Parkrun

It is life-changingly good.

My job started getting stressful and I could feel anxiety crawling back around my skull as autumn approached so I started running again. Just a quick fifteen minutes off into the countryside and back before work. Nice. I mentioned it to a colleague who said he’d been meaning to join parkrun. Really? I’ll go if you’ll go. This weekend? Why not!

The first one destroyed us both. I was nervous, not sure where to go, what to wear, how it worked, what the barcode was for, but after a few minutes in that jogging crowd of lycra and leggings, I felt at home. Just keep running, and if it hurts, just keep walking.

I had expected pain, breathlessness, exhaustion, mud. What I had not expected was a cheerful marshal in high viz, full of applause, encouragement and smiles at every corner of the route.

Keep going! Great job! Nice pace!

Thank you, I gasped back, confused, and then grinning. How absolutely awesome.

My colleague was miles ahead, he passed me on his return lap, making great progress, shouting cheerfully ‘I’m in agony!’ as he passed.

I slowed down when it started hurting, watching rainbow leggings and ‘250 runs’ T shirts overtake me.

As I approached the final bend, with that last uphill back into the park, I could hear the cheers already up ahead. Strangers applauding and welcoming me to the finish as I arrived bewildered, broken and breathless, but smiling. My colleague and I were both doubled over in pain as we stumbled back to town, regretting the lack of watm up, but full of grinning elation at achieving 5k on a Saturday morning.

That was six weeks ago. Since then I have beaten my personal best (almost) every time, donned purple wig and witch hat for the Halloween event, gone running three or four mornings a week, and noticed an incredible improvement in my energy, focus and overall mood. Anxiety is right down, happiness is much higher, and I have that smug sense of acheivement at the start of most days.

So, to pay back my gratitude for the fact that we have an amazing parkrun in Melksham, today I offered to volunteer as a marshal. And if I thought running made me happy, then without a doubt, smiling, encouraging and clapping for 145 strangers made me even happier.

So that all day I have been giggly and jovial. Chatty even. Confident, a bit. Calm, in my soul. And at bedtime I curl up to sleep on a night when my love is working nightshifts, and instead of the sleep hypnotherapy or weighted blanket support I needed to sleep on my own last year, I am now unable to sleep because I’m simply giggling into my pillow, brim full of love and happiness for the world, and all my gorgeous beautiful people I get to share it with.

Thank you parkrun, thank you volunteers who make it happen, thank you for the perfect mix of social, physical and mental reward that provides an intoxicating and addictive cocktail of endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin and seratonin.

As we stood in our high viz at the bridge today, cheering on the runners, I was saying to my marshal buddy that I’m sure the NHS must love parkrun, at which point my lovely doctor – who prescribed me anti- anxiety meds last year – came running round the corner in glorious green and black leggings, smiling and saying ‘thank you marshals!’ in an out breath, as she sailed off to the finish.

I flipping love it. I absolutely recommend it.

Thank you.

Day 19: Nature

How lucky that we’re in Wiltshire, where bits of gorgeous green countryside are never more than a ten minute walk away.

I hadn’t realised, until I spent a year in a second floor flat, just how much I require the outdoors. I’m sure all of us do, but maybe, for those of us that live in the countryside, it’s just a part of our lives enough that we don’t realise how essential it is until it’s gone. Until we’re told to work from home and stay indoors and ration our outdoors time. I don’t know if the lack of a garden last year contributed to the anxiety, but the panic attacks did start three months into my gardenlessness.

Continue reading “Day 19: Nature”

The New Year starts on the 10th doesn’t it?

I’ve long ago stopped pretending that I could make any new changes to my life on January 1st. Even in a Lockdown, new years day happens in a strange time of disorientation, alcohol and chocolate.

Then the first Monday could count as a new start but the first week back at work is a bit messy and muddled and you’re still putting away Christmas.

Continue reading “The New Year starts on the 10th doesn’t it?”

Day something or other: Dance!!

Oh my days. I did not realise that I have not danced for more than a year! We just had a staff zoom meeting, which was really positive. Because my love is fast asleep after his night shift, I have taken my meeting as quietly as possible in the living room, with headphones on. After the meeting, since it was so happy and productive, I found I was smiling. To keep that positive feeling while tackling the many tasks discussed, I thought I’d put a happy tune on to accompany my work.

Continue reading “Day something or other: Dance!!”

Day 15: Laughter

My research is proving to be more and more fun! In my alphabetical adventure this one is next. I don’t need to list my sources of hilarity this week, as there are a million entries for ‘comedy’ on youtube that you can access at anytime, which I recommend doing because as we all know, laughing makes you feel better. After an hour or so of any of my heroes of hilarity like Sarah Millican, Eddie Izzard, or James Acaster, I can actually feel the difference in my relaxed muscles, improved breathing and general lightness about my shoulders.

Continue reading “Day 15: Laughter”

Day 13: Kindness

How lovely this one is. I thought I would have no trouble coming up with a range of acts of kindness but now that we are in proper lockdown again I’m suddenly limited. I can’t go and help out at voluntary events, I have so few people I interact with as I work from home. I have cooked some special meals for my lovely man – but is it kindness if it’s for someone you love?

Continue reading “Day 13: Kindness”

Meeting anxiety

10am. So that huge project I was working on last week is on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

I woke up with the usual Monday meeting knot in my stomach. This is a different type of fear. Although maybe its all related. This one is the familiar meeting anxiety which, before I try to push away with work and distractions, I will dissect to see what it’s actually made of. There is the general social anxiety of a meeting full of people, but tangled up in it is the following:

Continue reading “Meeting anxiety”

Day 11: Gratitude

This one is so lovely. And easy. And makes me so happy.

I read about the benefits of gratitude ages ago, so I started writing my thank yous at the end of each day. The idea is to find at least five new things to be grateful for each day, and either write them down or say them out loud. Even on the shittiest days I found there was always something to be grateful for, even it was ‘Thank you that we have a soundproof ladies room at work so I can have a proper cry before the policy meeting,’ – not resoundingly joyous, but still something. I found that on the worst days I would try harder to find positives so I got quite good at finding little snippets of good in amongst the bad, and I found that really comforting. It’s like when we were kids we were told before we could say something mean about someone we had to first say ten nice things, after which that one hurtful thing would sort of lose its power.

Continue reading “Day 11: Gratitude”

Day Ten: Gardening

Oh my days the happiness! I have tried not to spend silly money on any of my wellness investigations but this is one that deserves some pennies because it is such a fabulous investment.

A few weeks ago I was chatting to my good friend on the street, about how much I miss having a garden, and she said, ‘Oh my parents are looking for someone to look after an allotment in their garden.’

‘What? Really? I would LOVE to!’

Continue reading “Day Ten: Gardening”