homes, which is fantastic, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. I hope this post, and future ones, will let you know you are not alone.

Looking for more inspiration?

We’ve got all sorts to help keep you moving while our leisure centres are closed.

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