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The struggles of lockdown and how guiding has positively impacted my mental health – written by Rudy Boddington

When the schools closed, and Guiding was cancelled I won’t lie I was disappointed. I had spent a long time planning a district camp which has now been cancelled, along with exciting trips for my unit. At this point I was still going into the office, I work for the emergency service’s in ICT so, in the beginning, everything else was very much business as usual apart from Guiding.

I threw myself into helping the district switch gears to remote guiding. In an attempt not to slow down and to fill my days with something I helped set up challenges and tasks for the Rainbows, Brownies, and Guides in the district. We scheduled posts on Facebook and sent emails to parents with the week’s activities.

My day job has led to me spending weeks teaching people how to use skype and other video calling software and I honestly couldn’t face the thought of an additional video call with my Guides every week. At the end of my working day, I wanted to step away from my makeshift office (a fold-up camping table against the bookshelf in my sewing room!) and not have to explain the inner workings of the mute button to another single person!

It got to week 3, and we should have been on District camp. I set a list of challenges for girls to pick from to complete at home, and we had a virtual campfire on the Friday night to kick it all off. I set up the new tent in the garden, (because I was going for the whole experience!) and the first song we sang was singing in the rain… well, it then did start to rain so I was uprooted to my kitchen with my poor husband trying to wash up around me! No-one was singing together, the delays were terrible, though action songs worked well it was something about the smiling faces I hadn’t anticipated on helping make me smile for a little while longer. That weekend we participated in most of the challenges, all in the name of social media posts. We had eggy bread for breakfast and made s’mores in the evening. I don’t know about the girls, but my husband and I had a lovely weekend.

It then hit half term and day 732 of lockdown, or how it felt, to be honest I had lost my sparkle. My commute across the landing to work was wearing thin and I spent the weekend struggling to motivate myself to do anything. I often feel I am an introverted extrovert in that I like being around people but recharge by being on my own. Though having all this time on my own was not being helpful and I was well and truly fed up! I think a lot of people can relate to this at the moment, the monotony of staying at home and not seeing friends and family was taking its toll on my mental health.

The following week on Monday I decided to bite the bullet and schedule a virtual guide meeting. I had only had 4 guides attend the virtual campfire, but I thought I’d run a test meeting to see how it went. I sent the virtual permission forms around and sat back and waited. I was scheduled to help the Rainbows on their second virtual meeting. They had started the week before and needed someone Level 3 safeguarding to sit in. By the time Wednesday came around I’d been having emails all day with parents returning forms, so it looked to be a great Guide meeting. I helped the Rainbows do their scavenger hunt from 6-6:45, which I really enjoyed. We started Guides at 7:30pm, slightly nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the previous Rainbows meeting!

At 7:30 we had 10 Guides, me, and Marie our new helper who hadn’t managed very many meetings since Christmas due to ill health but was able to help this time because she was at home. There were three massive pluses to come out that meeting from what I could see:

  • One of our quieter guides us told us she’d been working on activities! With everyone else’s mics muted she managed to get a word in edgeways and felt more confident about it!
  • I kept in contact with a new volunteer who is very enthusiastic and will be a brilliant leader
  • Lastly. I went away feeling refreshed. Not been on holiday refreshed, but re-energised for whatever lockdown would throw at me. The silly games the Guides played, the fighting to unmute their mics whilst I had muted them, and random TikTok dancing made me remember why I like guiding in the first place! It’s the smiling faces!

Don’t get me wrong virtual guiding doesn’t fit into everyone’s lives right now, and I’m sure whatever you are managing to provide for the girls is greatly appreciated! I challenged my Guides to complete their Mixology badge and I had an email from one parent telling me how they had a mocktail party on their Saturday night, and how glad she was her daughter joined Guides when she did! You must remember whatever you manage to do, be it forwarding on the national activities, virtual meetings, or setting weekly challenges every little bit is helping all the families. If you are like me too it helps you keep going as well!