The past couple of months have presented numerous challenges to us all, reinforcing the importance of supporting Mental Health Awareness Week. Between 18th - 24th May 2020, this year's campaign theme is kindness. During these unprecedented times, as we all adapt to new roles and routines it is vital we keep kindness at the forefront of our minds - both for ourselves and others.

Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, Performance Pathway athlete Jasmine Hacker-Jones was training full-time at the Sport Wales National Centre alongside her Teaching Assistant role. However, recent events have meant Jasmine's days now look somewhat different since starting her new job as a carer, a true demonstration of values of judo - and her kindness and resilience . We caught up with Jasmine to see how she's doing.

Firstly, how are you doing? How is life in lockdown?

To begin with it was quite difficult to adapt to this sort of lifestyle, I was so dependent on having a set routine and constantly having things to do. At first I almost felt lost, I didn’t really know what to do with my time. Slowly but surely I found my feet and started filling my time being as productive as possible. Lockdown then became much more bearable and started to feel like the new normal. Everything was so unknown and nobody really knew what was happening. Throughout this time I have worked hard to remain focused.

Tell us a little about how your training has adapted in lockdown? What are you enjoying about training at the moment and what are you not liking so much? 

Training changed dramatically, I went from training 2/3 times a day to only doing 1 session a day. The coaches have done such a great job at making the sessions as specific as possible with the limited resources. The support they have given all of the welsh judo athletes has been so helpful and with out them training would almost be impossible. I’m enjoying having the set session but also having the freedom to create our own session on alternative days. We all have different equipment at hand which gives us the opportunity to make the most of what we do have. I’m obviously not liking the fact we can’t do any actual Judo, but with Judo being a contact sport it is unavoidable.

Have you picked up any new hobbies?

I have been trying to fill my time being as productive as possible, there are a few new things that I’ve been doing. I’ve started baking cakes, brownies, cheesecakes, and other sweet treats. I’ve completed a number of online courses through a page called ‘Future learn’ which is currently offering free courses to everyone. A few 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles have kept me busy. I’m sure there will be more things for me to try during this time.

How did you get involved in caring?

My Mother is a carer and has been for as long as I can remember. She would always come home from work with stories to tell me. As you can imagine the care industry is in need of carers especially during times like these with staff members needing to isolate if they or any of their family members have health issues. I am proud to go to work as a carer and help out where I can during these uncertain times.

Tell us a little about what a typical work day looks like...

Currently I’m still going through a lot of the training and I’m in what’s called a ‘shadowing’ stage where I go out with other carers and observe and learn as I go. I’ve also had to complete a number of courses online as part of the training. Right now my day is only half of a usual shift; I wake up at 6am to be at my first call for 7am and I finish at 1pm. From next week I’ll be on full shifts with my first call at 7am and last call ending around 10pm with few gaps in between. The rota will be based on 2 weeks; the first week I will be working Monday, Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday. Week 2 I will be working Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so will still have plenty of time to continue with the sessions that our coaches provide for us.

How have you been doing to taking care of your mental well-being?

I’ve ensured that I still take time for me. Time to relax and switch off, even if that’s walking the dogs, watching Netflix, listening to music or playing online games on the PS4. I’ve tried to maintain as much of a routine as possible, going to sleep around 11pm and waking up at 9am. I’d get up and do the training session, then relax for a while. I would walk the dogs to make sure I wasn’t spending too much time stuck inside the same room all day every day. By setting these daily goals I was able to keep a routine. I’ve also tried to stay in contact with the other athletes and staff members, this has helped me maintain a sense of normality. 

What are you looking forward to once things settle? 

Once things have settled I’m looking forward to getting back on the mat and re-evaluating my targets/goals. Once I have done this I will be able to focus on what is still attainable and work towards these goals. For those that are not I plan on setting myself new targets and making a plan on how to achieve them. I’m looking forward to getting back into a more structured routine of training and hopefully maintaining my job as well. I know that when things have settled that I will be able to balance training and work; I am determined to do well at both Judo and caring.

A message to your fellow athletes…

A message for my fellow athletes is ‘you will never always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined’. This  is a quote that I’ve found very relatable during this pandemic. There may be days where you wake up feeling flat and lacking motivation, training will feel like a chore but you must remind yourself that it needs to be done; you have to do it. These uncertain times will pass and we need to be as prepared as we can be for when everything gets back to normal. No matter what, keep doing everything you can to better yourself.

More information and support on Mental Health Week can be found by visiting the Mental Health Foundation website.

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