‘Team J.A.C.K.S’ Step Up to the Challenge

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Over the coming weeks, follow the Wales Deanery’s Team J.A.C.K.S who will be participating in the Step Count Challenge:  

Kaye Walters

Executive Officer (Quality Unit)

Along with Jimmy Man, Angharad Davies, Carolyn Evans and Sophie Miller, I am a member of the Wales Deanery’s Step Count Challenge Team - J.A.C.K.S.  Over the next few weeks, we thought we’d let you know our reasons for undertaking the challenge and what we hope to get from it.  So, first up, here’s my story.

When I was asked to join the Deanery’s Step Count Challenge Team, I was excited but also a bit nervous.  I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to stats and charts, so counting steps and recording progress appealed to me, although I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do sufficient steps to contribute effectively to the team.

In mid-March, I’d decided that an overhaul of my lifestyle was needed as I was constantly feeling tired and was becoming increasingly anxious due to the changes and uncertainties going on here at the moment.  I decided to take back control and focus on something positive – to lose weight and get fit.  I started wearing my Fitbit again, going out for lunchtime walks (which I’d stopped doing for a long time) and taking time to cook healthier meals at home.  After just six weeks I lost my first stone which I was thrilled about.

It was at this time that the University promoted the Step Count Challenge and Jimmy asked me to be a part of the Deanery team.  The aim of the competition is to simply move more and feel the difference, but we wanted to make it more of a challenge so we decided we’d walk the combined equivalent distance of Land’s End to John o’ Groats via Neuadd Meirionnydd.  I initially felt a little overwhelmed by this target but the team have been fantastic in supporting me to continue with it.  In the first week I completed 22K steps in one day (a 9 mile walk), something I would never have contemplated doing previously.  Before I started the challenge, I was averaging a daily step count of 7 – 8k but now I’m already averaging around 12k.

The hardest thing about the challenge for me will be when the weather is bad and I can’t get outside.  Doing a minimum of 10k steps a day in your house is quite a challenge in itself (believe me, I’ve tried it!)  Hopefully the weather will be kind to us. 

The idea that we’re raising money for charity is a real driver for me and helps to spur me on when my feet say ‘no’!  I chose MIND as my charity as it is very close to my heart.  Knowing what it’s like to suffer from anxiety, depression and panic disorder and what a totally lonely and isolating experience it can be, I think it’s so important to raise awareness of mental health issues and sources of support and ensure that people have access to support that works for them when they need it.  MIND do a fantastic job of raising awareness and promoting an understanding of mental health issues as well as campaigning and working to provide and improve services including counselling, drop-in centres, supported housing and crisis helplines.         

Whilst I do think that awareness and understanding of mental health issues is improving and people are more willing to talk about it, there is still a stigma attached to it which can make people who are already going through a very difficult time feel more isolated.  It would be fantastic if anyone experiencing mental health issues felt able to discuss their issues when they wanted to and ask for support when needed.

It took me a while to seek help, but when my mental health issue was diagnosed by my GP I was both relieved that there was a reason behind how I was feeling, but also scared as I didn’t want to be judged by people.  I decided that the best way was to be honest with people around me and explain my condition and what it means for me.  I’ve been really lucky as all of my friends and family have been so supportive.  I do still get anxiety and panic attacks, but I find that being able to talk to those close to me is the best form of help.  I appreciate that not everyone wants to be so open about their illnesses or issues, but I hope that by being more open about mine it will help anyone else who is suffering and help them to feel less alone.

I know it’s a cliché but I’ve found that exercising more and eating more healthily, really does make me feel better.  Now, instead of turning to chocolate or crisps when I feel stressed or down, I (usually) try to go for a walk and clear my head, although the chocolate is sometimes too tempting! 

I’m loving getting outside more and enjoying some of the beautiful natural spaces we have in the area and I feel really positive about the rest of the challenge.  It would be great if we could raise lots of money for our chosen charities too, so we’d be really grateful for any donations you could give (no matter what amount).  Thank you.

You can donate to Team J.A.C.K.S on their Fundraising Page

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