What would you miss in your life if you couldn’t do it anymore?
When someone asks me that question the first thing I always think of is roller derby. But, it wasn’t until I found my inner Zen that I was able to enjoy my favourite hobby confidently and without crumbling.
There are hundreds of little moments that I’d miss if I couldn’t do them, but roller derby is the first thing that leaps into my head. It’s such a huge part of my life.
I have worked hard on my fitness and learning new skills, but in the end, my biggest stumbling block on the track was a mental one. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well and would get really anxious before skills assessments. It got worse, the further I progressed. I would physically shake at times and when I started to actually play sometimes I could hear the wheels of my skates rattling. I realised I needed to find my Zen.
Roller derby is much more than a hobby and a sport to me. Finding it was the catalyst that eventually prompted me to start using a technique that has improved my life in a million ways, and really helped me appreciate life and start to overcome issues with anxiety.
I first started roller derby in 2013 after a friend made me go along to a session, and I absolutely loved it. I’d never really played sport before, and had only just started running about a year before. I’m a really competitive person, and I’d never been in an environment where that was not just encouraged, but celebrated, and I fell in love with it immediately.
My ultimate goal was to make our league’s A team. I knew I was competitive and I desperately wanted to play competitive roller derby at the highest level I could. However, my first attempt at trying out for the team in November 2014 ended disastrously with me crying in the corridor after falling over attempting a skill. Our coach at the time had bought a bag of savoury cheese and onion doughnuts as a hilarious joke. He offered me one to cheer me up, thinking it would make me laugh, except I couldn’t even tell that they were cheese and onion flavour because I was crying so hard that the salty tears masked the taste.
That moment made me realise that if I wanted to progress in roller derby I was going to have to sort out my mind as well as my body.
I started looking into ways of managing anxiety in sports and mindfulness meditation came up over and over again as a way of managing excitement levels and improving focus. So I downloaded an app and started giving it a go.
To start with I would just use it before practices, and I used breathing techniques to calm myself when I found anxiety taking over during sessions. It was amazingly helpful for improving my focus. Feeling calmer at practice also increased my confidence. It seemed that relaxing and finding my Zen was a great way to manage my mental wellbeing. I still struggled, but when my next chance to try out for the A-team came in June 2015 I was selected as a “crossover” skater (meaning I also skated with the B-team and was considered more of a reserve for the A-team), and by the end of 2015 I had made the full roster.
Even better, I found mindfulness techniques helped me with depression and anxiety that I had struggled with since I was a teenager. Anxiety, particularly, was something I had always struggled to get help with. After years spending so much of my time worrying about the future, mindfulness techniques helped me learn to live in the present and actually enjoy the little things, the everyday moments in life, without the constant hovering cloud of fear and dread.
According to a study by Bupa health clinics 40% of UK Adults have never considered how good health helps them achieve their ambitions in life and over two-thirds of people surveyed thought that being in good health simply meant not having a life-threatening or serious illness.
Learning to control my anxiety helped me achieve my goals and also made me realise that good health is about so much more than the absence of illness. Good health is about all those niggling things that stop us enjoying the little thing in life, whether it’s the pain in your foot that bothers you when you take the dogs for a walk or the anxiety that means you’re not really 100% in the moment when socialising with friends.
This post is part of a campaign Bupa health clinics has been running to encourage people to think more about their health and the everyday moments that they can only enjoy because they are well. For me it’s having the right state of mind or ‘Zen’ to be able to be at my best with my team at roller derby; it’s taking the Pugs for long muddy walks on a Sunday morning; wallowing in a hot bath (that I can get in and out of without help!); and, no matter how much I whinge about it sometimes, it’s that I can just get up and go for a run. When you think about how easily even a minor health issue could take those things away, it’s really worth making sure that you take your health seriously.
I’d love to hear what your everyday moments are. What are the things in your life that you would really miss if you could no longer do them? My moment is all about finding my Zen.
Leave me a comment, and get involved in the Bupa health clinics campaign by sharing yours on social media using the hashtag #EverydayMoments.
Disclosure: This post was kindly sponsored by Bupa health clinics. As ever, all opinions are my own.