Find those Raes of sunshine to help you through tough times


Coronavirus has altered our lives beyond recognition.

Almost overnight we changed from being a socially mobile nation, one where millions of people travelled many miles and saw multitudes of people over the course of a single day, to one confined to our homes.

For many, the transition has been difficult. Having to shut ourselves away and isolate from the rest of the world – at least physically – is a very strange experience.

Cricketer Olivia Rae summed up the situation perfectly when she spoke to The 52 writer Alasdair Hooper on the SportSpiel podcast last week.

“I felt a sense of loss when it happened,” she explained.

“We’d lost the cricket season, lost our training sessions, our ability to go to the gym and the ability to do anything you were before as a team.”

When you think about it, lockdown is like a grieving process. We are mourning the loss of our privileges, our freedom, to an invisible foe, one that could strike anywhere and at any time.

Fortunately for Rae, she was ready for this.

The Middlesex cricketer has openly talked about her struggles with her mental health in recent years and has subsequently spent a lot of time coming up with strategies to ensure she is in the best place to cope with anything thrown at her.

“I’m just trying so hard to stay positive and keep perspective” the Scotland international said.

“I did a lot of preparation mentally before this all happened. One of the things I was working on before this was mentally preparing so that I could cope with the demands of not just cricket but life.

“So as much as it was annoying timing (as I’d got prepared for the season) it was also the best because I’d prepared myself mentally as well I’ve got the skills to cope with this situation.”

Not that the opening batter hasn’t had difficult times throughout this period though.

She told SportSpiel that she initially struggled when the government first introduced isolation measures on 23 March but has since found ways of being able to stay positive and make the most of the situation.

One of these is being able to interact with her support network, the people she’s included in her life that she can speak to if she needs. The people that understand her and know what sort of support to give her if things aren’t going so well.

This isn’t a group of people that she has formed in a matter of days though. It has taken Rae a long time to build a network that she trusts and it is constantly evolving.

Over the years, Rae has grown more confident in talking to people about her struggles but she knows better than anyone that it can take a long time to find those who properly understand you.

Furthermore she is also adamant that people should not put pressure on themselves to find individuals they click with; they should work at their own pace and find their own way.

“We hear and read a lot about how it’s really important to talk and open up about your mental health but it’s not as simple as that. Where do you go, who do you talk to? It’s such a scary prospect.” the 32-year-old explained.

“I only moved to London two-and-a-half years ago from Scotland. I didn’t grow up in London, I didn’t have friends and only a very small amount of people who knew me for me.

“It wasn’t like I could phone a few people up or meet people in the new teams at work and ask ‘do you want to be part of my support network?’ It doesn’t work like that. It was a long process.

“I just started to be myself completely and not just in person with people but also on social media. Using my platform on social media to open up and talk about my struggles, I was starting to really create an authentic version of myself which helped me create that in person as well.

“I was struggling so much but I also had this newfound energy of wanting to grab life and make the most of it.

“I wanted to put myself out there because what’s the worst that could happen? I’m already feeling the worst I could possible feel but I might get some support. Or it’s going to make it so much easier to walk into a training session or meet a group of people when they know what I’m going through.

“On the back of that I got some people who would reach out to me and it just went on to the next thing and the next thing.”

After initially meeting Alasdair back in February, he then introduced Rae to the Mintridge Foundation and very soon after she became a mentor for young cricketers.

Now she has gone from the one being listened to to the listener; she is now part of the support network for these aspiring athletes and is able to help them through the current situation.

But she also knows that people shouldn’t rely on their support network to do everything for them; they’re just there to help and facilitate. The onus should still be on the individual themselves.

 

“The whole point of that support network is that they support you to go and put yourself out there, go into the arena and do your thing but that they’re there whatever happens,” she explained.

“You know that whether you fail or succeed you’ve got that support.

“It’s a lot more powerful to know that it’s you out there doing it, it’s not anyone else telling you what to do. They’re just supporting you to do it.”

But how do you go about working with your support network to overcome your difficulties, especially in a time when what we can do is currently very limited?

While Rae acknowledges that everyone is different and has their own ways of dealing with things, she also believes that if we break our goals into small, achievable increments then that will start us on the right path.

“The steps that feel right, that’s what’s important,” she said.

“Think about what you can do now. It’s amazing how something as little as drawing a picture can kickstart your day.

“It doesn’t matter how small it is, it doesn’t matter if it’s the online class you were supposed to do, even if it’s just drawing a picture then that’s just brilliant.”

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