How to make time for self-care

In light of my self-professed need for some attention to self-care and my observations that many others around me could benefit from the same, I recently declared July 2020 to be “Self-Care Month”. This blog, in combination with the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast, my Facebook pages and my Facebook Group, have been rolling out some tools to help you create self-care opportunities in your life. As the COVID-19 restrictions eased somewhat in my region over the last month, I was also able to re-instate some bush adventure activities for the community which has been super exciting and nurturing both for myself and the participants.

Throughout July I’ve shared information with you about how you can use nature to manage stress and I’ve given you a guided mindfulness practice in Episode 14 of the podcast. I’ve also posed some questions for you to reflect on to help you identify what self-care looks like for you, what gets in the way, and which aspects of self-care you’d most like to focus your time and energy on. And now in this post we’re going to delve further into one of the most common obstacles that stops women from regular self-care routines – having enough TIME. The challenge is real – trying to do all the things in life including working, parenting, socialising, daily living tasks, responsibilities and looking after others can make it tricky to prioritise time and energy towards self.

self-care time management

Time Management

Here’s something I wrote a little while back in a blog about time management and I think it’s totally relevant now:

“TIME! We never seem to have enough of it, we’re always fighting it, and it’s invisible! It seems to slip through our fingers without care. It’s like an elusive double agent, tempting us with tantalising pleasures, and then it’s gone, leaving us with nothing but a pile of to-do’s and deadlines in its wake. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll always find something to fill in a space that’s left when we are more efficient with our time – there’ll never be enough of it!

Time Management is a real thing!
Managing the time we have available to us is a learned skill and one that we can continually refine as our needs, activities and priorities change. There are a lot of self-help books on this topic, but honestly, who has the time to read them!”

Inner stories about self-care

When you hear or see the word ‘self-care’, what comes to your mind? What stories do you have kicking around your mind about taking time for self-care? Commonly women have told me:

  • The kids have to come first
  • Self-care is selfish
  • I feel so guilty if I do something for myself without the rest of the family
  • I don’t have time for self-care
  • Self-care is a luxury, it’s not for everyday life when you have to work hard to put bread on the table
  • I’m just aiming to survive – don’t give me anything more to deal with

These are all variations of saying “I don’t have enough time to do all the things. ‘Me’ and ‘self-care’ come last.”

But how would it be if you DID have enough time? What would your self-care look like then? Again, many women have told me they’d like to:

  • have quiet time to themselves
  • spend more time with friends laughing and relaxing
  • have more holidays
  • read more books
  • write a book
  • invest time in preparing nutritious food
  • have a regular exercise routine
  • go to yoga classes
  • have a weekend away with their partner or friends or go to a retreat

Self-care doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive – it all depends on how you define self-care. I wrote about What Does Self-Care Look Like? in the last blog post.

How CAN you make time for self-care?

If you’re ready to overcome the hurdle of time and get your self-care routine happening, you might find some of these ideas helpful:

1. Time is a commodity you exchange for something else

Time is a precious commodity that you exchange for something else. It’s like a business transaction between yourself and the universe. If you spend lots of money on luxury items you might not have enough left over for the basic household bills. Do you invest time into the luxury things of life – the things the wellness industry and social media would have us believe are necessary parts of self-care? Or do you invest your time firstly in the foundations of caring for your self like nutritious food, exercise and sleep?

2. You have a choice

You choose how you spend your time, in the same way that you choose how you spend your money. What choices are you making? Are you spending time inside scrolling on your phone mindlessly when you’re tired, or are you getting outside for a walk and fresh air, exercise, and getting a good sleep? Are you choosing takeaway food to have a night off cooking, or are you choosing to stock your fridge with fresh produce so that everyday you fuel your body with easy-to-prepare fresh foods?

The challenge with time management is to manage ourselves

3. Get your priorities straight

There will always be competing priorities and responsibilities in your life. Work out a system for prioritising everything, a bit like having a formula to help you decide what comes first, second and so on. A lot of us find ourselves reacting to crises or urgent problems constantly and that’s exhausting! This is when self-care often gets shoved down to the bottom of the priority list. But when you invest in self-care, you’re also investing in a strong foundation for yourself. You’ll be more productive, efficient and effective. Plan ahead and get organised. You could:

  • do one big grocery shop each week instead of every day
  • pre-prepare meals ahead of time so you don’t resort to convenience foods or take-away
  • batch your cooking and refrigerate or freeze leftovers for another night
  • install a meditation app on your phone and schedule your daily meditation into your day
  • schedule your exercise and time in the outdoors
  • combine time outdoors with either exercise or meditation for extra value-packed self-care
  • create flexible but firm routines to ensure your self-care doesn’t get left out – don’t let your boundaries get squishy and allow other things to take priority

self-care and nutrition

4. Change your mindset about time

Treat time as a precious gift that’s been given to you. Remember, time can never be refunded once it’s spent. Use it wisely.

5. What are your time vampires?

What sucks the time out of your day? Where does your time go? Are you okay about this? What can you realistically do about this? What can you change? If your life was a movie, what would your audience suggest you could do to spend your time more wisely so that your self-care doesn’t get left out, and you feel happier and more fulfilled?

time management clock

6. Record your actions for a day, or longer!

Make a note in your diary or notepad of how you’re spending your day. Note down the time and what task or activity you are working on, and what time you finished. Or break your diary into 10-15 minute time blocks and record what you’re doing at every time interval. It only takes a teeny bit of time to do this, but the investment is well worthwhile! This strategy can highlight where your time goes, and keep you accountable to your goals. For example, if you want to work on a self-care goal like going for a walk or tending a vegetable garden, record the time you spend actually doing it and make a note of the benefits you experience when you make it happen.

7. Become more mindful of what you’re doing as you’re doing it

Pause at regular intervals and ask yourself “What am I doing now?” This precious moment is all you have. How are you spending your energy and time right now, in this precious moment?

8. Don’t make excuses

It’s easy to blame other people and situations for lack of time, for not being able to get outside for a walk or meditate or sit outside to watch the sunrise or sunset. Do a thorough audit and be honest with yourself. What can you take responsibility for? What changes can you make?

9. Avoid distractions

Is distraction an issue for you? Phones are known to be one of the greatest distractions to humankind because they’re so portable. We take them everywhere. Whether it’s a phone or something else consuming your time, how can you best manage your distractions so you have enough time for your priorities? Here are a few ideas to make it as easy as possible to keep your attention laser-focused and make best use of your time:

  • set a timer to go off at regular intervals to remind yourself to refocus your attention, go for a walk, or simply to stop and take a few deep breaths
  • switch off your wi-fi and use your phone as … well, a phone! Or mute it or switch it off when you want to focus on a task or have a break.
  • turn off notifications on your phone
  • close the door to your room if you want to concentrate and get a task done
    put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office
  • reward yourself when you’ve completed tasks within a set time frame

Let's sum up!

You CAN make time for self-care

It’s vital that we all make self-care a priority and not use lack of time as an excuse. Basic self-care doesn’t need to take a lot of time, but if time is a real issue for you, try following the strategies we’ve discussed in this article – your mind and body will thank you for it.

Here’s a reminder!

  • Time is a commodity – spend it wisely!
  • YOU choose moment to moment how you spend your time
  • Get your priorities sorted
  • Change your mindset about time – it’s a precious gift
  • Be aware of your time vampires
  • Record how you spend your time
  • Be mindful of how you’re spending your time
  • Don’t make excuses
  • Avoid distractions

I’d love to hear any other time management strategies you use to keep your self-care in action. Send me a message, and head on over to the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group where we’re sharing ideas and inspiration about self-care in nature!

Listen to the audio version of “How to Make Time for Self-Care” here!

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, workplaces and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

What does self-care look like?

I’m writing this article during the month of July in the year 2020 and I’m asking all sorts of questions to get you thinking about your own self-care. Recently I wrote about how to stress less in nature. Nature offers a rich and beautiful set of self-care tools that you can easily and affordably access. In the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast last week I shared a guided mindfulness practice that you can do outdoors – once again this is a valuable self-care tool.

But today I want to get back to exploring the true meaning of self-care including what you most need to focus on so you don’t get distracted or led up the wrong path when it comes to self-care. Next week you’ll get some tips on managing one of the most common obstacles that women stumble over with self-care, and that’s time – juggling all the things, the competing priorities and responsibilities.

self-care month

Self-care is never skin-deep

Self-care is never skin deep. If you believe the advertisements trying to sell you a glossy image of self-care, it might look like having your nails done, having a holiday in Bali or spending a whole day shopping for new clothes and handbags and shoes. And these activities can be part of self-care. But if we only focus on buying luxury and often expensive activities, services and products to make ourselves feel good, then we’re missing out on the vital aspects, the very foundations of true self-care.

Finding a common thread between Child Care, Aged Care and Self-Care

Let’s look at it another way. If I asked you what’s child care, or aged care or neighbourhood care, what do you think of? What are the tasks, the activities you actually do when you’re caring for children or older people in poor health or your neighbours?

Child Care – tasks and values

When I think of child care for example, I think about looking after children’s physical and emotional needs like:

  • providing a safe environment for them to play
  • giving them plenty of running around time outdoors
  • preparing food
  • buying the groceries and bringing them home
  • getting the house in order
  • making sure the kids have educational activities like great books and games
  • setting boundaries on their bedtimes and use of devices
  • cooking nutritious meals
  • packing their lunches with care and attention (sometimes leaving a special treat or message in there for them)
  • making sure they get to sports practice and get their homework done
  • supporting them to rise up to challenges and celebrate the joys and successes
  • helping them settle down to sleep with a good evening routine
  • listening to the children with compassion when they’re upset, giving them some gentle advice and checking back in with how they’re going later on
  • organising medical advice and treatment when they are unwell

Caring for children, aged and sick people, and our neighbours generally starts with making sure that physical and emotional needs are met. Care also goes beyond those basics because our actions align with values such as love, kindness and compassion.

Self-Care – tasks and values

When it comes to self-care how many of these tasks do you routinely do for yourself, and when you do, are you doing them with love, care, kindness and compassion?

Which of these tasks or values get left out?

Where are you at with your self-care?

Here are some reflective questions you can ask yourself to identify where you’re at with self-care right now. These questions are intended to be a prompt to identify where you might be able to focus some extra energy and attention. They’re not meant to be a judgement or comparison between yourself and anyone else. Self-care looks a bit different to each individual so there is no right way of doing it. But you’ll know when you’re doing self-care better because you’ll have more energy, attention and compassion for the other parts of your life – your relationships, the people you care for. You’ll feel like your cup is full enough to be able to share your time and energy being with others and helping others at work or in your personal life.

Self-Care Audit and Reflection QUESTIONS

• Am I choosing carefully and lovingly what I feed myself with, what I put into and onto my body – food as natural as possible, water, cosmetics, and anything else?
• Am I looking after myself by moving my body throughout the day? This is the single biggest factor that will improve your health prospects.
• Am I getting outside everyday to enjoy the fresh air, or sunshine, or rain, the garden, the clouds, the breeze?
• Am I exercising? Exercise is physical movement for a specific purpose for example to improve cardio-vascular fitness, flexibility, endurance, strength.
• Am I nurturing myself with social activities that feed my mind and soul? Am I connecting with people who lift me up and add great value to my life?
• Am I getting enough sleep?
• Am I self-disciplined with using devices and how I spend my time including getting to bed and getting up in the morning?
• Do I listen to my body and my mind and my heart?
• Am I compassionate and caring towards myself in ways that I’m compassionate and caring towards others?
• How am I speaking to myself today? Am I speaking to myself as I would speak to a friend?
• Am I spending time in nature? Do I check in every week to find my place in the natural world? 2 hours a week is good amount of nature time to aim for to enjoy its benefits the most.
• Do I gift myself time and space to reflect, to think, to pause, to just be?

self-care nutritionself-care sleepself-care move more
Are you neglecting or nurturing your self-care?

These questions dig down into the very foundations of self-care that we often neglect. These are the aspects of self-care that build your health and energy, your sense of vitality and self-worth. They don’t sound super-exciting or dazzling but they are essential. If you neglect these foundations, and spend your time, energy and money constantly seeking other activities to fill your self-care cup, you’ll never be content.

What parts of self-care do you most need to focus on?

What aspects of self-care are you currently practising and feel satisfied with?

And which ones would you like to work on?

How are you going to do that?

What might get in the way?

Share your story with me!

I love having conversations like these with the women in my communities and I’d love to hear from you too. Let me know how your self-care practices are going, what the challenges are and what’s working well. You can also request a complementary 30 minute video chat (for a limited time, maximum numbers, Australia only).

If you haven’t already, join the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Community where there’s lots of sharing of inspiring ways to practise self-care in the outdoors. You can also sign up to receive my fortnightly Grounded Inspiration email newsletters filled with snippets of information and inspiration to keep your self-care, health and happiness rolling along.

Listen along to the podcast episode “What does self-care look like?”

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, workplaces and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.

Stress Less in Nature

stress less in nature

We all experience it and we all have ways to manage it – some ways are more healthy and effective than others! This post is all about stress, the relaxation response, and how you can learn to stress less in nature.

Stress has a purpose

Typically we associate stress with overwhelm, overwork and feelings of dread and anxiety. It’s a complex system that involves your brain, nervous system and a range of bio chemicals that gets you ready for action. A couple of the stress hormones are quite famous so you’re probably familiar with their names – epinephrine or adrenaline, and cortisol. These hormones can have an enormous impact on your physiology – your muscles become tense, and your heart rate and breathing rate increase.

These sorts of responses are really helpful when you’re in immediate danger because they help you to move quickly, for example to jump out of the way towards safety if you need to.

Ongoing stress impacts health

But when your brain and body remain in this type of stress loop for a long period of time, there are other impacts on your health – high blood pressure, coronary problems, brain changes that can contribute to depression, anxiety and addictions, obesity, problems with sleeping, difficulty relaxing and winding down, and irritability.

It’s as if your body is on full throttle and the brakes aren’t being activated.

stress less for better health

Be ‘stress aware’

But did you know that this ‘full gas’ stress response can also happen when life seems good? When you’re racing through life, exercising hard, working long hours at a job even one that you love, coming home to care for your family, taking the kids to sport, getting the groceries, renovating the house, socialising on weekends – well, there’s a certain level of load on your body and brain then too. It’s important that you take stock of all of your loads, not just the dreaded ones when you’re trying to understand how your body deals with stress. You may not be aware of the build-up of your loads until things come crashing down.

Regulate your stress response

So if there’s a whole lot of throttle in your life, whether it’s wanted or unwanted, how can you regulate it so that your stress response doesn’t become unhealthy and lead you toward poor health – physical and mental?

#1 Where are you spending your energy and attention?

You can do an audit of your life to see where your energy and attention is going. Ask yourself:

  • Are there things you can change, maybe let go of, or reprioritise to reduce the load?
  • Are you saying yes to too many things?
  • Do you feel pressure to live your life a particular way even though it might not feel right for you?
  • Are you drinking lots of coffee? Alcohol? Tobacco or other drugs? These all put a load on your body and your brain.
  • What about your sleep? Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep adds another load on your life.
  • And your nutrition – what foods are you taking into your body that might be adding to your stresses or loads?

Once you’ve done some sorting to identify what’s contributing to your loads, you can move onto the next step.

Saying no

#2 Bring about a relaxation response

If you’ve cleaned up the loads in your life, it’s now time to bring about a relaxation response. A relaxation response is a bit like the brake that stops the stress response from continuing to escalate and the stress building up over time. A relaxation response can counteract the stress response to some extent by slowing the breathing and heart rate, reducing tension in the muscles, lowering blood pressure and increasing a feeling of inner calm.

So what’s the secret formula to this amazing brake-inducing relaxation response?

You can learn to bring about a relaxation response using a range of cognitive (mind-based) and behavioural (action-based) strategies. Some of the most powerful ones are:

  • certain breathing practices
  • visualisations
  • meditation
  • tai chi
  • yoga
  • prayer

It can be very helpful to have a mentor or a teacher guide you to find the best practice for you and to help you problem-solve it when it doesn’t seem to work. This is one of my favourite parts of the work I do, because I know just how transformational it is when you discover a technique or strategy that meets your needs. In fact I believe that meditation and breathing practices are so important that they feature in every women’s retreat and every workshop I run no matter what the topic is, even my professional development programs!

stress less with breathing practices

More ways to bring about a relaxation response

Physical exercise can also help you to stress less and bring about the relaxation response. Brisk exercise is really good for releasing stress and tension, and gentle exercise can bring about a sense of calm. So my recommendation is to make sure you have a combination of brisk and gentle exercise in your week. Even better – learn to read your body patterns over time so you know which type of exercise you need at different times.

And another important ingredient here to managing your stress load is having great supports and relationships in your life.

Stress less activities in nature

nature is my therapy bundleI’ve included some of my favourite stress less activities that you can do in nature in the “Nature is my Therapy Bundle”. You can grab a copy of this for yourself (for a limited time only) by heading over to my website and signing up for my email newsletter Grounded Inspiration. At the time of writing this blog post, the Nature is my Therapy Bundle is a gift that I send to all new subscribers of Grounded Inspiration.

But in the meantime here are some stress less activities that you can do in nature right now:

  • Go outside and spend a few minutes simply being still, listen to the sounds around you
  • Go for a walk outside to clear your head
  • Have a yummy picnic in a natural environment
  • Take your drawing, painting, writing or other craft outdoors
  • Go on a nature treasure hunt
  • Explore a park
  • Give your worries to something outside like a tree or a stream
  • Snap some photos of the beautiful little treasures you find outside
  • Go on a camping trip
  • Take your meditation practice outdoors
  • Watch the sunset or sunrise
  • Grow a garden, pot plants or herbs for kitchen

Let's sum up!

I do hope this post has given you a little bit of understanding about how stress works in your body, how it can affect physical and mental health, the importance of managing the loads you have in your life, and how you can bring about a relaxation response to put the brakes on the stress response. And of course some ideas to take your stress less activities outdoors and immerse yourself in nature.

Do you have a favourite stress less activity in the outdoors? Let me know by sending me a message!

Listen in to the podcast episode here!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn 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.

Improve Your Sleep By Spending Time Outdoors

Use the outdoors to improve your sleep

Did you know that you can improve your sleep by spending time outdoors? In this blog post, I’m going to break the research down into practical bite-sized pieces of information so you can take the steps you need to get a better night’s sleep.

The connections between sleep, the outdoors and mental health

Sleep is closely linked to mental and physical health but nearly half of adults report not having adequate sleep. I’ve written in other blog posts about the complex nature of sleep so I won’t delve into the details here. But it’s important to understand that there are many factors that affect sleep quality and quantity. This means that the research about sleep can be pretty tricky. For one thing, it’s difficult to separate out all the different factors and identify exactly what causes what for different people in different situations. One of the factors that we know impacts sleep is spending time outdoors. So let’s have a closer look at how you can use this all-natural treatment to improve your sleep and feel better.

Day to day stresses affect your sleep

Day to day stresses affect your sleep so you need to develop effective stress management strategies not only to deal with your stresses when you’re lying awake in bed at night, but more importantly managing your stresses throughout each day so you don’t carry them to bed with you. There are many ways you can use nature to help with stress management:

  • The fractals of nature can be soothing. Fractals are the patterns that you can see and hear repeated in nature such as tree branches, ripples on a pond, the shape of snowflakes and the way they fall, ocean waves, the patterns on tree bark and animal skin, the sound of a running stream or a waterfall.
  • Meditation and mindfulness practices are known to be very useful for managing stress among other things, and the outdoors is a great place to practise them. Using your senses, bring yourself into the present moment – what do your see / hear / taste / smell / touch? Meditation and mindfulness practices can also help you refocus your attention and let go of stresses that you’re carrying around with you.
  • Physical activity and exercise are great ways to manage stress. Moving your body triggers changes in your bio-chemistry so that you feel better and manage your stresses better. When you get outdoors you’re more likely to be active than when you stay indoors. The point here is to be intentional about giving yourself outdoors time every day and to be as active as possible.
  • If you can’t get outside, for whatever reason, find ways to bring nature in to you that brings you joy and a sense of calm. You could try opening a window, growing indoor pot plants or flowers, displaying sea shells or even hang up a landscape painting or a photo of a natural setting.
  • Your imagination is another tool for managing stress by connecting you with nature even if you’re not outside. If you’re having difficulty sleeping or want to relax, you can visualise yourself in a natural setting. Invite all your senses to help out so that you truly feel as if you’re in a tranquil location surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells that help you de-stress and relax. I like to visualise myself lying on the sand at the beach and letting my stresses drain away into the sand as the sun warms my skin, the waves softly lapping the shore and the she-oaks waving their branches.

Nature setting - beach

Physical activity and exercise reduces stress levels and improves sleep

When you spend time outdoors you’re more likely to be physically active. Your body was designed to move, to be active, so it’s important to move a lot throughout the day. Activity and exercise also tires you out so you’re more likely to get a better sleep.

Medical conditions and pain can affect your activity levels and your sleep. My advice here is to focus on what you CAN do rather than what you can’t. Seek advice from your health professionals about the best and safest ways for you to be active. In general, something is better than nothing.

According to the research, moderate to vigorous physical activity is the best intensity of exercise to improve your sleep. When you are engaged in moderate intensity activity, you’ll feel your heart rate and breathing rate increase. You’ll feel like you’re working but you can still have a conversation with someone. Step it up a notch to vigorous intensity activity and you won’t be able to carry on that conversation any longer. Measuring intensity is all about your personal experience, so make sure you don’t compare yourself with others.

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines are a useful guide to improve general health and wellbeing including sleep. Some other countries have similar guidelines developed from recommendations published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) including USA, Canada and UK. The Australian Guidelines state:

  • Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.
  • Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
  • Accumulate 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
  • Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

Exercise in the afternoon can disrupt your sleep, especially if it’s vigorous exercise, so for most people the recommendation is to exercise in the morning if possible and preferably outdoors with the morning light (see my next point!)

The research also shows that time spent outdoors at any time of the day may assist with sleep but afternoon exercise is possibly best kept at a gentle level.

Bushwalking

Light exposure can help or hinder sleep

You can use your exposure to light to help improve your sleep. Go outside first thing in the morning – the blue light that is dominant in the morning wakes you up and triggers your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin which is released after dark and causes you to feel sleepy. Remember to follow the health guidelines for protecting your skin from damage by the sun.

Every morning when you go outdoors into the sunlight, you re-set your body clock. This is why it’s important to avoid blue light after dark. Put your devices away (remember to mute them!) and do some other activities instead. Think about the sorts of activities that previous generations may have done in the evening such as playing or listening to music, reading, playing board or card games and even going to bed earlier!

A consistent daily routine sets you up for a better night sleep

The research suggests that people with a consistent daily routine that incorporates exercise, time outdoors, meal times and relaxing activities in the evening are more likely to sleep better. Does your daily routine consistently include all these things? If not, how you can you re-arrange things so that it does?

But what if you have children or a baby!?

Disruptions to sleep are inevitable when you have children or are caring for someone else. It’s a 24/7 job and it doesn’t go on forever although it might feel like it at the time! The general recommendation is to sneak sleep in when and where you can and to get support or practical help with your responsibilities. If you don’t have a tribe (or a village) around you, create one for yourself and your family rather than striving for independence. Ask for help.

A healthy daily routine is vital for everyone no matter their age. Australia has developed the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines which complement the Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. You can model these guidelines for your family by setting healthy boundaries and routines for everyone that includes outdoors time, physical activity, exposure to natural patterns of light and dark, meal times and bed times.

Tropical Rainforest Adventures with Children

Bring nature into your bedroom

It’s important to have a safe, comfortable sleeping space. You can use nature to enhance your bedroom environment and improve your sleep.

Studies on people who go camping show that many campers sleep better and longer. They also tend to go to bed with the sun and wake up with the sun as our ancestors did. There are probably many factors contributing to this, so I’m not suggesting you move into a tent to improve your sleep, but it’s worth exploring how you might be able to tweak your sleeping environment, evening routine, behaviours and habits to replicate what happens in a camping situation. You could try the following:

  • Dim your house lights after dark and minimise exposure to blue light. You could mute your devices and put them in another room.
  • If you have bright street lights or car lights shining through your bedroom window, think about window coverings that will block them. Change the arrangement of furniture in your room to lessen the problem. Can you grow some plants or install an external window shade that blocks the light?
  • Many people like to keep a light on during their sleeping hours to provide comfort or safety when getting up to the bathroom. Try using a light that has a soft, warm glow rather than a bright light.
  • Air temperature and air flow, or lack of it, can disrupt your sleep. Your body needs to drop in temperature to have a good sleep. Unless you live in the tropics, the temperature normally drops at night time, so be careful not to rug up too much. Likewise, if it’s a hot night, you might need to find ways to cool down such as leaving the windows and internal doors open to allow for air flow.
  • Gazing at the night sky from the comfort of bed can be relaxing for many people, but not for others. Adjust your window coverings and rearrange your furnishings to suit your needs.
  • Waking up with the sunrise and going to bed just after sunset can be a wonderful way to start and end your day. Of course this is different at different times of the year and in different parts of the globe and isn’t always practical. But it’s definitely a habit worth considering.
  • What about the sounds you hear when you go to bed? Many people eventually get used to the sounds in their own neighbourhoods including cars, trains and sirens. But it can also take a while to get used to the sounds of nature at night if you’re not familiar with them. What nature sounds do you find soothing, and which do you find unsettling? How can you intentionally bring soothing sounds into your sleep environment? You could play music that incorporates the sounds of nature or download a ‘nature sounds’ app.
  • Aromatherapy can be used to improve your sleep too. Think about which aromas (or smells) you find soothing in nature and how you can safely bring them into your sleeping space. For example, you could have some fresh or dried lavender in your room if you like that scent, or use essential oils or incense (but for safety reasons don’t keep anything burning or heating when you go to bed, and follow recommended instructions carefully.)

Campsite at Elsey NP

What to do if you need more help to improve your sleep

If your sleep doesn’t improve after trying these strategies, have a chat with your doctor or health professional who can help you explore what you need to do in your situation. There are some medical and psychological conditions such as sleep apnoea, certain chronic diseases and stress disorders that may need more specialised interventions to get you the super sleep you deserve!

It’s up to you now to take action.

What can you do, what’s in your control right now that you can experiment with to improve your sleep? How can you use the outdoors to get a better sleep?

  • Manage your stress levels each day by getting outside or connecting with nature in some way
  • Get outside each day, be more active or increase the intensity of your exercise
  • Spend time outside first thing in the morning to get a dose of natural light that re-sets your body clock and helps you to feel sleepy later in the evening
  • Create a consistent daily routine that includes getting up and going to bed closer to sunrise and sunset, spending time outdoors, getting plenty of movement and exercise, avoiding blue light in the evening and doing some relaxing activities instead of scrolling through your device
  • Model a healthy routine for your children and set boundaries around their activities
  • Bring soothing aspects of nature into your sleeping environment by checking in with your senses – what can I see, hear, touch, smell that is calming and is associated with rest and sleep

Whatever you do, don’t give up too quickly. Stick at it because it can take a while to see the results. We know that even when you implement a new healthy habit, it can take a few weeks or months for it to really kick in.

Download the free printable!

improve your sleepI’ve created a handy hint sheet for you to use to remind you about all the actions you can take to improve your sleep by using the outdoors.

When you click on the image you’ll be taken to the RESOURCES tab on my website where you’ll find this handy hint sheet, along with many other printables which are free for you to download and print for your own use.

Listen to the audio version of this blog on the podcast!

As I write this blog post, our “Outdoors is my Therapy” podcast listeners are growing in number every day. I have many fabulous topics planned for the podcast including some interviews and stories about outdoor adventures.

I’d love to know if you have a topic about the outdoors that you’d love to hear more about. You can let me know via Facebook, Instagram or email. And join the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group for plenty of inspiring chat and photos about the outdoors.

Daisy SpokeDiscovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Asking for help to reach your goals: a true story

Daisy Spoke Banner

Last week I wrote about asking for help. Today I want to share with you a true story about asking for help and how it was the exact strategy needed to reach a goal. This story is about me. Well, actually it’s really about you. It’s about how you can ask for help to reach your goals so that the challenges that will inevitably arise don’t become stumbling blocks on your way to success.

Setting goals is essential for growth and satisfaction

I believe that setting goals is essential for personal and professional growth and life satisfaction. There’s a delicate balance between accepting and embracing life as it is, and striving to be the best version of yourself. I don’t always get the balance right and sometimes find myself floundering in a pool of frustration as I strive for independence instead of striving towards my goal. This state of affairs is definitely not conducive to accepting and embracing life as it is! What I’ve discovered is that asking for help along the way does not necessarily erode your independence, but it does help you to accept and embrace life AND have the satisfaction of achieving success.

What's my plan of action to deal with this issue?

I set a goal and ran into a problem

A few years ago I set the goal of jogging continuously for 2 kilometres. I started off in the recommended way progressing from fast walking to walk-jog-walk and gradually increasing the time I spent jogging. I didn’t pay much attention to my nagging foot discomfort as it got worse. I’d always had trouble with my feet and figured I’d just need to put up with it, push through it, and prove to myself that I wasn’t a Drama Queen. After all, isn’t that what all athletes do? When I couldn’t stop the tears as I walked between my house and shed I realised this was a little bit more than my usual foot trouble.

Asking for help vs independence

Having been raised with a high degree of independence and an aversion to asking for help (I was the student who never raised their hand to ask a question in class), I realised this situation was one that I couldn’t solve by myself. I needed help from someone who had specialist knowledge and skills. The constant pain was a daily prompt that I needed to take action. So that’s what I did. I took myself and my pain, shame and embarrassment to a doctor for a review and x-rays, and then to a podiatrist. Armed with orthotics, physio exercises, iced bottles and advice on shoes, I went home to rehabilitate. It was definitely no magical overnight fix; in fact it took many months before I was able to take up my jogging goal again. If only I’d asked for help sooner, I’d have reached my goal much earlier than I did.

sports shoes

You have to do more than simply ask for help

I really appreciated this lesson in life when I made my way back to my podiatrist last year with a new foot issue. I had a very specific goal that I was committed to and knew that if I was going to accomplish it I really needed her help with some new foot pain issues! I had four months to get myself sorted because I had registered for an overnight hiking expedition with a group of strangers in very rugged, steep country. The group was made up of bush adventure therapists, and I was sure I’d struggle to keep up even if I didn’t have foot pain.

Enthusiastically and confidently I gathered my new orthotics together with my new hiking shoes and new sports shoes and went home. I diligently did my exercises and physio every day, but the improvement was not as rapid as I’d hoped. A few weeks later I had a review with my podiatrist. I told her I’d been consistently doing the exercises but my foot was only a little bit better and I was worried it wasn’t going to get me up those steep rocky hills in another couple of months. The deadline was looming and I was losing hoping that I’d be able to reach my goal despite asking for help before things got really bad.

My podiatrist sensed my frustration and understood my goal-oriented approach to life. She did what I do in my counselling sessions with clients – she ran through my ‘homework’ checklist:

  1. Had I been wearing my orthotics? Yes!
  2. Had I been doing the calf stretches and massage at least twice a day? Yes!
  3. Had I been using the phsyio gel AND ibuprofen to reduce inflammation? “Ummm… no….. I thought that was just for the pain and I thought I’d be okay without it”
  4. Had I been icing my foot regularly, not just when it was really painful? “Ummm…no…”

Okay, so I’d THOUGHT I had been consistently following instructions but I hadn’t. I’d gone into autopilot mode following my ‘old’ treatment plan and had mentally filtered out some of the critical steps in the new treatment plan. Once I began following the plan completely, I was well on my way to achieving my goal. This consultation was a pivotal event for me. I realised how important it is to not only ask for help, but to listen to it carefully and follow through with every piece of advice.

bush adventure therapists on expedition

Choosing to ask for help is the balance between independence and success

Over the past few years I’ve thrown myself into the practice of asking for help from a range of professionals so I can reach my health and fitness goals as well as my business goals. Goals don’t have to be lofty to be valuable. They can target your ordinary everyday life, like learning to make your own muesli or re-potting a plant. When you set a goal and choose to ask for help, you’re finding that balance between independence and striving towards success, whatever that means for you.

Daisy Spoke avatar has long curly hair and smiling mouth

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Asking for help

Daisy Spoke Banner

Does it come as any surprise to you that one of the most common fears people have is related to asking for help? Yet asking for help is exactly what can help us move forward, achieve success, overcome challenges and experience a sense of fulfillment.

What IS the best way to deal with fear so that it doesn’t become a stumbling block and limit your success in life?

In this article I share my tips on managing one of our most common, unspoken fears – asking for help.

Fear is an obstacle to asking for help

Over the past few years my community has been impacted massively by severe drought and bushfires. Before that there were floods. With government and community support flowing in, it’s been interesting to witness how few people asked for the help that was available to them. Yes, we could argue that some of it wasn’t the right sort of help, or not offered in ways that were inviting and accessible. But during confidential one-on-one conversations with farmers, business owners and residents, it was evident that a number of fears were pretty big obstacles to asking for help such as hand-outs from charities and support from health professionals.

fear and possibility

Fear is the voice in your head that tells you not to ask for help

I like to describe fear as the voice in your head that tries to keep you safe. In the case of (not) asking for help, the voice of fear can bring up feelings of shame, lack of worth and pride. The voices of fear say things such as:

  • They’ll think you’re stupid if you ask for help.
  • You should be ashamed of yourself for getting into this predicament.
  • You never get anything right, you’re a failure.
  • Other people need / deserve help more than you.
  • It’s your own fault and you don’t deserve help. If only you had done [X] then this wouldn’t have happened.
  • You should have been prepared for this to happen, now you have to put up with the consequences.
  • You got yourself into this, you’ll have to get yourself out of it.
  • Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
  • Taking handouts would prove how lowly you are.
  • If you ask for help they’ll say ‘no’ then you’ll feel even worse.
  • Fear is trying to keep you safe but sometimes it oversteps the mark

Fear is trying to keep you safe but it can overstep the mark!

It’s just as well you have an in-built system of staying safe because there are dangers in our world that you need to prepare for and protect yourself from. Fear gets you ready to fight off the danger, run away and hide from it, or freeze. Even when there is no logical risk of danger, fear will continue to search for the possibility of it … just in case. This includes physical as well as emotional danger.

In most situations, asking for help isn’t going to put you in physical danger especially when it comes to asking for help that’s been offered to you by organisations and governments to assist with natural disasters. However emotional safety is at risk. Asking for help means opening a part of yourself that you usually keep hidden away. You feel vulnerable asking for help because those voices of fear have been shouting loud and clear and before you know it, you believe every word they say – even if it’s not true! In an effort to keep you safe, fear can overstep its mark and keep you small and scared, floundering in the wilderness of independence and isolation.

fight flight freeze OR pause breathe think

Put fear back in its place

Despite how tempting it might seem to completely do away with fear altogether, it’s an essential mechanism for survival. You can use the following strategies to keep fear in its place so that you don’t avoid asking for help when it could actually be, well, quite helpful to do so!

Listen to the voices of fear

It will seem strange at first, but no, it doesn’t mean you’re going crazy! What’s behind your voices of fear? Is is worry about what others think? Is it about people-pleasing? Is it shame and feelings of lack of worth? Guilt? A sense of failure? A desire for independence? Something else? When you get to know what’s behind your fear, you can respond to that instead of the fear itself.

Practise noticing when fear steps across the line of reason

Keep practising this noticing technique your whole life long. Simply noticing and remembering that fear is trying to keep you safe can settle those voices down a little bit.

Speak back to the voices of fear that are stopping you from asking for help

You could say:

  • Where’s the evidence for that?
  • Just because that happened before doesn’t mean it will happen again.
  • I pay my taxes and I deserve to claim some of that back in help.
  • We’re all wiser with hindsight. I did the best I could with the knowledge and skills and resources I had then. I can do my best now and that includes asking for professional / financial help.
  • I ask the solicitor for specialist advice about legal matters. I ask the garden shop for specialist advice about my garden. I ask the shoe shop for advice about buying new shoes. I can ask for help for anything I like including my relationships, my finances, my mental health.
  • If I ask for help, it will make other people feel like they can ask for help too.
Use some metaphors to re-imagine how your fear is behaving and how you could manage it

For example, you can picture yourself in a car putting fear in the back seat, strapping it in with a harness, and taking charge of the steering wheel yourself. If you are avoiding asking for help because the voices of fear are jumping up and down and shouting at you that everyone will think you’re stupid, don’t allow them to take control of your every movement. Be in charge of your emotions rather than allowing them to be in charge of you.

Another metaphor is to imagine that your voices of fear have a volume dial. You have control over how loud you allow your voices to be. Dial them down when they are clearly being irrational and there’s no evidence for what they are saying. Allow the volume to be louder when the risk of danger is higher.

Tell someone that you’re feeling reluctant about the idea of asking for help

Worries like these hate the light of day and as soon as you bring them out into the open, they tend to reduce in size or go away altogether. Fears about asking for help can seem very worrying when we keep them to ourselves; they gain power in your silence. Talking about your fears can lead to practical solutions that make it easier to ask for help.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

It uses inner courage and strength. Asking for help is a good thing. It’s how you find out information, learn and grow. It means you put the well-being of your loved ones above any fears or misgivings you harbour about asking for help.

are you feeding your fears

Use fear as a stepping stone to asking for help and achieving success

When you are ready, willing and able to ask for help, you put yourself in a powerful position to move beyond the position you’re currently in – whether that’s financial stress, relationship difficulties, health problems or anything else. You position yourself to succeed and experience a sense of fulfillment by overcoming the challenges. Don’t let fear become the stumbling block that prevents you from asking for help. Use it as a stepping stone to success.

Daisy Spoke avatar has long curly hair and smiling mouth

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Get Organised: working from home

Daisy Spoke Banner

Have you needed to get yourself and your household organised so you can be working or studying from home during the current coronavirus isolation? In this article I share why working from home works well for me (at least at the moment!), the fact that it can take a bit of experimentation to get it right for YOU, and a list of things that I find helpful to work effectively from my home office including systems, tools, routines, and all the other invisible stuff that people often don’t talk about.

Over the last couple of months we’ve seen an unprecedented rise in numbers of people working from home all round the globe. Even though there’s been a gradual transition towards remote work over the past few years, the current wave of moving work to home is absolutely astounding to witness. Getting organised to work from home is just one of many significant changes the world is adapting to during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How are you getting along with it?

I had a love-hate relationship with working from home for a long time

I’m sitting in my home office as I write this blog. At the moment I’m loving it! You see, I’m used to working from home, but that’s not to say I haven’t ever struggled with it! I had a love-hate relationship with working from home for a long time, and I’ve learned what works for me and my family in the space I have. Being self-employed, I’ve pivoted my business a couple of times over the years to better fit my vision, my family and my desired lifestyle. And that means I’ve needed to adapt and re-adapt more than once.

Kathryn looking at camera with wide eyes and smiling. Background of rainforest.

These days a lot of my work can be easily done from home and it saves a lot of money in office rent! My days are mostly spent preparing for workshops, collaborating by email, managing and promoting projects, applying for grants, using video-conferencing and phone for consultations, and of course writing. Not being able to lead bush adventure groups, retreats or workshops, or meet up in person with collaborators at the moment, means I now have space in my day to create my new podcast. This is also easily done from home. All in all, working from home is a really good fit for me.

outdoors is my therapy podcast logo

Getting organised to work from home will take some experimentation

I’m going to share with you a list of things that works for ME with the responsibilities I have and the home environment I’m in. You can use this list to inspire your imagination to make working from home much more do-able for you.

This year, 2020, is the first time in 24 years that I haven’t had school-age children with all the responsibilities that brings. It really has made a huge difference to my work output even though we’re a family of introverts and there isn’t a lot of noise or activity in my neighbourhood! I live out of town on a property in regional Queensland, Australia. YOUR responsibilities, family commitments, home environment, culture, workplace expectations, personality and supports will all have a bearing on how you get organised so you can work from home. It will take some experimentation, practise and negotiation with your employer to optimise how effective and efficient it is!

Patiently persist!

What does it take to get organised so you can work from home?

Here’s my list of the most important systems, routines and equipment I use to keep myself organised when working from home:

The actual office
  • Reliable internet (which only came into being in my region a few short years ago – such a blessing!)
  • Computer with webcam
  • Printer
  • Smart phone
  • Stationery (yep – good old notepads, pens, sticky notes, stapler, diary etc)
  • Yearly planner
  • Desk and chair adjusted for ME to support MY posture
  • A quiet space for my office that also provides privacy for calls, video-conferencing and note taking
  • Office door that gets closed during confidential discussions or when I need to reduce distractions
  • A window to look outside, let the natural light in and let the breeze through
  • Resources, books and filing cabinet

Make a list!

Systems and tools
  • Asana for project management and daily to-do’s – I love checking off my completed tasks and replicating projects on Asana to save my time. Asana can also be shared in a work team and it syncs beautifully between your devices so it can update in real time.
  • Keep Notes” – I use this for lists and it also syncs between devices
  • Canva for basic graphic design
  • Paper notepad systems – I have separate A4 notepads with different coloured covers for different purposes eg notes from training programs, notes from meetings with collaborators, notes about amazing business ideas that I don’t want to forget
  • Alarm – I set a timer for some work tasks and use the alarm for meeting reminders
  • Spreadsheets – I still prefer pen and paper but electronic spreadsheets have their advantages. I use them to log my time and budgets on various projects
  • Email program – I close it down when I don’t have to have it open because it’s a distraction
  • WordPress – mostly easy to edit by myself to keep my website, blog and web shop updated
  • Mail Chimp – stores subscriber lists and templates for outgoing emails

The challenge with time management is to manage ourselves

The invisible part of getting organised
  • Boundaries – This is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of getting organised to work from home. Set boundaries or parameters around your availability, work hours, work space, people, emails, phones, meal breaks, toilet breaks, social media, housework, cooking, grocery shopping, everything! If it’s outside your work hours, turn it off. If it’s not being used in the moment, turn it off.
  • Distractions – Turn off notifications on anything that really doesn’t matter or that distracts you during work time. Create rules about interruptions and be ready to gently remind others about them. Use self-discipline (see below).
  • De-stress your workspace – A cluttered workspace can add to your stress levels. Eliminate what you don’t REALLY need and add some stress-reducing features such as a pot plant, a painting or calming music. Keep your workspace tidy and uncluttered by developing systems to ensure that it doesn’t become a dumping ground for ‘stuff’.
  • Places and spaces – Create designated places and spaces for work materials, tools, resources. And then use them rather than spreading everything across the room or the house. Keep it organised – especially anything confidential.
  • Legal issues – Check with your employer, insurer, council and landlord about your rights and responsibilities regarding working from home.
  • React vs respond – If a new task comes up and it can be done in less than 2 minutes, do it now. Otherwise schedule it.
  • Self-care and self-discipline – These go hand in hand. Stick to the task you’re working on and manage distractions. Imagine that your boss, colleague or a video camera is watching (this is not meant to make you feel paranoid!) – what would you be doing differently? Are your actions aligned with your values and intentions?

Are my actions in alignment with my values when working from home?

  • Rewards – Reward yourself with a relaxing activity when you’ve achieved your work goals, reached the end of your work hours, or stayed on task. This is a great way of marking the switch between work and personal time.
  • Task Lists – Write a list of tasks for each day, categorise them, prioritise them and cross them off when you’ve completed them. Keep your daily to-do list short and keep another list of lesser priority tasks handy that can be brought up as your list gets shorter. I use Asana because I can categorise tasks into different projects and re-prioritise them as needed by sliding them over to the next day or next week. I used to use my diary or notepad or sticky notes – use whatever system works for you.
  • Sense of humour – A sense of humour doesn’t go astray – I’m working on that one 🙂
  • Family / household support – Talk to your family or housemates, including children, to plan how to meet everyone’s needs through the day (and night). Enlist help and support and work as a team as much as possible. Everyone can contribute to deciding on the priorities and how they will be put into action.
  • Systematise your meal times – Plan meals ahead including who’s cooking each night and what time you’ll eat. This also helps optimise your time grocery shopping!
  • Batch as many tasks as possible – Using batching techniques for work and personal tasks. I batch my social media design and scheduling as well as my baking which can be frozen and used later.
  • Put the big rocks into your day first – Plan the little tasks around the bigger tasks that are less flexible or time consuming. Watch my video on getting organised by putting the big rocks into your day first.
  • Time your tasks – Plan your trickiest work tasks for when you feel most alert and when the house is at its quietest.
  • Be consistent and clear – Put your work times up on your door, fridge, notice board or anywhere that your family will see it, or maybe an OPEN and CLOSED sign. You can also add work times into your email signature, Google business page and other web-based applications. If you respect your own boundaries, others are more likely to as well.
  • Move more, sit less – Get up and move around regularly, at least every 20-30 minutes. It can be tempting to stay working if you’re in flow and everything is quiet but your health and well-being needs you more.
  • Delegate jobs around the house – Invest time in teaching others how to do things for themselves. Don’t be a martyr to your work or to the household. This is an opportunity for everyone to learn and develop skills for life rather than another thing to feel guilt about.
  • Wear a uniform or work hat – Create a mental and visual boundary between work and personal hours by wearing a uniform, designated work clothes or even a hat that signifies to others as well as yourself which ‘mode’ you are operating in.
  • Celebrate – Identify, acknowledge and celebrate when things go well! It’s ever so easy to get caught up in what’s problematic without being present for the little wins and moments of joy along the way.
  • Problem-solve – Persist, be patient and get creative when something isn’t working so well. This is an experimental time for many workers and employers. View it as an experiment and explore the challenges and the possible solutions.
  • Connect – Create or request opportunities to connect with your work tribe and other supporters regularly by having online or phone meetings, morning teas and brainstorming sessions.
  • Think outside the box – Create opportunities to make things work! Working standard office hours may not work when you’re working from home especially if you are also supervising children playing and studying. In fact, it’s unlikely to work! For example, I typically do my internet-heavy tasks (eg watch training videos, upload videos) before 7am because that’s my off-peak internet time. Then I’ll spend a few hours of personal time before getting back to work till late afternoon or evening. I aim to leave my social media tasks till late in the day, use normal business hours for connecting with colleagues, and spend my most energised hours on tasks that need the highest level of concentration.

With any obstacle quote

Wow there really are so many aspects of getting organised to work from home when you start to list them all out! This is not an exhaustive list and some of them won’t work for you in your situation. But I do hope it gives you some hope and some ideas to work on for yourself. Let me know how it’s going for you!

Hot chocolate and home baked muffin
Time for hot chocolate and home baked muffins!

Daisy Spoke avatar has long curly hair and smiling mouth

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic

Daisy Spoke Banner

In this article I’ll be sharing 20 ways to keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you are able (and allowed) to get outdoors or whether you have to stay indoors while you’re isolating, there are plenty of ideas here to keep your body moving and your mind feeling at ease.

Isolation around the world during the coronavirus pandemic

No matter where you live in the world as I write this blog post, you will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the health and government directives to manage its spread. Many people are isolating themselves at home or in hotels, and options to spend time outdoors and to exercise and socialise have been restricted.

But, you need to continue to nurture your health including your mental health. You may need to be creative in how you get your regular exercise fix, your outdoors time, and how you socialise.

Mental health risks during isolation

For myself, one of the biggest fears I had about isolation practices was concerning my mental health and the mental health of other people. Vigorous exercise, time in nature, and deep connections with others form the foundation of my ability to function. Without them, I’ve really struggled in the past. And I know I’m not alone. Exercise and movement also boosts your immune system which is incredibly important now too, and it provides protection against future disease.

Stay active and stay connected when you can’t get about freely

I’ve collected together some ideas to help you stay active, stay connected with the outdoors, and stay connected with others during periods of isolation. These ideas are just as useful for other times in your life when you can’t go out as freely as you’d like to such as:

  • when you have to stay home to care for young children or someone who is not well
  • during times of injury, sickness or limited mobility
  • when your non-working hours are after dark
  • when you’re travelling

Caution: check your local regulations about isolating during the coronavirus pandemic

Of course, you need to pick and choose, or innovate your own ideas based on your own circumstances, what your local regulations require and what resources you have access to. Not all these ideas will suit everybody or every situation. Naturally keep your physical distance from others during the pandemic, and don’t take any unnecessary risks that might result in injury and the need for medical assistance. Another thing – be mindful of the level of noise and disturbance you might make if you share a house with others, live in an apartment building, or if you live on a small block.

We’re all in this together!

Let me know if you have other ideas to add to mine and we’ll include them in a follow post! Remember, we’re all in this together and supporting each other is the best way to overcome challenges like this.

fear and possibility

20 ways to keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic

  1. YouTube videos provide a wide selection of workouts for you to do in your own time at home. Look for ones that have been created by accredited instructors or recommended by exercise physiologists or physiotherapists.
  2. Virtual gym classes enable you to participate in a class in real time. Generally virtual classes are streamed live and everyone participates at the same time from their own location. Check if your local gym is offering these (most gyms have closed their face to face services at the time of writing), or search for online businesses and exercise apps which offer this.
  3. Home equipmentMake use of what you have at home such as weights, skipping rope, Swiss ball, steps, and old exercise DVDs . You can adapt everyday household items too such as water bottles or cans of food for weights, and don’t forget the stairs in your house can add value to your workout too.
  4. Virtual accountability buddies can check in with each, hold each other accountable to daily activities, and support each other to problem-solve issues as they come up. You can probably find an accountability buddy amongst your contacts, friends or work colleagues.
  5. Get out where and when you can. Look for opportunities and make the most of them while you can. If your local park is open and it seems quiet around dinner time, that might be a good time to get out there because you never know when places like that will close, or when your household will be quarantined.
  6. Plan and track your exercise in a journal to keep yourself committed and valuing your daily exercise on an ongoing basis. Take it another step forward by tracking how you felt before and after your workouts as well as your recovery experiences.
  7. Callisthenics, stretches, and body weight exercises were probably part of your school Physical Education classes. Do you remember star jumps, lunges, squats, jogging on the spot, push ups, and planks? If in doubt about injuries or medical conditions seek advice from an exercise physiologist or doctor first.
  8. Put on some music and dance and move to the rhythm! This isn’t about your style or skill – it’s about moving and having fun! Invite your household to join in.
  9. Chair yoga is great if you are not feeling well, have balance problems or limited mobility. Look on the Internet for workouts by yoga instructors who have adapted traditional yoga for use in seated positions.
  10. Street dances / classes are happening around the world in some suburban areas. Check if this is allowable in your area, and if so, organise a designated time for you and your neighbours to come out into your front gardens or patios for a dance-off or workout. Remember to maintain your physical distance!
  11. Backyard workouts are as varied as your imagination. Is there a job in the yard you’ve been meaning to do ‘one day’? You’ll get a great workout lifting logs, moving rocks, pruning trees and digging in the garden. You can also create an outdoor workout space in which you can jump obstacles, climb a pole, move through an obstacle or slalom course, practice bike handling or skate boarding skills, run around with the kids, or play games with your pet dog.
  12. Birdwatching from home is an activity that can have you moving gently and quietly around your garden, or if you are not able to go outside, watching from your balcony or window. Grab a bird identification book from your shelves or research your finds on the Internet or using an app such as eBird. There are also plenty of online forum and social media groups sharing birdwatching experiences.
  13. Mindful walks are another gentle activity that can be done in your own yard, footpath, or even indoors. Bring your attention to the sensations of placing your foot down and slowly moving your weight, lifting your foot and placing it forward. You can also bring your attention to the sensations in your legs and the rest of your body as you walk.
  14. Be a kid again! What did you do when you were a kid? Active kids don’t need dedicated exercise or outdoors time because their activity tends to be spontaneous and spread throughout the day. What did you do when you were a kid? I played elastics, tiggy / chasey, Red Rover, trampoline, balance games such as balancing on a log, backyard cricket and soccer, and hitting a ball against a wall. Don’t leave it only to the kids – these activities are perfect for any age!
  15. If you have children living in your household, get down on the floor and play! Games like wrestling (gentle of course!), kneeling chasey and indoor hockey can give everyone a great workout.
  16. If your National Parks, regional parks and State Forests are open and are not busy with other people exercising, go for a walk or a bike ride being careful not to stretch yourself past your comfort zone by taking any unnecessary risks or going off track.
  17. Make your own workout space at home by creating a dedicated exercise space (if you have the room) in a spare room, a section of the living room, the garage or the verandah. If you don’t have enough space for this, you can get yourself organised by creating a dedicated storage area for the equipment you use in your workouts.
  18. Use an App to track your activity levels, and if you’re into it, you can share your stats with your friends.
  19. Create circuits or stations with a variety of exercises, moving from one station to the next every minute (or longer or shorter if you prefer). Keep moving around the circuit to complete your workout.
  20. Use active indoor games like indoor hockey, quoits, and freeze as an alternative to your usual workout whilst having fun with your family or housemates.

Plan of Action

Now it’s your turn – what will YOU do?

Now it’s your turn to put these ideas into practice so that you look after your health, including your mental health in spite of the limitations you have during a period of isolation. Which of these ideas would you like to try? Have you got some other ideas to share with our readers? I’d love to hear from you and include your ideas in a future post. How will YOU keep exercising during the coronavirus pandemic?

You can listen to this article on the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast!

Daisy Spoke avatar has long curly hair and smiling mouth

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to keep exercising outdoors in the drought

“How CAN you keep exercising outdoors in the drought????”

I’m writing this blog post because over the past year lots of people have said they just don’t know how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. We typically think of nature as nurturing and health-giving, a place of solace and retreat. Being confronted by a shockingly dry environment with frequent bushfires, brown landscapes that used to be green, National Park closures, and dry waterways, it’s clear that nature has a shadow side as well.

flowers before the drought

“It’s REALLY tough!”

To be completely open, I’ve also questioned how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. The whole climatic situation has been tough. Really tough! The ripple effect of the drought has swept up farmers, wildlife, local businesses, ‘town’ people, and those in the cities. We’re all affected in various ways either directly or indirectly. There’s a pervasive and damaging sense of hopelessness, and like any emotion, it’s contagious. Yet a sense of hope is exactly what we need to survive difficult or traumatic situations. Where there’s hope, there’s life. Without it, we spiral into a self-fulfilling doom and gloom mentality.

Exercising outdoors has been very confronting. I can’t walk on my home trails without seeing or smelling death. The brown dust colours my view as if I’m looking through a sepia filter. Ticks are in plague proportions. Swarms of good ole slow country flies are driving me nuts. The heat is unbearable. And there’s not enough water for washing your hair after a workout.

My stress tank is overflowing! How about you?

My connection with nature runs very deep, as does my yearning to be active. But in this tough time, I also came down with shingles. My stress tank began to overflow. I had to do something differently. Bushwalking and bike riding whilst constantly thinking about the drought and feeling unwell was contributing to the stress.

So what CAN you do when being in nature is SO stressful?

You have to put your creative thinking hat on to find a solution when things get tough. What worked before is no longer effective. The questions people keep asking me (and that I wanted solutions for too) are:

  • How can I reconnect with the side of nature that heals and nurtures and teaches?
  • How can I enjoy my time outdoors without feeling overwhelmed?
  • What mindset shift do I need?
  • What actions do I need to take?
  • How can I keep exercising everyday?

exercising in the drought
Exercising in the drought has it’s challenges

So I set you to explore this new territory and experiment with the possibilities!

Here are 6 solutions that I’ve discovered. I hope they work for you too!

1. Podcasts

If you haven’t got on the bandwagon yet, then you really need to! Podcasts are audio shows, a bit like a radio show, that you can either stream from the Internet or download onto a device to listen to later. I download episodes from my favourite shows onto my phone, plug my ear phones in, and listen to inspiring, energising interviews while I walk. Instead of focusing my attention on my surroundings, I lose myself in the show and arrive back home with excitement for life and new ideas to put into action. Watch out for a future blog post about my favourite podcasts suitable for Android or Apple.

2. Set an Intention

Before heading out on a walk or ride, I often choose an intention – something I want to focus on or get out of my experience. This is a personal choice, so it can be anything at all. Some of the intentions I’ve set for myself go like this:
“Today I will notice new growth”
“Today I will focus on the sensations in my legs”
“Today I will find fun”
“Today I will discover colour”
“Today I will notice sounds”

3. Mindful Walking

With mindful walks I like to focus on one sense at a time and when I notice my mind has wandered away from my body, I gently bring it back to rest on my senses. I’ve especially enjoyed focusing on my sense of hearing – noticing the many different bird calls, the sounds of the breeze in the trees, my footsteps on the ground, insects buzzing around, wallabies bounding along. I usually focus on one sense for a few minutes, then move onto another one. With my sense of touch, I focus on how it feels to have clothes on my skin, feet in my shoes as I take a step, muscle movement, sunscreen on my face, leaves brushing my skin. When I focus on my sense of sight, I challenge myself to find colours and light and patterns that I don’t normally notice. You can also use a meditation app with a guided practice for mindfulness of walking.

4. Photography

I’ve discovered that taking photos along the way really helps me to bring my attention to the beautiful things. Sometimes I combine photography with an intention or a mindful walk so that I can collect images that bring me joy, and at the same time it helps my brain to collect evidence that there is hope.

5. Make it Social

Walking or riding with other people can be really helpful because the focus is on that invisible connection between myself and someone else. Give me a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend any day, plenty of laughs, a chance to debrief the stuff of life that drives me crazy, and to celebrate the rest. Sometimes, too, there’s a sneaky competitive edge that sees me running or riding faster when I’m with others. Inevitably that ends up in a heap of laughs too, gasping for air, heart pounding out of my chest, and the satisfaction that I’ve done my weekly interval training.

6. Mix it up

I’ve always said “I’m not a gym person”. I’ve built a business and identity around my outdoor adventures. BUT, being unwell and being in the drought has helped me re-set my rigid thinking about exercise. Instead of going outdoors everyday, I went to an aqua class with a friend, did loops of the river walk in town where it’s a bit greener, and took up an irresistible offer to join a gym. I’ve extended the variety of exercise I get which is a fantastic thing! It will help me enjoy and have greater success with my outdoor adventuring which I’m still doing at least a couple of times a week. Going to the gym also gets me focusing on my sadly neglected strength training (one of those things I really ‘should’ be doing at my age!), all whilst staying out of the flies and heat. I get to make new friends and pace myself sensibly (sort of) as I recuperate. At home I’ve also begun a more regular yoga practice – something I’ve been wanting to do but it’s been a lower priority until now.

To Sum Up: Choose Your Focus!

It’s really all about CHOOSING WHAT YOU FOCUS ON. When we feel like we have What's my plan of action to deal with this issue?no control or influence over a situation (like the drought), it’s important to push the pause button, think about it creatively, and choose your focus. Like many people, I’ve struggled with exercising outdoors in the drought. The ideas I’ve shared in this article have made a huge difference to me, my mental state and my physical health. My hope is that they help you too.

Let me know what works for you! Have you got some other ideas to share with our readers?

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

What is a Word of the Year and why do I need one?

“Word of the Year” ….. A word that represents a way of being, an attitude or a mindset that serves as a road sign guiding you towards a goal you want to achieve before the end of the year.

I LOVE having a word of the year! And not just any old word. I put a lot of thought into choosing my word (or phrase) so that it aligns perfectly with my goals for the coming year.

Why I began using a word of the year

I began choosing a word of the year a few years ago to help me stay on track with my goals. I’d been really busy at that time, juggling lots of different contracts and spending all my time trying to please every organisation using their own systems. I always felt behind, disorganised, and I put increasing pressure on myself to do all the things for everyone.

I yearned for something simpler. I wanted to feel calm, organised and satisfied with my work again. I wanted everything to be simpler but I felt stuck because I didn’t know how to get to that point. When I took the time to reflect, it was a pretty obvious decision to choose “simple” as my word of the year!

my word of the year - simple

Now, simple isn’t something you do. It’s a state of being or a mindset that guides the actions you take, a bit like a train track that keeps the train heading in the right direction. So, when I was faced with choices in the following year, I allowed my word of the year to guide me. I chose simple over complicated. I let go of all sorts of things that were in the way of me living a simple, calm and organised life.

My word of the year was a true shining light for me that year. Choosing a word of the year has become a very important routine for me, and one that I love to share with others.

Why you should have a word of the year too

You can use a word of the year to guide you towards a goal, to stay in alignment with your values, to help you pivot your business, or to create any other sort of change you would like to see in your life. When you allow your word of the year to be a core component of your decision-making, it will be a powerful tool for change.

How do you choose a word of the year?

Read through the following points and make a some notes as you word of the yearreflect. There is a free downloadable worksheet to help you do this on my website, or simply make notes in your own journal. Be careful not to get stuck thinking about all the reasons why ‘this’ can’t happen, and why ‘that’ wouldn’t work. This exercise is to help you focus on possibilities. Our brains spend enough time and energy on the problems, so let’s give it a break for a few moments!

1. Picture yourself 12 months from now.

  • What is one thing you would like to be different?
  • What is one SMART goal you’d like to achieve in the next year?
  • What is something you dream of, something you would like in your life?
  • Even if you don’t have a specific goal or a dream, do you have a vague idea or a feeling that you’d like something to be different in your life?
  • How would you like to be living your life?
  • What attitudes or ‘ways of being’ would you like to be living by?
  • What do you value most in your life? Are you living your life with these as your priority?
  • Do any of your answers stand-out to you? Are there any common threads running through your reflections?

2. What states of being or states of mind will be helpful for you to achieve your goal, dream or desired change?

This is all about HOW you need to BE, not what you need to do, for example being patient, staying grounded or having a bold attitude.

3. What word or phrase best reflects the state of being or state of mind that YOU would most like to focus on over the next year?

This can be your word of the year!

4. Write your Word of the Year down, think about it often, and visualise how it will guide you through the year.

When you feel sure that’s the word you most need or want, plaster it everywhere to keep it fresh in your mind. Make it the centre piece of your vision board. Create a wallpaper for your computer or phone. Write in the front of next year’s diary. Blu tac it to your bathroom mirror. The idea is to get it front and foremost in your mind so that it does the job you intend it to.

my word of the year - adventure

Words of the month, week and day

A year is a long time, and sometimes it helps to have some stepping stones along the way. You can run through a similar process to choose a word of the month, week or the day.

In the bizarre way that the subconscious works, my word of the day often floats into my conscious mind during quiet morning meditation time. It can be a bit like a feather in the breeze, wafting around mid air until it gently settles on the ground. But sometimes my word of the day blasts at me in a song from the radio. Other times it’s gifted to me in the wise words from a loved one or even when I’m listening to a podcast interview. However it happens, I’m always happy to grab it and run with it, knowing it’s all part of the process to help me get from here to there, and in alignment with my overall goals and values.

I’d love to hear from you – have you ever chosen a Word of the Year? How did it help you create an attitude, mindset or a way of being to guide you towards your goal?

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.