How to find parks where I live

how to find parksAt the time of writing this post, it’s late May 2020 and Australia is going through a staged process of coming out of isolation. The world is striving to manage human health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m seeing and hearing a lot of enthusiasm from people to get out and socialise more, but also to reconnect with outdoor spaces and places. That includes people who haven’t been especially interested in the outdoors before. I think people have become more aware of the role that getting out and about and connecting with the outdoors has on mental health and well-being.

Lots of people have been asking questions about how to find parks where they live, where they can go, what walks are around, how to get to places, what facilities are available in different locations, whether particular trails are suitable for young families or people with mobility issues, how to get started bush walking and so on.

In this article I’m going to begin answering some of those questions. I’ll give you a run down on what types of parks we have in Australia that you can access for outings, picnics, walks, bush walks and other activities. We’ll look at what the differences are between National Parks, State Forests, Regional Parks and privately managed parklands and what sorts of activities can you do there.

I wrote last year about the Goomburra Section of Main Range and in future posts I’ll share information about some of my other favourite parks as well.

What are National Parks?

National Parks and reserves are publicly owned landholdings that are protected and managed by Federal or State authorities. Many National Parks are open for public recreation activities and have infrastructure such as toilets, picnic shelters, campgrounds and marked walking trails. Some National Parks have designated mountain bike (MTB) trails and locations for abseiling, rock climbing, bouldering, and other adventurous activities. There are some National Parks with no facilities and some that are not open to the public.

If you want to know what National Parks are in your area, what facilities are there, what activities you’re permitted to do and so on, you can start by looking up the National Parks website in your state and check the Parks Australia website for information about the National Parks that are managed at the federal level. Here are some clickable links to help you find a National Park:

Queensland
New South Wales
Victoria
Tasmania
South Australia
Western Australia
Northern Territory
Australian Capital Territory
Parks Australia

Visitor Information Centres are dotted around the nation and are a great source of information about the National Parks in their areas.

Regional tourist associations will also have information including accommodation and hospitality options nearby.

Social media groups is another way to find out more about National Parks and other parks as well. Many people love to share their knowledge of different parks so this can be a fantastic way to get first hand information about people’s experiences and to ask questions that you might have. But don’t forget to check with National Parks for up-to-date information as well, especially about current closures. National Parks can be closed for maintenance, bushfires, extreme weather and other reasons so I recommend checking every time before you set out for a visit.

There are entry fees for visiting some National Parks and for camping which you may need to book ahead. Some National Parks have an online booking system for camping, and others are first-in-first-served. In certain circumstances you may need to apply for a special permit well ahead of time if you want to undertake activities such as running organised events or commercial tours.

What are State Forests?

State Forests are publicly owned lands that are designated for multiple uses and which may be managed by your state National Parks, plantation companies or other enterprises. There is a lot of variation in what activities are permitted in each state forest. Mountain biking is popular in some State Forests, as well as walking, bouldering, and 4WDing.

State Forests are also subject to closure for harvesting timber and other reasons, so once again it’s best to check what’s on offer before heading out. My suggestion is to get on the Internet and search for State Forests in your area to find out more. Very generally there are fewer facilities and less infrastructure provided at State Forests than in National Parks so you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient.

What are Regional Parks?

There are lots of other public parks and reserves that are not National Parks or State Forests. Many of these are managed by regional councils or other local authorities so we’ll refer to them here as Regional Parks. They could also be managed through partnerships between different authorities and even with the private sector. Because the management can vary from place to place, you’ll need to look up your local council government website, or contact your Visitor Information Centre or your regional tourist association for more information about what’s around and what you can do there.

I want to give another plug for Visitor Information Centres. They can be a wealth of information about all sorts of local attractions, not just parks. And they should be able to tell you or give you brochures about local marked or signed walks, places where you’re allowed to take your dog, and parks where there are public toilets. Information Centres are often staffed by volunteers who are enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge of their area.

How do I find out about privately owned places that I can visit?

There are some privately owned or managed properties that the public can access for recreation, often for a fee. I’m thinking here about campgrounds, bush retreats and farm properties which allow you to camp and/or use the property for bushwalking, bike riding, climbing, bird watching, photography, picnics and so on. These properties are usually required to comply with certain regulations or have a licence and insurance to allow visitors. Once again you can find out about them through Internet searches; social media groups; Visitor Information Centres; and travel, tourism and accommodation platforms.

Your mental health will thank you for it!

I hope this article has given you some helpful information about how to find parks in your region and what the differences are between National Parks, State Forests, Regional Parks and privately managed park lands. All of these parks offer a different range of outdoor experiences and activities. It’s absolutely vital for your mental health and overall well-being to get out, to be active and to connect with nature. And my aim is to help you to do that in ways that are safe and health-giving as well as good for the environment.

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

You can listen here to the audio version of this article on the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast, or find it on your favourite podcast player and remember to subscribe so you won’t miss future episodes about places you can go to get your outdoor therapy!

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.

Get Organised: working from home

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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.

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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

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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.