Fierce Bright Star

What I understood about my journey to diagnosis and beyond, after running 1800 miles across the UK, came out (unexpectedly, I must add) in the form of a poem.

What I wish my illness could do in my absence

Brain Training Part 2

Following on from Brain Training Part 1, I’ve put together some techniques that I personally use to a greater or lesser degree (depending on variables such as intensity of project and current mental episode).

Some people naturally focus while others need a little nudge to know where to begin. I admit that when I first came across things such as mind-mapping and positive self-talk, I shunned the advice given and just assumed I had to grin and bear it, as I had to figure it out for myself to truly understand…and eventually I would come full circle to the original advice. But that’s life, and that’s how some of us learn best.

Mind-Mapping

imagePreparation is key, but my head can become quite a quagmire of ideas, so I use mind-mapping to spread out my project ideas and inspirations, and work through things with a little more attention and focus. With this I sometimes use a technique learned via my Illustration tutor known as stream of consciousness writing. Writing out words continuously without checking to make sure that they fit into coherent texts. Can be fun (or mildly frustrating).

Repeat – Review – Revise

IMG_4589Edison says it takes 10,000 hours of repeated practice for something to become second nature,so I keep repeating what I am training for – running, with/without water, with/without food, before/after yoga – and I build a repertoire of understanding and knowledge of how I perform in different circumstances. If something doesn’t work, I review, it, and revise it. Then I repeat that process again. This starts to create an imprint on my brain that will eventually become my second nature.

Drowning out the negative chatter

imageDealing with negative chatter – not just from my own mind but from other people’s mouths or written words – can suck the energy right out of you. I’ve had days where I have been dressed for a run, ready to go, and then something has been said or written and I’ve just crawled fully-dressed back under my duvet and not moved for two days. I have to fight hard when that happens, because there’s no one to pass the baton to who can do the training miles for me, and so I have to be able to remind myself of WHY I am training, and what I am training for. Some days that WHY clarity is strong, and I can remain steady on my feet and still make it out the door. It may be that I argue in my head the entire time, especially if the weather is miserable, but the mileage has still been banked which is better for my confidence than not going at all.

Surrounding myself with the positive chatter

IMG_9423Honing in on the people, the ideas, and the situations that will boost your positive mind-set is good for your soul, your plans, and most likely the planet. I do this by turning my training runs into micro-adventures. I go with the intention of capturing photos of nature, beautiful clouds, lights, hills, snow, frost, puddles, flowers, birds. I never run with music. I listen to the different calls of nature – be they sheep, cows, donkeys or birds, or the best is pheasant!

If each of us were able to focus in such a way, there would be better collaboration and cohesion. Being around positivity will always inspire me to re-sharpen my training tools, work harder, dig deeper, and strive further because the human being is ultimately capable of so much more than we think is possible.

Pledge for Parity

Once a year (I’m pretty sure it is only once) there comes a time when it is acceptable, and even encouraged, to stop and think about how women have made a difference to society since (for some, long perhaps before) their emancipation.

“International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”www.internationalwomensday.com

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Make a Pledge For Parity is a campaign to help stabilise the world gender view. Gender inequality isn’t always ‘in yer face’ or belligerent. It’s also indirect, subtle and even unintentional.

I strongly believe that this doesn’t have to be the case, but it will take some time to smoothe out the creases and settle the feathers. My pledge for parity is to help women and girls achieve their ambitions.

imageExactly how, is not an applied science, but I can start with my own teenage daughters. They have contrasting dreams though they are both standing out in sports, arts and academia. One has an eye on Computer Engineering and already a STEM candidate aged 14, the other on Politics and Human Rights Law with a winning streak in school debating. Both have a penchant for acting, singing and dancing.

I could learn a lot from how I help my girls to achieve their ambitions and apply that to other groups. But do I wait to see if I’ve succeeded before I head out into the world to help people I haven’t met yet? In short, no. I would learn quicker by applying wherever and whenever possible; a local sports team, a running club, networking events, mentoring. There are women and girls all around us, and some of them will need a nudge every now and then, just as I do.

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I can be a nudge.

My Fierce Mind challenge – running a rather long way for 5 mental health charities – is also about bringing equality to the sporting industry. It is only a minute step, but it’s my part in the grand scheme of things, and it really does all add up over time. The movement for mental health is in full swing and only just beginning, the movement for parity has been underway for some time, even by my ancestors before me, and I must do my part.

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