Getting Started, One Step At A Time

In March, when the whole country went into lockdown due to COVID-19, Olivia Luke found herself without a job when she was made redundant. Here she tells her story about how becoming active helped her manage her mental health, increase her confidence and get her back into work.

“I’d been living and working in Newcastle for about a year before the pandemic hit. Life was great, and I was loving work. It was my first job fresh out of University, and I felt happy and that I was building a career for myself. All of a sudden, the pandemic had taken that away from me, and it was a big, big shock.

With no income, I moved back home to Middlesbrough to live with my family. I had spent my life growing up here, and I’m passionate about the place, but coming back during the lockdown and reeling from losing my job was hard. Emotionally I knew I was struggling. I’ve suffered from anxiety since I was a teenager, and I’ve come to recognise the trigger points. But the situation I now found myself in felt surreal, and I could feel my mental health spiralling downwards. I had panic attacks most days, and I felt in an awful place.

My Mam is like superwoman. She’s a teacher and works with vulnerable children from key working families. She’s such a hard worker, always busy and motivated. During the start of lockdown, I’d watch her exercising and working out in the house, wondering where she got her motivation. It took me all my time to get out of bed.

Then one morning, Mam forced me to get up and do a Joe Wicks online workout with her. To say I wasn’t keen on the idea in the first place was an understatement. But inside I also knew I was sick of moping around, so I decided to give it a go. I’ve never been into sport, but I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. I was especially surprised at how it made me feel – happy, optimistic and having a sense of achievement. As a result, I started working out with my Mam every morning.

Yes, I had the aches and pains you get when you haven’t exercised before, but I found each day I was getting fitter and healthier, and this motivated me further. As the lockdown progressed, I began to think about other ways I could be more active, and I decided to give running a go. I figured the online classes had helped me get started and to be more active, but I wanted some variety to the online classes.

For someone who hadn’t ever been into sport, I was surprised how much I was enjoying it. A 30-minute run, jog or fast walk helps me escape and free my mind from all the things that make me feel anxious. It’s the best medicine for my mental health and something I am determined to keep doing. I’ve got my Mam to thank for showing me how being more active can have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

Lockdown allowed me to focus my energy on improving my fitness. Through sharing my experience, I’m hoping it will resonate with other people, and they will feel inspired and realise that being active can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. It doesn’t matter how small you start, just try something that you’re comfortable with first. It doesn’t have to be a run, it can be getting off the bus a stop earlier, walking up and down the stairs as many times as you can or doing some stretching exercises – everything counts!

As we move into winter, I know it’s going to be harder to retain the motivation I have built up over recent months. But I’m determined to keep going as I know it is the right thing for me. When I hear those excuses in my head not to do it I’m going to remind myself how much being active lifts my mood and how awesome I’ll feel after I’ve done it.”

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