“Hello! I hope you are all keeping safe and well. Let me introduce myself, my name is Claire and I am 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 in my long term anxiety condition, which made leaving my home very difficult. Some days, it took all my strength to walk to the car to be able to go to work, and that did not leave me very productive for the rest of the day! I knew that activity and exercise were 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 when telling me that 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 postbox and then onto 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 that I manage each day. But I do experience the benefits of what activity can bring to my life and how it helps me to manage my anxiety.
The reason I am talking about this today is that I am 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 whilst living with a mental health condition and whilst 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 number of steps I completed, it was about breathing and feeling the sunshine. It was about letting my whole body know that whilst these are extremely frightening times, these few small steps can benefit our mental wellbeing and help us to get through this time.
There is lots of information out there currently about how we can get active in our homes, which is fantastic. But it can also be overwhelming, so I hope this post, and future ones, will let you know you are not alone.”