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Sharon’s Story

Oxford Canal

As part of our Moving for Wellbeing focus at the beginning of 2022, Oxfordshire Mind Service User Sharon shares her journey to feeling more confident to get out and about through the support of our Walking for Wellbeing Group in this lovely look through the seasons.

Our Walking for Wellbeing Group is one of the range of activities we offer as part of our Physical Wellbeing Service.

Winter

Sitting in my dining room, looking down the garden, I could see through my garden gate and into the field beyond.  A blanket of crisp white snow had fallen overnight and there were lots of people out laughing and enjoying themselves.  Some were having toboggan rides whilst others were seeing how big a snowman they could build, and some were running about throwing snowballs.

I was thinking to myself “why can’t I do that?  They all look like they are having so much fun and here I am stuck in my house, afraid to go out”.  That’s when I decided that things had to change, I needed to start living my life again.

Due to the pandemic, MIND were looking at different ways to help people and started an on-line Walking for Wellbeing Peer Support Group.  I wondered how it was going to work and how it could possibly help me get out walking again, just by attending a weekly  meeting over Zoom, but thought I would give it a go.  I am so glad I did.  Francesca is an amazing leader, very patient, understanding and always encouraging.  The group soon grew, with people from all over the County, and although they were all having their own struggles, they too were understanding, never judged me and would always be encouraging, celebrating my small victories with me when I could tell them that I had indeed managed to get out for a short walk.

With another Winter on its way, I feel that, thanks to the Peer Support Group, I really am a different person from this time last year.  From being almost completely housebound to now being able to go out and enjoy walks in the countryside is incredible and has given me hope for the future.   Maybe this year, I can get out and build my own snowman!  I am currently looking at things I could do slightly further afield during the winter months like visiting a local Christmas market or visiting Westonbirt Arboretum to enjoy a longer walk, with different scenery.  I would encourage everyone to allow themselves time to get out and about and look for different things to do during the different seasons.

Spring

A photo of a country track curving round to the right with pink cherry blossom trees bordering it.

The arrival of Spring can be a very uplifting time of year, bringing new life and hope for the year ahead.

Watching the daffodils and then tulips pop their heads up out of the ground brings the first sign of colour to the year and always puts a smile on your face.

I love going out walking in the spring, watching the flocks of sheep in different fields and wondering which flock will have the first lambs of the year, and then enjoying seeing them all bouncing around as more and more are born.

Thanks to someone in the Peer Support Group I was told about a Bluebell Wood very close to my home that I didn’t even know was there so really enjoyed going for a walk around there and will definitely be going back.

Summer

Summer for me this year has been incredible.  With my caravan parked on the banks of the River Thames, it truly has been a place of sanctuary for me.  I have become very mindful of everything around me, spending hours taking notice of all the colour, sounds and wildlife, as well as talking to all the people on their boats, paddle boards and canoes that pass by.

From watching the moorhen build her nest, seeing the cygnets grow and change colour, witnessing the swans claiming their territory and seeing the otter swimming down the river in the evening, before sitting around a campfire looking up at the stars, it really has been an amazing season.

I have also gained the confidence to try my hand at kayaking and recently achieved my goal of walking completely around the site, a distance of 2.5 miles which, for me, was a massive achievement.

Autumn

A photo of a straight path through a wood with trees lining the path in autumnal colours

The arrival of Autumn can be a difficult time of year for many.  The dark mornings and shorter days can make some feel lonely and isolated, with not as much contact with others.  However, some crisp, sunny Autumn days can be quite magical, with so many colours of nature to enjoy.

I love wrapping up warm, getting my wellies on, retrieving my hat and gloves from the cupboard and going for a walk to see the changing colours of the leaves, kicking through the piles of leaves that have already fallen, picking blackberries from the hedgerows and watching the children as they see if they can knock the conkers from the trees.  It’s also that time of year to visit a pick your own pumpkin patch and use your imagination to carve them to surprise the children on Halloween

The Walking for Wellbeing Online Peer Support Group really has given me a new lease of life.  Although still not ready to travel to Oxford to participate in “In Person” walks, it has given me the ability to get out in the fresh air, do some exercise and really appreciate all that nature has to offer in the beautiful countryside around me.  It has also given me new friends from around the county, some of whom I have been lucky enough to meet in person.

The group is so friendly, supportive and encouraging and the weekly photo challenges inspire me to go out for walks so that I have something to contribute at the next meeting.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me on my road to recovery.

Getting involved

Oxfordshire Mind offers a variety of services to support your mental health as well as a number of resource factsheets to help you become more active.

Our Partners Active Oxfordshire also have some great resources to help you get more active. Visit their website here.

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