As I am writing this, I am sitting outside in my back garden. The sun is bright and warm on my face, there is a little bluetit hopping about in the trees and I feel content with the day. But it’s not every day that feels this way. The last year has been eventful, even if I’ve not attended any events. I’ve cried, felt anxiety, panicked about gyms being closed, wondered whether I’ll be able to afford rent and generally felt exhausted from the stress. My scalp and skin is horribly dry from the chronic worry and I struggle to motivate myself to even train some days.
I miss seeing my friends and not worrying about whether there are more than six of us in the group or if somebody came closer than two metres. I miss playing rugby; feeling frustrated after a tough training session or elated from a win on a Sunday afternoon. I miss my family and I miss working. The daily interactions that training clients gives me is as I have come to realise, a crucial part of my week and something that I can’t wait to get back to. There’s a whole year of social interactions, events and memories that have been lost to covid that I’ll never get back. So I’m taking the time to grieve this loss and to feel sad.
Yet as I’m sitting here in the sun, one of my cats stops by to say hi (and check for snacks) and I am reminded of the good things that have also happened in the past year.
My two cats, for starters, have provided me with endless joy through their curiosity, playfulness and occasional affection. I find that I talk to them regularly throughout the day and when I take the time to play with them I don’t think about anything else. I am 100% present. I’ve spent more time with my boyfriend, Sam, too. Time I would never have had simply because of our work schedules. Now I know how important it is to value that time I have altered my own work hours to make it possible permanently.
I’ve also seen more of my friends from uni than I would have if covid had never happened. They all live in London and the zoom calls and games nights have meant that we have socialised more. And laughed more. Some of us have been baking together every few weeks and even if we aren’t always chatting, it’s a comfortable silence as we concentrate on weighing out our ingredients.
Due to gyms being closed for the majority of the year I have also had to adapt my business to provide online options. An unexpected perk of this came from my mum signing up to the training and now we chat three times a week once the sessions are over. As someone who is not very good at calling her mum regularly, this has been something I look forward to each week.
I’ve learnt to take stock of what I have around me and take a moment, daily, to think about these little things or these people and realise how grateful I am for them. Letting myself grieve the loss of everything else highlights these small positives. When things get tough, my mum always says ‘just keep swimming, just keep swimming’. I’m 99% certain she doesn’t know she’s referencing Finding Nemo when she says it. And that’s what I do. Some days are good, some days are bad but we keep going.
I know that not everyone is in such a fortunate position. So many people have lost their jobs or have children to homeschool and feed - maybe even alongside their full time jobs. If you know someone like that then reach out to them after you read this and check in. Especially if you’ve not heard from them for a while. Give them some of your time and tell them how much you value their friendship or just that they’re doing a great job.
If that person is you, and if you’re feeling a little lost then write it down. Write down all the moments, memories and events that you have lost and grieve them. If you’ve lost a loved one, write about them too. Take the time to go into detail about how you imagine those memories would have played out and what you would feel or see or smell. Then after that, choose three things and write why you are grateful for them this past year. It might be your dog that has kept you company or the neighbour that keeps checking in, providing a smiley face in the mornings. Or the postman who delivers you those little pick me ups you treated yourself to. Whatever these things or people are, write about them. Go into specific detail about memories, thoughts, feelings and then write some more.
Writing practise is just a great tool for your mental health. I started writing letters to my Dad after he died and it allows me to really get things off my chest. Other writing practises have allowed me to find perspective and value in myself - something I really needed recently. It’s a super cathartic tool and I encourage everyone who owns a paper and a pencil to try it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’re very good at writing because it’s not for anyone else, it’s just for you. Sometimes taking time for you is what matters most.
So go get your paper and pen. Make yourself a cup of tea, get comfy on your sofa and start writing. I hope that in your writing you find something to smile about and it helps you tackle the challenges of today. Remember - be kind and stay safe.
If you are feeling overwhelmed please ask for help. Visit www.yorkmind.org.uk, www.mind.org.uk or call Samaritans on 116 123. If you’d like to help York RUFC Women raise money for York Mind then visit our Just Giving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/york-rufc-women-ok-to-be-blue/