Sue Stubbs smiles into camera

Our guest writer, Sue Stubbs, one of Result CIC's alumni, talks about how looking after the needs of others impacts on your own wellbeing.

The term ‘Wellbeing’ seems to be such a hot topic due to the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Did we all think about other people’s general wellbeing so much beforehand? I’m unsure but I know it’s certainly taken front stage with communities during 2020-21. I noticed that my own local community seemed closer than ever before, people exchange pleasantries asking how others are whereas in the past people just got in their cars, maybe smiling at neighbours if lucky. I had two neighbours constantly sharing produce with me from their own allotments, others, including myself were baking and sharing with their neighbours. I think it has shown what an important thing for all humanity to care about others’ wellbeing.

I guess I started to think deeply about my own wellbeing around 20 years ago when I started working at the University of Manchester. I’d suffered all my adult life with chronic migraine, which at times has been exceptionally debilitating. They were getting so much worse and each lasted at least for 3 full days. I decided to change my habits and not rely purely on doctors and taking medications so much. I stopped eating certain foods, went to all kinds of holistic therapy sessions, paid a small fortune for acupuncture sessions, I started taking Yoga and Tai Chi classes. I even went to London a few times (I live in Manchester) to see an eminent doctor at what was then called the City of London Migraine Clinic. I’ve seen different Neurologists but nothing seemed to work and life was still stressful. Around this time, the University was trying to cut costs and offered incentive schemes to staff wishing to leave.  I was offered one after experiencing a worsening of my attacks, I just assumed they wanted to get rid of me.  With a strong work-ethic ingrained in me and never knowing anything but working full-time, what was I going to do with my life, at nearly 56 I felt rather useless.

In the months before leaving, I’d attended a training course and a few coaching sessions run by ‘Result CIC’, aimed at staff in the Disability Network, entitled ‘Achieving your potential’. As much as I thought it ironic, prior to actually leaving the university, it certainly made me think more deeply about what I was good at and wanted to do. Since leaving, I’ve constantly felt the need to fill an empty void and give my life much more sense of ‘purpose’.  Being someone who is an Empath and cares about people, I felt that voluntary roles seemed to be the thing I needed to do, offering help to others.  I’ve undertaken a few roles: Secondary school mentor with the Princes Trust, school service volunteer with the NSPCC (both with younger people).  I then started helping older people at weekly computer classes and also as a Wellbeing Champion supporting mobility exercise classes (for people over 55 at risk of falling) and really enjoyed it. 

Early 2020, I became a singleton again after 9 years being with my ex, so apart from worries surrounding migraines and the Covid-19 lockdowns, I also felt terribly alone. However, my saving grace was that I could at least get out walking in nature. I’d also really missed attending the Step up classes and seeing the participants, I know they felt the same because for some of them the classes were literally the only outside contact they had as they were housebound.  I’d always tried to make a fuss of them as I felt it really made a difference to their lives. There had been one 100 year old gentleman I’d helped each week who always thanked me profusely, saying he’d missed me whenever he arrived.  The rapport I built up with the participants was wonderful and meant I was able to have meaningful wellbeing conversations with them. The ‘Step-Up’ classes then started on-line via ‘Zoom’ during 2020 but only for those who could use a computer or tablet. Unfortunately, that wasn’t many of them. 

During 2020 I attended a pilot on-line training course run by Salford CVS for having ‘wellbeing’ conversations with people who might be lonely, house-bound or self-isolating. After the training, I was delighted to be asked by Salford CVS if I’d participate in a training video as part of Age Friendly Salford (Inspiring Communities Together) and appear as the ‘volunteer’, to promote well-being conversations training.  The film has proven very successful and to date received over 600+ hits on YouTube and had many positive comments.  Since making the film I’ve been supporting Salford CVS with all the Zoom ‘Wellbeing’ training sessions and Focus groups. 

Along with an army of volunteers I ring people for wellbeing chats in an attempt to bring about small positive changes in their lives. Most of them are so grateful just to get a call, saying it brightens their day. This has a positive effect on my own wellbeing just knowing I’m helping someone else. For example, one lady had previously gone on outings and went walking with her friend.However, her friend passed away 2019 and since she had lost all confidence in going out alone. As I love to go walking and she lives in my area I offered to meet locally a few times and go with her. She then started walking locally herself and said it made such a difference to her wellbeing making her feel so much better.  Another lady has a husband with advanced Dementia and daily life can be stressful, she had a couple of cleaners but they had left and she worried about potential others being genuine. I offered to do some research for her and found a few contact details for helpful organisations and she was delighted to finally arrange something. These were just simple things to do but made such a difference.

According to the New Economics Foundation, there are Five Ways to Wellbeing which are a set of evidence-based public mental health messages aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population; (Keep Active, Keep Learning, Give, Connect with others & Take Notice). So, to my mind, ‘Giving’ and ‘Connecting with others’ are positive things for my own wellbeing. Being involved in the wellbeing programme has introduced me to some amazing people, voluntary organisations and given my life much more purpose. 


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