Blog 11.09.20 By Jade Appleton

DofE and the mental health benefits of recognising achievement

In 2016 I began my journey to achieving a Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award through Amey; Yes, four years ago!

Little did I know at that time how much life experience, confidence, skills and self-esteem I would achieve. I have always suffered with anxiety when it comes to change and new experiences, so much so that I used to have very negative outlooks on what the outcomes would be immediately.

I remember the first day I started my volunteering activity – coaching at a swim team. I had no confidence and no positive thoughts about how I would achieve this; yes, I had some experience and knowledge about swimming techniques, but I had no faith in myself that I could, ‘swim on in’ (terrible pun, I know!) to a team and teach!

After the first three weeks I was teaching a class of 10 without shadowing another coach, and despite all my worries and anxieties I was receiving very positive feedback! The younger generation loved my teaching style. Hearing the feedback from students, their parents and coaches gave me a lot of confidence and I began to stop doubting myself, I felt capable, empowered and positive about completing all sections of a Gold DofE programme.

My journey was not always smooth sailing, especially in the lead up to the final expedition. It had many challenges, including coming to the realisation I would be out camping for four days with others that I had never even met before, this started a whole new negative outlook; Would they like me? Would we all get along? Will there be conflict between who leads? How can I go camping and walking for up to eight hours a day without knowing these people?

I had too many worries and doubts about how this would work.

Over the course of practice expeditions and team bonding classes, I regained my positivity about completing my programme; it was soon after a team bonding class that my other team members shared how they were feeling about the journey and it turns out they had very similar thoughts! It made me a realise that we were all in the same boat.

If we were going to spend three days and four nights together walking and camping then the only way to overcome any worries and negative feelings was to break these down and for each worry or negative thought I would turn it in to a positive one.

The most common…. “ what if we get lost”; There were three others in my group all with different strengths, one gentleman was very good at reading a map, another always displayed a calm, organised energy and between myself and the fourth member, we were both good at communicating and knew how to use a compass, along with that we all had very good common sense!

Expedition week…

By the time we got to the second night I found myself laid in my tent, reflecting on how far we had come as a team and how far I had come as an individual. I had gone from having zero wilderness knowledge and skills to taking a leadership role within my group to do eight-hour walks and getting us all to camp safely before night fall. In that moment I had more confidence that I would have ever imagined, I was determined to complete the expedition and achieve my Gold Award.

Since achieving my Award and receiving this at St James’s Palace in London; in the presence of TRHs The Earl and Countess of Wessex, my mental health through recognising my achievement has come along unimaginably.

Recognising this achievement and those through my work has presented me with opportunities within Amey, that I never imagined would happen so quickly!

My biggest opportunity and achievement was being asked to represent Amey as a Gold Award holder at the Women in Business Event December 2018, where I again met with TRHs The Countess of Wessex and The Earl of Wessex, sharing my DofE journey and amongst many other executive personnel funding and supporting The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.