How do you spring clean your mind?

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Spring cleaning can happen at any time of the year

It’s spring at the moment in Australia where I’m sitting at my computer writing this blog post. As I reflect on the very warm day we’ve had, and the cool breeze wafting in through the window, thoughts of spring cleaning come to mind. But, why wait for spring??? Spring cleaning can happen at any time of the year!

Let go of what is no longer needed

Let go, spring cleaningWhat a great feeling it is to clean out the house, office or car; throw away, recycle or give away the excess that has accumulated over the past months, year, or more. Spring cleaning offers us a sense of lightness, organisation and order. It gives us renewed energy, like a gentle breeze after a hot day. We’ve swept out the cobwebs and feel fresh and clean again.

Our minds can do with a spring clean too

It’s not just our houses, offices and cars that need regular spring cleaning. Our minds need de-cluttering too, and in my opinion we can all benefit from a little de-cluttering every day. When we organise our thoughts and simplify our lives, our lives run smoother.

You can choose how to de-clutter your mind

Spring clean your mind on MTBSpring cleaning our houses is one thing, but how on earth do we go about de-cluttering our minds? One of the best ways to do this is by going for a walk, especially in a green zone. But you might prefer to spend some quiet time in the garden, listen to music, or do some painting. Perhaps you prefer more energetic methods of de-cluttering your mind like running, boxing, swimming or mountain bike riding (a personal favourite!).

Consistency and regularity are key!

Whatever your choice, remember to be consistent and regular with your actions so that things don’t get on top of you. Caring for your mind is just like housework and yard work. When you take regular small steps to clean up and clear out, life seems a whole lot less messy and there is space and energy for the things you value most.

Remember …. no matter the season, no matter the weather, you don’t need to wait till spring. Jump into spring cleaning today!

What works for you?

How do you de-clutter your mind and organise your thoughts?

 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

8 Reasons to Get Back to Nature

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In a world that expects us to be efficient, effective and resourceful, we risk letting go of those things that sustain our energy, health and creativity. One of these things is time spent in nature. Here are 8 reasons why time spent in nature is never a waste of time.

1. Nature is a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life

We live in a world that expects us to deliver outcomes and meet deadlines. We have constant pressure to be productive and to not waste time, energy or resources. Many people feel increasingly stretched and strung out with our outcomes-based society. Nature provides a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life. When we step outdoors into the forests, mountains, deserts, beaches and waterways, we immerse ourselves in a bigger world. We are at play, not at work.

Nature setting - beach

2. Nature gives your brain a break

Brains are like busy factories mass producing thoughts, decisions, predictions, reflections, assessments, judgements, assumptions and beliefs all whilst keeping our hearts beating and our lungs breathing. There’s a lot going on inside our heads whether we realise it or not. Getting outside into some green space gives your brain a much needed break from the type of thinking it does all day. Nature is a trigger for your brain to switch modes and operate on a different level – a bit like a mini holiday!

3. Nature restores and re-energises

When we’re busy we tend to cut back on things that seem less important or urgent at the time. Usually this means we cut ourselves short on self-care. We run ourselves into the ground working harder and faster whilst putting less priority on how we are going to sustain the pace. Half an hour outdoors can be enough time for your mind to begin to reset and for your body to feel re-energised. It’s an investment you can’t afford to miss.

Nature - mountain view

4. Nature refocuses your attention

Modern life runs at a pace requiring us to be thinking and doing multiple things at once. Research shows this isn’t necessarily the most efficient (or joyful) way of living. When we focus on one thing at a time, we tend to operate more efficiently and effectively. Although it might feel slower because you’re used to being in the fast lane, it’s actually more productive in many situations! Regular time in nature can teach you to bring your attention to your immediate surroundings. This helps you to let go of your stresses, gently engage all your senses, and refocus your attention when you’re back in your everyday routine.

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

Do you find yourself reacting to a pressured lifestyle by working even harder, hoping that when you get to the bottom of your ‘to do’ list you’ll be able to relax? Sorry folks that isn’t a strategy that is sustainable over the long-term unless you give yourself regular breaks to slow down and switch off. Your ‘to-do’ list will never go away. There will always be something else that demands your attention. When you prioritise time in nature, you learn to slow down – in a good way. Your brain has a much needed rest and you come back to your ‘to-do’ list with a fresh perspective and new energy.

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate the special gifts that nature has on offer. Any one of us can savour the creativity and innovation that often comes with time spent in nature. Perhaps it’s associated with the opportunity to slow down and refocus, I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that some of my best and most successful ideas have come to me when I’ve been out walking or riding.

7. Nature gets you active

A major contributing factor to chronic disease, including depression, is inactivity. Nature is the natural antidote to a sedentary lifestyle. With so much space to stretch out and explore, so many wonders to be discovered, so much fresh air to breathe and trees to hug (well, maybe that’s just me), what more incentive do you need to get out and get active.

Natur

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

Have you ever gone in search of the perfect time management technique, tool or app hoping to be rescued from the stress of managing multiple roles and responsibilities? Despite the numerous time management tools available to us, time management is actually all about managing YOURSELF, not time. If you really want to improve efficiency and effectiveness, invest part of your day, everyday, outside in nature. If you’ve read all the other reasons why time spent in nature is not a waste, then it will be obvious to you that it’s one of the best investments you can make to improve your effectiveness and efficiency at work, home and in your relationships with other people.

Let's sum up!

Time spent in nature is NEVER a waste! Oh let me count the ways ….. (well, at least 8 of them anyway!)

1. Nature is a sanctuary from the pressures of modern life

2. Nature gives your brain a break

3. Nature restores and re-energises

4. Nature refocuses your attention

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

7. Nature gets you active

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

My First Overnight Hiking Adventure!

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Daisy Spoke has started some new adventures! 

Here is Episode 2 of The Great Backpacking Adventure in which I turn to overnight hiking to learn more life lessons through an outdoor adventure lifestyle – GIRRAWEEN HERE WE COME!

My year of adventure

Being a year that I’ve devoted to adventure, I’ve been consciously seeking opportunities to push myself out of my comfort zone and expand my inner world. A life of adventure is so much more inviting than a life of being limited by fears and self-imposed routines. So I found myself, rather surprisingly, publicly announcing my intention to have a go at overnight hiking, an activity that in the past has always brought the question to my mind “Why?” I mean, backpacking never really made much sense to me – deliberately burdening yourself with a heavy weight on your back, being completely self-reliant in every aspect, and ….. (and this is a big issue …..) not having access to showers and toilets! Honestly, why would you do this? Where is the fun factor in that?

Backpacking equipment

Looking for my next big challenge

Well, funnily enough, on my life-long journey of self-discovery I’ve come to see that it’s very often the really tough stuff that gives me that sense of being fully alive, an elated feeling that comes with achievement and pushing my limits, rising to a challenge and then reflecting on how I’ve grown because of it, and bringing about a sense of fun. Was backpacking the next big challenge I needed in life to learn to let go of the excess physical and mental stuff that I’ve become attached to, and develop independence and self-confidence in who I am? I started to realise that the stories I’d been telling myself about backpacking, were simply stories; not factual stories at all – simply fiction, made up in my mind keeping me small and stopping me from having a go at something that might turn out to be fun after all.

Don't believe everything you think

 

The value of goal-setting

And so with my public announcement of my overnight hiking goal, I began to get myself organised. I decided to share my experience here because I want people to know how valuable goal-setting can be; that we can learn so much more beyond what we expect; and that sometimes goals are uncomfortable, sometimes we lose our way, sometimes we change direction or even miss our target altogether. With goal-setting comes a fear of failure, of not being good enough, a fear of giving up – issues I’ve been working on for myself over the past few years, and now here is my perfect chance to put it all together and see what I can do!

best things in life start with a dream

1st Step – Research!

First started the research – reading and watching books, blogs, vlogs and videos. I began asking questions of others, looking in hiking stores, talking with family and friends about the idea. And pretty soon my goal began to take root and blossom. Yes there have been many doubts and worries along the way, but I knew I was doing this for me. To be the best me I can be, to learn from going through the process even if I didn’t like it and even if I decided not to go through it again. I never said I had to like overnight hiking or keep doing it. I simply said I wanted to try it on for size and see how it fitted for me.

Well actually, yes I can!

2nd Step – Skills Development!

Secondly I embarked on a project to prepare myself with skills to become more bush-savvy. I participated in an introductory and then an intermediate level navigation and trekking workshop for women. Wow, this was amazing! So many other women of all ages, immersing themselves in a lifestyle of outdoor adventure, choosing to skill themselves up and push their limits! Knowing I was not alone was as important as the actual navigation skills I gained from the workshops.

Compass, maps and navigation equipment

Girraween, here we come!

Finally, with all the right conditions in place – fine mid-season weather, a committed crew of family, a convenient vacancy at the dog boarding kennels for little Tommy, no bushfires, no sickness or injury that would prevent us from going (although it was definitely touch and go for a while!), school assignments done and dusted for the term – we set off for Girraween National Park. This is one of my favourite places to retreat to. Being not far from home it’s kind of like my other backyard.

granite formations

Planning for minimal risk

We had planned our adventure to be a gentle introduction to overnight hiking. We chose marked trails in a National Park we were familiar with so we knew we wouldn’t get lost and would have easy access to help if we needed it. With minimal travel time, low chance of rain and a fairly short distance to walk, we were pretty sure we’d survive the weekend and be home in time for dinner on the Sunday!

Backpacking in national park

What have I got myself into?

Hauling our packs onto our backs at our starting point on Saturday was pretty daunting. I was having serious doubts about my very sore foot that had been under treatment but it had flared up again. I groaned under the weight of my pack and secretly feeling nauseous at the idea of what I’d gotten myself into. But we set off, slowly plodding along the established trails stopping regularly to soak in the beauty all round us. Only a few minutes into our adventure we saw a big shiny red-bellied black snake slithering gracefully through the undergrowth – a reminder to stay alert at all times.

Stone Cottage, Girraween

The first day

We walked 14 kilometres on Saturday at a leisurely pace, munching on homemade protein balls, trail mix and wraps whenever we were hungry. From Underground Creek past West Bald Rock and onto the Stone Cottage, we felt like we were in our own little world. We set up camp in the late afternoon feeling somewhat weary but cheerful. I had pre-cooked our dinner, a result of choosing not to invest just yet in a lightweight stove. It always amazes me how good the most basic food can taste when you’ve been physically active all day.

tents set up in the remote bush camp

Watching the sun set and the moon rise was a perfect end to our day as we crawled into our tents to sleep. But oh! the fun and games of getting those inflatable pillows ‘just right’!

The second day

Morning brought us slowly to our feet, still aching from the day before. With time to potter around the campsite exploring our surroundings we gradually wound ourselves up for more walking. Having consumed most of our food and much of our water, we were relieved to haul our packs on our backs again and find the weight much more agreeable. As we walked along the Peak and Creek Trails we were fascinated to see how different everything appeared compared to when we’d ridden our mountain bikes through here. We chatted with some other walkers along the way and arrived back at Underground Creek for lunch, a pretty easy 10 kilometre stroll along gently undulating terrain with spectacular views of Mt Norman, other granite structures and an array of spring wildflowers.

Mt Norman

I’d read stories about crows and currawongs pilfering bushwalkers’ backpacks, and was astonished to be caught out myself when I put my pack down to explore the marvellous formations of a granite outcrop. My trail mix was the object of its fascination, tearing into the ziplock bag through the side mesh pocket on my pack. A pretty obvious lesson learned!

The crow got my trail mix!

What! Is it already time to go home?

Our weekend adventure seemed to be over all too soon. We couldn’t bear to think we’d have to get back into the car and drive off when it felt like we had only just begun! So we sauntered down to Dr Robert’s Waterhole and gazed at the reflections in the water for some time, extending our time as long as possible. I wonder what adventures the First Nations People have had in this stunning landscape, and what adventures other hikers, landowners and picnickers have had here throughout time as well.

Dr Robert's Waterhole

A new series of adventures begins

We knew right then that our overnight hiking adventure was just the first episode in a whole new series of adventures for us. The doubts, the lack of toilets and showers, the physical and emotional challenges were not going to keep us living a small life. Bring on the next adventure I say!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Adventures In the Great Outdoors

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Daisy Spoke has started some new adventures! 

Welcome to Episode 1 of The Great Backpacking Adventure in which I turn to overnight hiking to learn more life lessons through an outdoor adventure lifestyle.

My best memories and my best learning about life have come from spending weekends and holidays in the great outdoors. As a child my parents whisked us away for family holidays in our caravan or tent, taking in wonderful adventures as we immersed ourselves in some of Australia’s most iconic landscapes. We took walks in the grandeur of rainforested mountains enthralled by stories of our ancestors’ pioneering days. On secret secluded beaches we discovered ocean life washed upon the shore – evidence of another world we could barely begin to imagine. Across the deserts we drove, soaking in the wonder of the sunrises and sunsets, a land of extremes in myriad ways.

Family Beach Camping

My teenage years brought the opportunity to go camping with my Girl Guide and Ranger crews. As a restless sleeper, I knew then that my best sleeps came after a day in the outdoors, hiking, learning woodcraft skills, cooking over a campfire, canoeing, kayaking, abseiling, riding bikes and simply being with others who loved the adventure as much as I did.

Beach Adventures

It was no surprise then that at uni I met and married a kindred spirit of the outdoors. We spent our leisure time exploring all the usual National Parks trails within a few hours drive of the city, playing frisbee in the park, cycling the local roads and pathways, paddling on the bay and local creeks, and filling our lives with regular camping trips near and far.

Rainforest Adventures

As our children arrived on the scene, they too were included in our adventures which were modified to accommodate their growing needs. Nurturing their love of the outdoors has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life so far. To see their little faces eagerly joining in on walks, creek paddling and bike rides has been completely heartwarming. And to hear their excited voices asking questions, always asking questions, soaking it all in, enthusiastic about nature and adventure, curious about their world and seeing themselves as a valuable and integral part of it has been a spirited journey.

Trop[ical Rainforest Adventures with Children

Through family illness and injury, study stresses and sporting commitments, work pressures and ties to family, friends and farm animals, we’ve kept up our habit of spending much of our leisure time in the great outdoors. Sometimes our adventures have been confined to the backyard (albeit a sizeable acreage of dry bushland) because that’s all we could do at the time. However sometimes our adventures have taken us to amazing far off places – interstate road trips with the trailer packed to the brim with camping gear. We’ve camped and hiked in awe-inspiring places like the The Warrumbungles, Mt Kaputar, the Blue Mountains, Carnarvon Gorge, Atherton Tableland, Central Australia, Birdsville, Innamincka, Gibraltar Range and Sturt National Park. By the time Miss E reached high school, she’d spent more birthdays in our tent than she had at home.

Family looking over FNQ viewpoint

And now this year I sensed I was ready to take on a new challenge. A challenge that would combine my much-loved experiences of camping with the physical challenge of bushwalking – I decided that this year I was going to have a go at backpacking! Something I was never interested in at all until now. I mean, why would you want to carry a heavy weight on your back for hours to a campsite when you can so easily tow a trailer with everything you could possibly need (and more), and pull up right beside a campsite to unpack, in easy walking distance of the bathrooms, and with plenty of walking trails to choose from right where you are! But the inner self doesn’t always operate on logic, and I’ve learned to trust myself when I sense that I’m ready for something new. Back-flipping my thinking didn’t come easily though. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and asking myself “why?” and I don’t really have that answer yet. But what I do have is a strong pull towards challenging myself, stretching my abilities and coping skills, and discovering new possibilities for myself, not limiting myself. Surprising as it may seem, even to me, the life learning in this backpacking adventure has only just begun!

The beginning of navigation and trekking adventures

Stay tuned for my next episode of My Great Backpacking Adventure as I take off on my first overnight hiking expedition!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Another 5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Mountain Biking

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When you open your mind to learning and growing, you discover opportunities everywhere around you. Over the past ten years, mountain biking has become a parallel universe for me to learn about myself and the world around me. As my enthusiasm for this style of learning has developed, so too has my love of mountain biking. I wanted to share my excitement with everyone around me and so I began my blog, Daisy Spoke. And my very first post in Daisy Spoke was “5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Mountain Biking”.

So ….. now here at last are another five ways that mountain biking has helped me to keep learning and growing as an individual!

1. Look up

Look upI instinctively look straight down in front of me when I ride my bike. This means I wobble a lot and react to every little lump and bump in the terrain. Having a one way staring competition with the trail right in front of me does me no favours. My imagination fixates on small details that don’t really matter. I didn’t even realise this was happening until I learnt at a coaching session the importance of looking up, to keep my eyes focused further along the track. This gets me into flow and enjoying a smoother, more connected ride. I’m still learning to trust myself, to have confidence that my brain has registered the terrain directly in front of me and that my body will know how to handle it. Every ride is a reminder to keep my sights focused ahead in all areas of my life – my work, my personal life, and my riding!

2. Absorb the bumps

Absorbing the bumps while mountain biking
Photo from Chicks in the Sticks 2017

The bumps and jumps are all part of the fun of mountain biking – in fact a very large part of it! But it’s taken me a long time to see it that way. Fear of falling and lack of confidence creates tension which in turn leads to a rigid framework, sore muscles and stiff joints at the end of a ride. Learning to relax my stance and go with the bumps instead of resisting them is an ongoing process. Mountain biking gives me the opportunity to experience a sense of lightness instead of a sense of lack of control. I can visualise my legs as natural built-in shock absorbers. With improved inner resilience, or bounce-ability, I’m also able to relax a bit more in life in general, to see past the hiccups, and rise above the challenges.

3. Move around

Move moreHaving ridden mostly on smooth paved surfaces like roads and bicycle paths for most of my life, it’s been a huge learning curve getting onto mountain bike trails. You need to move your weight around constantly adjusting for the ever-changing terrain. Forward and back, side to side, up and down, as well as every possible combination of these movements. The hard lesson is that if you don’t shift your weight around you can’t get up that hill, or down that steep slope, or round that tight corner. Riding can quickly turn into hike-a-bike (which isn’t much fun) or hitting the ground (which also isn’t much fun). So when I ride I try to be conscious of how I move my body – above and around my bike frame. As in life, the more you move around, the more fun you’ll have and the healthier you’ll be.

4. Be present in the moment

Mindful concentration while mountain biking
Photo from Chicks in the Sticks 2016

A distracted mind is on a road to mishap. At least, that’s my experience on my mountain bike and life in general. On my bike, the terrain is constantly changing and I need to keep my wits about me at all times. When I tune my sensory antennae into the environment around me, I’m fully present in the here and now. At least that’s the theory! The reality is that sometimes when I’m riding my mind wanders off and suddenly, oops, there it is, a rut the size of the Grand Canyon about to swallow me and my bike. It’s an ongoing learning process of training my brain to come back to the present, Not only does this make me safer on my bike, the ride is heaps more fun too. The same technique applied to other areas of life can lead to more satisfying relationships, more efficient and effective business decisions, and reduced anxiety.

5. Keep trying!

Patiently persist!Throughout life I’ve tended to focus my energy and attention on things that come most easily to me. If I couldn’t do something perfectly the first time, I’d usually move on to the next thing fairly quickly. As far as mountain biking goes, I’d had a few short rides on unpaved paths and paddocks over the years but didn’t develop much interest in “that kind of riding”. I’d fallen off a few times so there wasn’t a lot of incentive to keep going, so my bike tended to stay in the garage most of the time. A few years ago I decided to give it another go. Maybe there was an inner knowing that it would open up a whole new world to me, that there was much more to be gained from riding than simply mountain biking skills. With the support of my Courage Coach, I learned to develop persistence and this has had a profound impact on me. I’ve discovered how valuable persistence can be when life gets tough and I feel like giving up. Persistence speaks to that fiercely determined part of my soul and keeps me trying, practising, modifying, trying again, and finding ways to bring my hopes and dreams into reality. I’ve learned that I can work really hard at things that don’t come naturally to me and to experience immense satisfaction from that!

Read PART 1 of this article (my very first ever blog post!) “5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Mountain Biking” including:

  • Look where you want to go
  • Lean into what you most fear
  • Going slow is ok
  • Take a break when you need it
  • Practice, practice, practice

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Top Ten Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

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A good laugh and a good sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book” (Irish Proverb)

There’s no doubt about it, a good night’s sleep can make all the difference to how we feel and how well we function. In this article I share my top ten tips for a better sleep.

Sleep affects mental and physical health

Sleep is a vital ingredient for physical and mental wellbeing, yet 33-45% of adults report having inadequate sleep*. The consequences of poor sleep are not just cosmetic (“Oh gawd, look at the dark circles under my eyes!”). Of more serious concern to the individual and the whole community are health problems, worker safety and performance, and risk of motor vehicle accidents.

Sleep is complicated!

The research tells us there are many factors that affect sleep quality and quantity. Now everyone’s different and some of us are more sensitive to some of these factors than other people. It’s not a black and white science that we’re dealing with – many of the studies have been done in clinical settings (not in the home) and have tested for more extreme conditions of one factor at a time, rather than a mixture of different factors that we’re more likely to experience in our everyday lives. Sleep is a complicated process. The cause and effect is not always direct and clear, so what seems helpful at first glance (for example drinking alcohol or smoking before bed), may actually be masking the issue (such as stress and anxiety).

Find out what works for YOU

So part of the trick to getting a good sleep is getting to know yourself first including what’s most likely to help and hinder your own situation. The research base is a great place to start experimenting to see what conditions work best to give you a refreshing night’s sleep.

Plan of Action

Here are my top ten tips to improve your chances of a fabulous sleep:

1. Feelings of safety

If you don’t feel safe, have a chat with someone you trust, or your doctor or a counsellor to develop a plan to feel safer.

2. Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs … and food

Substances such as caffeine (think coffee, chocolate and energy drinks), alcohol, tobacco and other drugs may bring a temporary feeling of relaxation, but they can also disrupt hormone production, sleeping rhythms and other health issues. Likewise, your eating habits may have an impact on your sleep. Avoid spicy foods if this causes discomfort and avoid large meals and drinks at bedtime. There is some evidence that certain foods might help you sleep better – wholegrains; some nuts, fruits and dairy foods; and caffeine-free tea.

3. Pain levels

Chat with your doctor or health practitioner if pain is preventing a good night’s sleep. Pain is a complex phenomenon with a wide range of causes. There are many different pain management techniques to choose from – find out what works best for your overall health and wellbeing.

4. Medication

Some medications can make you feel drowsy, and others can make you feel more alert. Check in with your doctor or pharmacist for advice on anything to do with medication.

5. Exercise and napping

Benefits of exerciseIn my professional (and personal) experience, one of the most effective ways to improve sleep is to increase your exercise, especially in the morning. Moving around throughout the day and reducing how long you are sedentary for is also helpful. Some people find it helpful to have a short nap during the day, but later in the afternoon may disrupt your night time sleep.

6. Light and dark

Get yourself some morning light. This triggers the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for your inner body clock – you’ll feel sleepy when it gets dark in the evening. Despite many people using TV and devices just before bed or even while they are in bed, the type of light they emit and the stimulation they provide can really impact your sleep. The recommendation is to turn devices off an hour or so before bed and don’t take them into your room.

7. Stress Management

Stress quote Dr Kerryn PhelpsManage your daytime stresses so that you’re not holding that tension when you go to bed. Learn body relaxation techniques as well as mind relaxation techniques. Mindfulness training is particularly useful. If you’re locked into a vicious cycle of insomnia, it can be helpful to have some cognitive behavioural therapy sessions to power up your thinking and make positive changes to your sleep.

8. Routine

Find an evening routine that’s helpful and then follow it. This might take some experimenting to see what soothes you and what stimulates you. Make your routine a habit, and remember that it can takes weeks of adjusting to a new habit or routine before you see the full results.

9. Environment

Are you comfortable in bed? Is it too hot or cold? Too soft or hard? Noisy? Smelly? Too light or too dark? Is it relaxing and comforting? Avoid doing work or studying in your bedroom as this can build an association with a wakeful or stressed state.

10. Caring Responsibilities

Are you responsible for the care or wellbeing of other people, livestock or pets through the night? If possible share your caring responsibilities with someone else so you can take turns at sleeping a bit longer, or a bit better.

Let's sum up!

So there you have it – my top ten tips to improve your sleep, and the best thing about it is you can start experimenting right away! If your sleep doesn’t improve after trying these strategies, make sure you have a chat with your doctor. There are some medical and psychological conditions that may need more specialised interventions to get you the super sleep you deserve!

*”Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults” Robert Adams, Sarah Appleton, Anne Taylor, Doug McEvoy, and Nick Antic (The University of Adelaide, The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health) Read the report 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

What does self-care mean for women?

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Do you feel pressure from the fast-paced world, juggling your responsibilities and striving to fit self-care into your already busy life? If so, you’re not alone! Women often report that the biggest obstacles to self-care are lack of time and competing priorities. The consequences are far-reaching. This article brings new light to these obstacles, offers you some practical self-care ideas to incorporate into your day without adding any more pressure, and invites you to a delightful morning of retreat!

What is self-care?

“Self-care” has become a trendy cliché in recent years, but it’s so much more than simply another activity to fit in your day, or a luxurious treat you might have occasionally. We’re bombarded with images and advertisements that suggest self-care is all about pampering, looking good, and spending money on yourself. These experiences and products may be an important part of your personal routine, but genuine self-care runs much deeper.

Love is CaringSelf-care is literally all about caring for yourself, possibly in similar ways that you care for other people in your life. This includes caring for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Sometimes this includes doing things that feel good such as a relaxing bath or an outing with friends. It also means making choices for ourselves that might feel uncomfortable in the short-term, because we know this is what’s best for our longer-term wellbeing.

Sometimes self-care is uncomfortable

We barely think twice when we take firm action with others we care about. For example, as parents we know it’s in the best interests of our children to place limits on the TV they watch. Our children might not like it but we know how important it is for their overall wellbeing, and so we stand firm. When it comes to standing firm on our own self-care, it can be easy to give in to our feelings in that moment. It’s easy to ignore the long-term health benefits of daily exercise when it’s so much cosier sleeping-in instead. Where is our internal parent when we need them?!

What’s getting in the way of self-care?

There are infinite obstacles to self-care but most of them fall under one of these headings:

External Pressures

Women in our society have unconsciously been conditioned to take on multiple Wise words from my future selfroles, and to perform them with excellence, and with a smile on their face. More often than not women carry the bulk of the emotional load in both family and work life – organising, planning, predicting, comforting, parenting, caring, pleasing, time-managing, problem-solving, rescuing and so on. The many competing priorities present dilemmas on a daily basis. Who’s got time or energy to stack self-care into a life that’s built around serving other people’s needs?

Internally Generated Excuses

These issues focus on the way women think about themselves and their roles.  I am a friend to myselfThe way we think is closely related to the way we have been socialised when were younger, with the added layer of personality thrown in. So it’s no surprise that women often share certain beliefs, assumptions and thinking patterns related to self-care – it’s selfish to do something for myself; people will think I’m selfish / not coping; time and money should be spent on something or someone else who needs it more than me; I don’t have enough time or energy; I should just soldier on like everyone else does …..

What’s the big deal with self-care anyway?

Self-care is not selfish. Think about what values are most important to you – perhaps compassion, kindness, generosity? Many of us readily live out these values towards other people yet struggle when it comes to ourselves. How can we truly be compassionate, kind and generous beings when we select who we are compassionate, kind and generous towards? Are you being consistent with your values? How does this affect your self-care?

Consequences of poor self-care

The consequences of poor self-care include reduced physical and mental health, strained relationships, under-performance and increased of risk of compassion fatigue and burnout. Consider also how you are modelling self-care practices (or lack of them) for the next generation. Unwittingly we often enable unhealthy and unsustainable practices to continue to the next generation, reinforcing gender inequity along the way.

Self-care without the pressure

Here are some self-care actions that don’t add extra pressure into your day:

  • say ‘no’ to something so you can say ‘yes’ to something more important

  • set boundaries in your relationships

  • mute your phone at meal times

  • take time to enjoy preparing a nutritious meal

  • delegate some responsibilities

  • have some ‘go-slow’ time each day

  • change your morning routine so you feel less rushed

Saying no

What does self-care look like for you?
What are some actions you could take every day that show compassion, kindness and caring towards yourself?

Women Empowered Morning of Retreat

Discover the possibilities that arise when you prioritise your own health and self-care!

Women Empowered Morning of Retreat

Come along to my next Women Empowered Morning of Retreat in Warwick on Tuesday 4th September 2018. This will be a gentle-paced morning of reflection, discussion and creative activities.

MORE INFORMATION AND REGISTRATION

Read about my last retreat “Women Empowered: Framing My Future with Financial Confidence”

….. and some of the insights gained by the women who participated.

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

 

Frights, Flights, and Fears: Look back to see how far you’ve come

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Life can hand us plenty of frights, flights and fears but it’s good to look back occasionally to see how far you’ve come. I’ve been reflecting on this over the weekend when I noticed some old fears resurfacing, and rather than get caught up in the stories they told me, I chose to look at how far I’ve progressed.

I was eager to get back on my mountain bike after a couple of weeks away road tripping, bushwalking and trail running which I absolutely loved, but I also love riding my bike and Kathryn on MTB riding through a gullywas missing it. When I started riding on the weekend, I noticed some of those old worries pop up that only surface when I’ve been off my bike for a while. They used to hang around me a lot. Well actually, most of the time! But I’ve worked really hard at keeping them in their place in recent years. Deciding to blog about them has been one of the most empowering actions I’ve taken. They could no longer lurk away in the dark depths of my mind, stewing and multiplying and expanding by the minute. Many of them simply lost their power when I brought them out into the light of day. Have you read my blog about how I worked through a step-by-step process to manage my fear of “the scary corner”!

So here I was on Sunday morning with an incessant barrage of inner talk going on in my head:

“That’s too slippery.”

“I can’t ride down that gully.”

I’m going to hit that tree.”

I’m hopeless at riding on ‘technical’ terrain.”

My back tyre keeps slipping out. I can’t ride up here.”

There are too many rocks.”

There are too many low hanging branches.”

I have to go slowly round this corner so I don’t fall off.”

I’d better walk this bit.”

That’s where I fell before.”

That’s another place I fell off.”

That’s where I nearly fell on the snake when I stopped too quickly and went over the handlebars.”

..and so on and so on. It was very loud in my head!

NOW I want to say that the most powerful step YOU can take if you find yourself in a similar situation is simply this: NOTICE what’s going on in your head. Simply NOTICE. The situation doesn’t’ have to be about riding a bike. It might be the thoughts you have associated with speaking to an audience, introducing yourself to someone, going out in the dark, driving in the city traffic, swimming with sharks, flying on a plane, or absolutely anything at all! Simply NOTICE what your mind says. And with the power of noticing what’s going on in your head, you can then choose what to do next.

Kathryn looking calm and happy on her rideI’ve been practising and teaching this technique for a lot of years, and yet still I sometimes forget to do it when the moment arises. The thing is that on Sunday morning I DID NOTICE those fearful thoughts bouncing round my head. And guess what? I didn’t care about them. I didn’t let them bother me. Instead of giving them the power of my attention and allowing them to expand and bully me into playing it too safe, I chose to dig up another thought from my mind vault:

This is a confidence cycle. I only worry about these things when I’ve been off my bike for a couple of weeks and out of practice. Just ride. Focus on how far you’ve come over the past few years. Don’t let those worries bully you or keep you small, or limit the fun you’ll have today. You’re sensible. You won’t do any crazy dangerous stuff. You’re safe. Just ride.”

And so I focused on how strong I felt and that all the recent running has made a positive difference to my strength and aerobic fitness. I enjoyed the feeling of sprinting up a couple "Tough Girl" socksof short hills engaging my quads in an exertion that a couple of years ago would have been painful (if not impossible)! I pedalled in a higher gear than normal and found it easier than expected. I noticed what I did well and trusted wholeheartedly that my confidence will be back real soon. I glanced down at my fabulous new “tough girl” socks reminding myself of my strengths and the stories I can tell myself about what I CAN do. And as I looked back over the past few years, I could see how far I’ve progressed in managing my fears on the bike. I’ve developed resilience and practised some of life’s most valuable skills that I’ve transferred into other areas of my life.

Yes, frights, flights and fears will always be there, but you can choose how to handle them. Practise. Persist. And occasionally look back to see how far you’ve come.

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full. 

8 Strategies for Handling Unease During an Adventure

Daisy Spoke BannerHaving been on the road with my daughter now for over a week on my April Adventure road trip throughout central, northern and western Queensland, and heading north through the Northern Territory to Darwin, I’ve managed to settle in and really enjoy myself despite feeling unprepared and unorganised when we started. I’ve fairly easily challenged some of my underlying fears and assumptions about travel including leaving half my family behind, not researching details about the route and destinations, not planning my return flight home when I leave my daughter in the tropical north to start her new job, being female and camping in out-of-the-way places and driving on remote roads, and the list goes on. 

View from car windscreen

My latest challenge came only last night. Arriving at Elsey National Park near Mataranka I felt somewhat unsettled. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was about. The environment was not like any I’d spent time in before. It looked like a combination of wetlands and dry scrub with earth that appeared to be recently wet with rain but had since dried to a fine powder as silt does after a flood. There was a plethora of wildlife. The insects were very diverse, big and plentiful. I saw some grasshoppers that reminded me of the vivid yellow plastic toy grasshoppers you can buy in cheap toy packs from the dollar stores. The sounds of the bush here also seemed strange and haunting. I couldn’t tell the difference between bird and insect calls, or perhaps even other animals yet unseen. It was eerily quiet with only one other campsite inhabited by humans and the campgrounds extended well beyond sight in every direction. The facilities buildings were half fenced off and I was curious about this but couldn’t think of any rational reason why they would be fenced in this unusual way. 

We decided on a campsite with some shade, green grass and a picnic table, andCampsite at Elsey NP before we even set up camp we had a short walk around the area. A sudden loud rustle in the bushes next to us startled me. Turning around and expecting to see a wallaby, my daughter tells me I wouldn’t want to know what made that noise. On further enquiry she tells me it was a rather large snake, and I began to seriously wonder about moving our campsite further away from said snake. 

Roper River, Elsey NPMy uneasiness only increased as the evening rolled on and in particular when we came face to face with another snake only a few metres from our tents. Still, I wandered why the uneasiness was there in the first place. Was I sensing a spiritual presence? Was it simply that everything seemed strange and unfamiliar? Or perhaps the absence of other humans? Was I simply tired and misreading my intuition? Was it FEAR welling up and testing my inner strength? 

But how to handle this uneasiness? I decided to take some of my own advice and implemented these strategies:

  1. I chose to “be” with my uneasiness. I acknowledged how I truly felt instead of denying or avoiding it. 
  2. I shared my feelings and concerns with my daughter, getting them out into the open instead of hiding them away and pretending they didn’t exist as I would have in the past. 
  3. I listened and looked, tuning into my surroundings in the present time, focusing on grounding myself to the moment rather than flying off into a fantastical and irrational anxiety about what might happen. 
  4. I set an intention to be open to possibilities and new experiences. Instead of being closed-minded and putting up barriers to enjoying myself, I chose to embrace the experience and adopt an adventurous mindset. 
  5. I intentionally invoked a relaxation response when I noticed my anxiety rising. I brought my attention to my breath and let go of the physical tension that I felt. 
  6. I used rational and logical self-talk such as “Just because I’ve seen a snake (or two) close to camp doesn’t mean I’m in any greater danger than if I hadn’t seen them”; “Not all snakes are deadly”; “We have a snake bandage on us at all times and an emergency signalling system if we need to use it”; 
  7. I immersed myself in the sounds of the night as I went to sleep, setting an intention of getting to know them better; an intention of curiosity, wonder and awe. 
  8. I also created an action to take during the night that however irrational it was, it really helped! It may seem funny to anyone else, and in fact it does to me now too! Whenever I stirred during the night and noticed that I’d rolled off my camping mattress or that I was touching the sides of the tent, I rolled back onto the mattress telling myself I can go to sleep safely now because no snake can bite me through the mattress even if does manage to slither its way under my tent!

Kathryn at Elsey NPAnd so I survived. In fact I thrived and had possibly the best sleep so far on my April Adventure. I awoke before dawn, spent a couple of hours silently meditating, embracing my surroundings and feeling entirely captivated by what seemed so haunting and difficult the day before. I feel an immense sense of satisfaction that I didn’t allow my anxiety to rule and limit me. I chose to respect it but also to stand up to it. In doing so I’ve come to know an amazing spiritual aspect of this sacred land which I may not ever understand, but I can accept it and embrace it. And when I do that, I also accept and embrace myself. 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full. 

 

 

 

The Fearful Adventurer: 5 hacks to turn fear into adventure

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I’ve always believed I operate best when I can plan ahead and organise or control the situation around me so it was with a deep breath that I set off on my current journey with barely a glance at a map. In fact I didn’t even pack my bag till the morning I left, and had so much on my mind and so many work tasks to complete that I hadn’t given the two week “April Adventure” road trip covering approximately 4200kms much thought at all. 

RainforestMy Year of Adventure in fact began on New Year’s Eve as I set off on a week long road trip with my family to Melbourne and back home again traversing half the eastern side of Australia. With one daughter now settled in Victoria, I refocused my attention on developing new online programs and resources for women. I was thrilled to take my “February Adventure” to Hahndorf in South Australia to participate in and present at the Thriving Women 2018 conference. My “March Adventure” was closer to home with weekends and day trips to several magnificent National Parks, immersing myself in one of my great loves – bushwalking. 

So here I am on my “April Adventure”. This journey has snuck up very quickly on me, and if I had paused for a moment to think about it, I’m sure I would have had2 single tents a lot of “what if’s” and identified as a fearful and hesitant adventurer rather than a brave one. My April Adventure has brought up a number of ‘firsts’ for me – I’ve left half my family behind, I’m travelling with only one companion (my younger daughter) through some fairly remote parts of Australia, I’m camping in a tent by myself, I’m having to step up and make decisions I’ve not been responsible for previously, and I’m operating a business far from home and frequently without mobile reception or internet connection. 

With a firm belief in stepping outside my comfort zone in order to learn and grow as a person, I chose to embrace the opportunities that my April Adventure has gifted me. And to satisfy my need for structure and predictability, I’ve created 5 hacks to manage potential feelings of overwhelm and anxiety about the ‘bigness’ of this adventure. I know you’ll find them useful too if you ever experience a sense of trepidation when stepping outside your comfort zone. 

5 Hacks To Turn Fear Into Adventure

1. Break the task up into smaller tasks (or adventures) and focus on one at a time. 

For me, I’ve been focusing on the day and night ahead – my next destination, my next meals, my next fuel stops – instead of worrying so much about the camp site and weather conditions at my final destination. Each day is a mini adventure in itself. Don’t miss out on these little adventures because you’re looking too far ahead. 

View from car windscreen

2. Look around you, focus on the moment.

I never tire of looking out the window on road trips. The subtle changes in scenery, weather, road conditions, flora and fauna, lifestyle, language, and local industries. I absolutely love it. I wonder what it would be like to live here, to have been here hundreds of years ago, the stories of the First Nation’s people in this area, I wonder who built these roads and when and how,  what do the local people do in their everyday lives…… Captivated by my immediate surroundings, I’ve found my wandering mind is creative and free, and not constrained by my fear mongering reptilian brain. 

View of landscape

3. Maintain a routine

My social media posts on Facebook and Instagram during my trip have reflected a very important part of my routine that keeps my mind, body and spirit healthy – morning exercise! It’s not always possible to complete my entire routine but by taking a flexible approach I’ve kept my head and heart on an even keel. 

Bushwalking

4. Listen to podcasts, Commonwealth Games news, audio books, music, anything of interest!

How lucky was it that my trip coincided with the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Never a dull moment on the radio when we can pick up the commentary, and always opportunities to listen to pre-downloaded podcasts, training videos or catch up on a bit of blogging! Giving your attention something to hook onto prevents it from wandering away into the land of the most feared!

Reading at camp

5. Chat to people around you. 

You never know your connections until you have a conversation with someone. Connections bring the world closer together, enhance empathy, and create opportunities for sharing stories and understanding. Looking outwardly minimises anxiety about our own situations and relaxes our mindsets. 

Person standing on viewing platform

NOW, has anyone got any hacks to help me deal with the outback flies????!

What hacks do you have for managing the discomfort you feel when stepping outside your comfort zone?

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.