It all started some months ago – in fact it was at my employers wellbeing conference held in July 2018. I always knew that I was overweight and my physical health wasn’t great, always feeling tired, painful joints and generally avoiding any physical exercise. Despite knowing this and being aware of the overall impact my life choices were having on me and ultimately my family I never acted upon this I just put it to one side and continued doing what I was doing. That was until the 18th July 2018 whilst attending the wellbeing conference two of my colleagues attended a stall being run by First for Wellbeing where they were carrying out health checks. I don’t know what it was but something made me go to the stand and have a health check – which confirmed which I already knew – I was morbidly obese and had very high blood pressure. As a result of this I was advised to seek medical advice from my GP and have by blood pressure monitored at regular intervals. As I was considered morbidly obese I met the criteria to be sponsored to attend a slimming group of my choice for 12 weeks.
Within a couple weeks my paperwork to join Slimming World came through the post and within a week I attended my first session at my local slimming world group. To say I was nervous was a complete understatement. I felt so embarrassed for being so overweight and didn’t know what to expect. When I walked through the doors I was greeted with friendly smiles and soon put at ease. Gayle the slimming world consultant explained everything to me – I wasn’t judged by anyone and could see and hear how supportive the group was to each other and shared their own slimming world journeys. As a group we are all really supportive of each other, giving encouragement and sharing ideas whether this is during group or within Facebook chats outside of the group to support each other, and chivvy each other along through the highs and lows.
After my first session I went home and studied the information and I was given and started planning my week ahead, what food would I be eating and what types of exercise would I engage in. I soon realised that Slimming World is about making choices in food optimising and enjoying the food I like, whilst making the right choices which I’ll be able to sustain long term. Within my first week I lost 11lb in weight and was absolutely shocked how easy it was to follow a plan and how great I felt. Since joining slimming world 39 weeks ago I’ve continued to lose weight and have lost 7st in total. I am 8lb away from my target weight and am really enjoying the benefits of being a healthy me – I have lots more energy, enjoy trying new foods and generally feeling better all round.
I haven’t lost the weight through diet alone I have been active in lots of ways, going to the gym, aqua zumba, boot camp, running and doing Park Run.
In March 2019 – I was awarded my slimming world’s groups greatest Loser 2019 – this was a fantastic achievement and wouldn’t have been achieved without all the support from family, friends, work colleagues and the support from my slimming world group – THANK YOU!
I have gained so much more confidence in what I am doing and enjoy what I am doing. If someone said to me 6 months ago you are going to take up running – I would have laughed…. But I really enjoy running getting outside and being able to clear my head and reflect on the day I’ve had or plan for the day ahead. I love doing parkrun every Saturday and this isn’t just about the running I have also started to volunteer at my local parkrun giving back to the community and supporting the event to happen.
This hasn’t just had an impact on me but my family too – we have all benefited from the healthy life style choices I have made – we eat healthily as a family and try new foods, we are more active and every Sunday we travel to Daventry to take part in Junior Parkrun.
I am more confident as a person, enjoying what I am doing and it’s a great feeling when people ask me about my slimming world journey and I can share with them what I have been doing, inspiring them on their own journey to a healthy life style.
Playing the piano is my escapism from the real world. When things in work or home life become stressful, music allows me to express my emotions in a way that no words can really describe. Learning how to play a piece allows me to set reachable goals and gain a new focus, refreshing my mind so i’m ready to tackle those important challenges in life.
Recently I have been focusing on doing more walking, with my friends and with my children. Rather than taking the car, if we can walk to wherever we need to go we will do that. We are also taking more walks in nature and taking advantage of the improved weather!
I find this really focuses me on slowing down a bit and appreciating my surroundings and the company I have on my walk. It’s a time to reconnect, reflect and just be peaceful – which I don’t get many chances to do. When life is very busy it is important to do things that allow you to switch from the daily routine, so I think this has helped me to sleep better and generally feel more relaxed. Its free, fun and easy to fit in – it ticks all the boxes!
I regularly take part in parkrun. Every Saturday at 9am across England (and the world), people gather together to run, jog or walk 5km at an organised weekly, FREE, parkrun, which is entirely reliant on volunteers.
Initially I took part to run and get fitter, but the more I attended, the more I have engaged with other aspects of parkrun which have enhanced my wellbeing.
I have made many friends at parkrun, so connecting with people is now a big driver for me, seeing friends and also encouraging others who are new. I run a jogging group as well, so always look out for members of the group and cheer them on.
The best thing about parkrun is that when you are injured, you can still take part. As it is run entirely by volunteers, there are always roles to fill every week, which enable the event to take place.
The volunteering role I enjoy the most is time-keeping, it requires a lot of concentration and is great as you see every participant finish, from the first to the last. Giving back to parkrun is rewarding as you see others progressing and doing well, and you are also part of a team who take their role in making parkrun happen, really seriously, without them, there would be no event.
Parkrun is something I look forward to most weekends, I feel part of a community that has no barriers. Everyone is welcome, there are babies being pushed around in buggies and there are runners in their 80s, runners with dogs, children, teenagers, walkers, workplaces, blind runners, wheelchair racers, you name it, parkrun welcomes it.
Every week, participants are celebrated for achieving milestones, 50, 100, 250 runs or 25 volunteering opportunities for example. Visiting runners are celebrated from other parts of the UK/world and anyone achieving a personal best time or milestone gets to ring a bell in celebration!
When I run, I feel mentally and physically good afterwards and when I volunteer I feel part of a team, a sense of belonging.
The running and volunteering helps my mental health but the biggest part of this for me is just being part of a community who support each and every other person. Parkrun can be prescribed by GPs. If I was a doctor, I’d prescribe it to everyone.
I have embraced the development opportunities my employer has to offer including internal day courses, leadership development, internal and external conferences. It has allowed me to develop both the skills needed for my job as well as develop myself personally in terms of confidence and how I work with the people around me. It has given me the opportunity to meet people from other teams and find out more about what they do and learn from them as well.
I feel more confident having attended the training and I have a better sense of me and my strengths and areas of development. It allows me to step out of the day to day of deadlines and workload and focus on where I want to go and what I want to do. It also gives me the support to know there are other people in the organisation focusing on similar areas of development.
I like to spend time with my family. It makes me really happy and it makes me feel good. I like doing craft and drawing, going to the park, havings hugs and kisses and unicorns and narwhals.
It feels like I have a lot of love around me.
Getting into running as part of my weight loss changed my life. Not only is my physical health better, but mentally too – I have discovered a hobby that gives me the “feel-good factor”. When I run, I get the best sense of achievement and the added bonus of feeling exhilarated and fulfilled.
I’m always learning new skills and techniques daily to improve my way of work with the horses. I always see new faces and meet new people with exciting stories and new ways of learning which I love.
The time I spend at the yard is solely for me and the horses. Being able to go riding allows me to improve myself and set targets to work towards for me and the horses. When I achieve these I can’t help but feel proud and excited.
I have been attending a hot yoga class twice a week before work in the centre of Northampton. My working day is often very long and so I have had to make a very conscious effort to attend rather than go into work early, and have even turned down early meetings in order to invest some time in myself.
By attending I have gained new skills (having never done yoga before), met new people, am more mindful (mindfulness is taught as part of the discipline of yoga) and have found a new way to be active which is enjoyable and rewarding.
I have found that by taking a little time out of my busy working life to attend yoga, I am more productive at work, more focused on my tasks and I sleep better – good news all round!
GIVE and acts of kindness are so important to me; I do this regularly and one of my ways to do this is being creative in making quilts.
I have been making ‘hospital quilts’ for children in memory of Sam. After reading Sam’s story (below) and his parents in wanting to make a difference for the children on the wards of the hospitals and bringing some cheerfulness to the wards; I wanted to be part of this too.
Here’s Sam’s story…
Sam was born on 18 December 2015, 8 weeks premature and with a heart condition. He spent the first 7 months of his life in hospitals – St Mary’s NICU, Alder Hey and Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. He passed away on 21 April 2017 due to complications after heart surgery.
Quilts and incubator sheets are continually being made by many people across the UK in Sam’s memory to give to poorly children and to thank the hospitals involved in his care during his short life.
You can find out more about ‘Sam’s memory quilts’ on Facebook.
I absolutely love being creative in my sewing room at home and after reading Sam’s story I really wanted to part of something special. I love making quilts and to know they are going to a good home is such a joy. For children to be in hospital in the first place is not what any of us would want, but if one of my quilts helps their stay more enjoyable for them, this is what makes the difference for me. The children also get to keep the quilts once they are discharged to go back home.
I was lucky enough to receive a thank you from a mum whose baby had been given one of my designs at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital: “We received this quilt today while we were at an appointment at cardiology clinic with my daughter who is 11 weeks. She has down syndrome and two holes in her heart, she loves her new quilt thank you”
I have been trying to practice more mindfulness during every day activities and be more present while taking part in certain tasks. I am also trying to be more aware of when my thoughts wander and try to bring them back to focus on what I am doing.
I think it has helped me to stay calmer and has reduced my anxieties slightly.
At work I’ve made it part of my daily routine to take time out at lunchtime to complete (or try to complete!) a crossword. It’s only a small thing but I think it’s important to give yourself the chance to focus your mind on something other than work, even if it’s just for 10 minutes every day.
At work my mind is usually whirring with the things I have to do, and at busy times this can get a little bit stressful! Doing a crossword during my lunch break is a great way of focusing on something completely different for a short time – and because it requires all my brain power it keeps those work stresses at bay and helps to reset my brain for the rest of the day.
Having just moved back to the UK I am really enjoying catching up with family and friends. Going to local the local village pubs has been a great way to do this. Attending local community events, work quiz night or sports can be a great way to build relationships and belong to your community
As I am turning 40 I am taking more notice of my physical wellbeing. I have never been a keen runner but decided to take the dog for a run around the heath. I had to stop several times but 3 weeks later am able to complete the circuit.
Being able to complete the run can give you a good sense of achievement and shows it doesn’t take much for your body to adapt and obtain a good level of fitness with a bit of effort. Couch to 5k is a good start for anyone.
Over the last few years I have been making time for myself to paint – mostly watercolours on paper as I have some prior experience, but more recently I have started to experiment with acrylics and oils on canvas. I tend to paint when I have some beautiful flowers or have been to a particularly picturesque landscape, meaning I am now taking more notice of my surroundings looking for interesting things to paint. Not that I do them much justice!
I find painting has a very positive affect on my mental wellbeing as I have to concentrate fully on what I’m doing, rather than get frazzled multitasking or thinking of a hundred other things. You have to really pay attention to colours and shapes, light, shadow etc which has given me a new appreciation of not only nature, but also the incredible skill that professional artists possess. It’s also really satisfying to learn how to use different techniques and materials.
I love to swim when I feel stressed or anxious; it really gives me a sense of achievement and wellbeing. I love to learn and my wellbeing is strengthened when I achieve and move to the next level. In regards giving, I love to do random acts of kindness like pay for the next person’s coffee is a usual that I like to do
I feel like I am doing something for me. I choose not to dwell on the fear of anxiety and have worked hard to find what supports my wellbeing. My friends are important to me as are my family and talking helps however I do not wish to burden others and so initiating protective factors in my life has strengthened my wellbeing.
Last year I was struggling to come to terms with my sisters death the year before and was considering anti-depressants. I was going to occasional aqua classes at the gym but cancelling more often than going. Following encouragement from my daughter I spoke to one of the Personal Trainers and have been having weekly sessions since. I now regularly attend other classes, walk on Saturdays with a friend and am taking part in a Wild Warrior event in September. I have not needed medication and have had the added bonus of losing some weight.
I no longer even consider requesting antidepressants from GP and am more able to be positive most of the time.
To me, connectivity is so important. It’s great to have connections with different people: colleagues, friends and family. Just being with people can have a positive impact on my wellbeing. Connecting with others also develops new skills and interests and the ability to share experiences.
The gift of time is so precious, its so rewarding to think you have made a small difference to someone’s day by simply listening to them, taking the time to ask them how they are or a quick text message to say hi. Random acts of kindness to are important, just making a colleague a cup of tea or buying a friend a bunch of flowers can have a huge impact on their day.
Connectivity and Giving have a positive impact on my wellbeing , they provide a sense of belonging and sense of pride for maybe making others day a little more bright. I am aslo lucky to have people around me who provide kindness.
I have recently decided to pledge that I will de-clutter my personal belongings once a month and gather a bags worth to donate either for local charity shops or the Samaritans clothing donation spots.
The bags will be filled with no longer used or unwanted belongs ranging from clothing or personal objects I have no use for.
Instead of throwing away these items or selling some for my own personal benefit I have decided to recycle them in a giving way that can provide happiness for others.
For me, clutter in my surroundings can stress me out and cause me to lose focus as I’m too busy focusing on the environment I’m in.
Therefore, de-cluttering can make me less stressed which in hand makes day-to-day activities easier.
I can often hold onto things and find it hard to let go of sentimental items (which actually have no sentimental value whatsoever!) Hence the de-cluttering can remove negative feelings towards items that I have held onto. Recycling them to another can help me let go and feel that I have accomplished something by giving to other people less fortunate and bring a smile to their face.
In my opinion, the way I treat my surroundings can reflect my mental state so my motto is tidy room tidy mind. Having an organised space supports my head space.
I work in an extremely busy environment and have to juggle many urgent tasks on a daily basis.
To help my wellbeing, I like to take my cameras out and explore my surroundings and get creative with my images. Whether visiting a stately home and gardens, Northamptonshire countryside and beyond or attending a motorbike track day with my husband all of these help with my wellbeing.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of motorsport photography, the speed of the subjects, panning and focussing is key to a great photo.
Photography is a passion of mine and helps me to relax and unwind from a busy day/week. It is amazing how quickly it really does help my wellbeing and empty my mind from work. Once I have my camera bag on route and walking miles round circuits such as Cadwell Park or Silverstone for example it also helps with my health and wellbeing too, not to mention the steps. Two for the price of one!
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For support with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions contact Changing Minds IAPT. Under 18? Visit CAMHS Live
For a range of other mental health support visit Mental Health Northants Collaboration or Northamptonshire Healthcare
Are you finding everyday tasks more difficult? Contact Supporting Independence.