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  • Writer's pictureJo

Vacuum cleaning and finding memories

I dashed into my flat to fetch the vacuum cleaner after I'd whizzed around the empty space earlier, ensuring it was neat and tidy, ready for its new occupants. I glanced around the empty space, feeling a mixture of excitement for times ahead and a pang of nostalgia for the wonderful memories left behind. The starkness of the white walls stung my eyes for the first time - everything looked different without my things there. The space seemed cold. No longer like my home. And it wasn't. I bit my lip, took a deep breath, and smiled about my future. I checked my watch as I hurried out the flat again, up the stairs, and towards my car. As I reached it, I remembered what I'd forgotten for the third time - the vacuum cleaner!

As I drove to my new home (with the vacuum cleaner finally in my boot), I panicked about my memory. It seemed to not work anymore. I'd make plans with my partner and have to recheck them a hundred times (fortunately he's exceptionally patient). I'd have conversations at work and pick up an action, and ten minutes later I'd forgotten what we'd agreed and would have to check in again. I'd started to write everything down. My colleagues picked up on it too and we'd sometimes joke that if it wasn't in my notebook, it wasn't going to happen. But it wasn't a joke. I felt like I was losing my mind. I'd always had a good memory, it helped me do well in subjects that relied on recall, like History, at school and into university. It was one of my magic tricks - I could usually remember wonderful, little details from parties and holidays long past that made people chuckle about the moments that were imprinted in my mind but usually lost in theirs. And now it seemed to be completely broken.

And then. A few weeks ago I woke up and felt... normal. Like myself. I jumped to my feet feeling like I'd had a good night's rest, like I could take on the world. It hadn't happened overnight, but I recognised it in that moment. I dressed for the day in my favourite tiered black and purple skirt that was back in fashion (sort of - not that it matters), carefully applied makeup that matched my look 'just because' and styled my hair. I felt confident, I felt good. I was enjoying my new job and, while initially being worried that I was too exhausted to try something new, I actually had the energy to give it my best. And most astonishingly (and to my great relief) my memory was working again. I could remember conversations with my clients, details about the projects I was working on, and things in our social calendar. Before that moment, I'd believed my terrible memory and complete lack of energy were symptoms of getting a little older. I was frustrated. But I'd made peace with it.

More and more, I've been chatting to people who feel completely exhausted at the moment. The kind of exhaustion that sleep just doesn't fix. So, what can we do about it? I wish there was a magic pill that could make it all better! Unfortunately feeling more energised after a prolonged period of stress, seems to lie with what we all already know - self-care. A few things that have helped me -

1) Change. Change is scary and while it's not necessarily the best time for it, I've found changing my job has given me a fresh perspective on myself, my skillset and the value I can bring to the world. It's given me an injection of energy and joy as I learn new things in a new environment alongside new people.

2) Creativity. I've been really fortunate to be able to spend more time working on my novel and other creative writing projects. Storytelling is the stuff that sets my soul on fire and getting back into it with renewed commitment and purpose has been incredibly healing.

3) Connection. Besides leaning on my unbelievable partner, I've been connecting more with my friends (and sometimes random strangers!) over the past few months. It's helped in two ways - firstly, it's been wonderful to share how I'm feeling and hear that I'm not alone (we're all healing from the past two years). Secondly, as an extrovert, connecting, helping and sharing really fill my cup, which has been very empty after two years of social distancing.

4) Counselling. When I've struggled with ups and downs in the past I've often opted for counselling. At the beginning of the year I signed up for a few sessions with a counsellor who took a humanistic approach. It took a little getting used to, but it's really helped me think about things as they really are, reframe my thoughts and acknowledge my accomplishments.

I know not everyone will be able to change their jobs, write a book and head for counselling - and I know we all have different things that help us build our resilience and our joy. It's important to reflect on the realistic things that we can all do to prioritise our own wellbeing that fits into our uniqueness. From listening to a new piece of music at the start of every day to lift your mood, to making something for dinner that you'll really enjoy - the little things really matter. What can you do for you?

(As always, I'd love to hear from you. Get in touch on: email, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.)

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