8 Reasons to Get Back to Nature

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

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

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

Nature setting - beach

2. Nature gives your brain a break

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

3. Nature restores and re-energises

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

Nature - mountain view

4. Nature refocuses your attention

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

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

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

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

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

7. Nature gets you active

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

Natur

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

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

Let's sum up!

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

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

2. Nature gives your brain a break

3. Nature restores and re-energises

4. Nature refocuses your attention

5. Nature shows you how to slow down

6. Nature stimulates creativity and innovation

7. Nature gets you active

8. Nature improves efficiency and effectiveness

 

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

My First Overnight Hiking Adventure!

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Daisy Spoke has started some new adventures! 

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

My year of adventure

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

Backpacking equipment

Looking for my next big challenge

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

Don't believe everything you think

 

The value of goal-setting

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

best things in life start with a dream

1st Step – Research!

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

Well actually, yes I can!

2nd Step – Skills Development!

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

Compass, maps and navigation equipment

Girraween, here we come!

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

granite formations

Planning for minimal risk

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

Backpacking in national park

What have I got myself into?

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

Stone Cottage, Girraween

The first day

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

tents set up in the remote bush camp

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

The second day

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

Mt Norman

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

The crow got my trail mix!

What! Is it already time to go home?

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

Dr Robert's Waterhole

A new series of adventures begins

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

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

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

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

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

1. Look up

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

2. Absorb the bumps

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

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

3. Move around

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

4. Be present in the moment

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

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

5. Keep trying!

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

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

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

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

Time Management: Stay sane when time is your enemy

Juggling the many roles and responsibilities we have can be a constant source of both satisfaction and despair. I talk to women every week about challenges like time management, and wanted to share some of the ideas that I’ve collected on how to stay sane when time seems to be your enemy.

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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! Assuming you’re in the same boat as me, I’ve short-listed some key time management strategies and helpful mindsets that I’ve collected over the years.

time management clock

Time management strategies to stay sane when it feels like time is your enemy

1. Time is a commodity we exchange for something else

Time is a precious commodity that I give in exchange for something else. It’s a transaction; a business deal between myself and the universe. If I spend lots of money on luxury items, eating out, holidays and new clothes, I may not (ummm ….. actually I won’t) have enough left over for the basic household bills like groceries, fuel for the car, and electricity. Time is like money – think about how you can spend it wisely!

2. We have a choice

We have choices about how we spend our time, in the same way that we have choices about spending our money. What choices are you making?

3. Get your priorities straight

Time Management Matrix
Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix

With so many different things competing for our time and energy, we are constantly needing to prioritise. And I mean constantly! It’s an ongoing process. Everyday – prioritise. Every hour – prioritise. Every minute – prioritise. Every moment – prioritise. It’s a valuable skill – the more practise you get, the better you’ll become at getting your priorities straight.

If you have trouble identifying what’s most important and what’s most urgent, invest just a few minutes of your time reading about Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix here

4. Time is precious

Time can never be refunded once it’s spent. Thinking of time as precious gift to be treasured and used wisely can help us to make carefully considered choices about how we are using it.

5. What are your time vampires?

What is it that sucks the time out of your day? Where does your time go? Are you okay about this?

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

I’ve found this really helpful at times. You can make a note in your diary or notepad of how you are spending your day. Note down the time and what task or activity you are working on, and what time you finished. Or you could break your diary into 10 or 15 minute time blocks and make a note of what you are doing at every time interval. It only takes a teeny bit of time to do this, but the investment is well worthwhile! These actions can highlight where our time goes, and keeps us more accountable to our goals.

7. Ask yourself “What am I doing now?”

This precious moment is all we 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 our poverty of time. Do a thorough audit and be honest with yourself. What can you take responsibility for? What change can you make?

9. Avoid distractions

Is distraction an issue for you?

  • Set a timer to go off at regular intervals to remind you to refocus your attention
  • Switch off your wi-fi
  • Close your door
  • Turn off your phone
  • Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office
  • Reward yourself when you’ve completed tasks

. whatever you need, just do it. Make it as easy as possible to keep your attention laser-focused.

Let's sum up!

Make friends with the time you have!

  • Time is a commodity – spend it wisely!
  • You choose moment to moment how you spend you time
  • Get your priorities straight – is it important / urgent?
  • Time is precious
  • What are your time vampires?
  • Record how you spend your time
  • Ask yourself “What am I doing now?”
  • Don’t make excuses
  • Avoid distractions

I’d love to hear any other time management strategies you use to stay sane when it feels like time is your enemy. Leave your comment below, send me a message, or head on over to my Facebook!

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

 

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

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

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

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

“That’s too slippery.”

“I can’t ride down that gully.”

I’m going to hit that tree.”

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

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

There are too many rocks.”

There are too many low hanging branches.”

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

I’d better walk this bit.”

That’s where I fell before.”

That’s another place I fell off.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Strategies for Handling Unease During an Adventure

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

View from car windscreen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Fearful Adventurer: 5 hacks to turn fear into adventure

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

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

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

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

5 Hacks To Turn Fear Into Adventure

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

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

View from car windscreen

2. Look around you, focus on the moment.

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

View of landscape

3. Maintain a routine

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

Bushwalking

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

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

Reading at camp

5. Chat to people around you. 

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

Person standing on viewing platform

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

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

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

 

 

 

3 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was Younger

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Do you know what drives me to do the work I do with groups of women and health professionals? It’s the fact that there are so many things I wish I’d known when I was younger – things that could have made a difference to my life and to my happiness if I’d known about them, made sense of them, and felt confident implementing them in my own life.

Being stuck in anxiety, sadness or anger stops many people from living truly satisfying and fulfilling lives. With many years of working in the mental health industry as well my own personal experiences, I feel an unstoppable drive to keep moving forwards, to keep expanding my reach to build up people’s knowledge and skills, to make a difference in the world with as many people as I can. My mission is to share information and inspiration that empowers women towards a genuine and deep sense of wellness. And by doing this the ripple effect will have an even greater impact.

Wild yellow flowers

Today I’m sharing with you 3 things I wish I’d known when I was younger.

1. Exercise is the only magic pill

KW MTB selfieDaily exercise and general physical activity are crucial elements of feeling good. Just as some people might need to diligently take medication every day, I need to exercise every day. Exercise is nature’s way of stimulating the hormones which aid concentration, problem-solving, sleep, digestion, and mood. This daily dose of exercise rebalances our body’s systems resulting in wide-ranging benefits that no single medication can provide. The research is absolutely clear that regular medium to high intensity exercise can have a profound effect on health AND happiness.

What types of physical activity and exercise do you prefer? I’ve always loved bushwalking, and in more recent years I’ve become really enthusiastic about mountain biking. I call mountain biking my ‘parallel universe’ because it not only provides me with a very regular dose of fun exercise, family time and social interaction, but I’ve also learned the most amazing life lessons from it including managing fears, growing resilience, and developing mindfulness.

2. Get sleep savvy

Awake owl
Credit: source unknown

Sleep is vital for optimal brain function including mood management. Quality sleep restores the mind and body. It improves concentration, problem-solving, reaction time, capacity to think clearly, organise ourselves, plan, learn … and the list just goes on. But getting a good sleep is easier said than done for some of us. There are many skills to getting a good sleep and there are many things you can control when you understand how sleep works. So, the lesson here is to educate yourself about sleep – sleep cycles, circadian rhythms, body clocks, and sleep hygiene. The most common helpful strategies include exercise (especially in the morning), exposure to early morning light (this resets the body clock so you start to feel sleepy in the evening), reduce caffeine (especially in the afternoon) and learn relaxation and stress management skills. Another vital strategy here is to learn about AND practice mindfulness – every day (not just when you have trouble sleeping). Which leads straight into my 3rd tip!

3. Mind your mind

Don't believe everything you thinkMinds are such complex things! They wield a lot of power over our emotions and our actions (including sleep). But unless you notice what’s going on in your mind, and choose how much power to give it, your thoughts, assumptions and beliefs will control you instead of the other way around. The habit of being hooked by thoughts or strongly attached to them is limiting and anxiety-provoking. The key here is to begin by simply noticing what is happening in your mind, and by doing this with curiosity and without judgement. The power is in the noticing. You’ll collect all sorts of interesting bits of information about how your mind works, what thinking patterns it gets locked into, what beliefs and assumptions are behind it all, and how all of this impacts your physiology, your behaviours and your emotions. One of my favourite sayings is “Don’t believe everything you think!” because we can learn to stand back, notice the thought and choose whether to believe it, or not.

Let's sum up!

So there you have it. The 3 key pieces of information I wish I’d known (and understood, and implemented) when I was younger!

1. Exercise is the only magic pill

2. Get sleep savvy

3. Mind your mind

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

Nine Powerful Mind-based Strategies

This post is all about using powerful mind-based strategies to boost your resilience and enhance your sense of wellness. In my last blog post I stepped you through how to create your own recipe for success and happiness that grows from a base of action-based strategies. Your recipe included actions that enhance physical and mental strength such as meditation, exercise, socialising, nutrition and sleep among others. Today we’re adding to your mix with powerful mind-based strategies!

Click here to read my last blog post “Recipe for Success and Happiness: getting the mix right!”

When you have a solid routine of action-based strategies enhancing your resilience, you’ll be ready to make effective use of mind-based strategies as well (the psychological jargon is ‘cognitive strategies’). These tend to be a little bit trickier than the action-based strategies because they deal with things we can’t see, like our thoughts, feelings and attitudes. But mind-based strategies can be incredibly powerful so they are definitely worth practising.

When you combine helpful actions with powerful mind-based strategies, you’ll create a deep sense of wellness and inner strength. You’ll be better equipped to manage stresses and will be able to bounce back more quickly when life throws those curve balls. As a result, you’ll know what it is to experience success more often and your satisfaction and happiness will soar. BUT the key point is that you need to PRACTISE them. All of them. Repeatedly. Don’t give up. New habits can take weeks to gel, so stick at it!

Mind-based Strategies

1. Keep a bagful of helpful questions handy – “I ask myself …”

  • Am I using black and white thinking? Where’s the grey?
  • Am I exaggerating the situation?
  • What does this situation look like from other perspectives?
  • Will this matter in 5 years time?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • Am I filtering out the positives / negatives?
  • Am I really to blame? Is it my responsibility to fix?
  • Is this label / judgement helpful?
  • Am I jumping to conclusions?
  • Where is the evidence that what I’m thinking is true?
  • Am I assuming I know what the other person is thinking / feeling?
  • Are my expectations realistic?
  • Am I focusing on things outside my control?
  • What would my older wiser self advise me to do?

2. Work towards goals – long-term, medium-term and short-term

Break them up into little steps and focus on one little step at a time. A personal example of mine was when I registered for “Chicks in the Sticks”, a 3 hour women’s only enduro mountain bike event. I had months to prepare myself physically and psychologically which was a good thing because I’d never been in a bike race before and was terrified at the idea! I broke my goal down into smaller goals such as joining regular group rides, developing a training plan with increasing ride lengths and levels of difficulty, and having some coaching sessions.

3. Don’t give up when things don’t go as expected

Use a problem-solving technique to brainstorm ideas (even the crazy ones!), evaluate your options, choose one option, implement it, review how it’s going, and repeat this process as often as necessary.

4. Give yourself words of affirmation, reminders that you are ok

Many of us talk down to ourselves in critical ways, we tend to notice our shortcomings and weaknesses, but there’s a whole lot more to ourselves that needs some attention too! For example, tell yourself “You did great!”, “You are enough”, “Wow you’re getting stronger all the time!”

5. Gather a store of mantras, statements, quotes or ways of being that you intentionally choose to live by

You can collect them from songs, poems, books and social media in addition to listening to your own inner wisdom. Write them on sticky notes, in a journal or diary, print out visual reminders to stick around your home or workplace, or even use them as screen savers and wallpapers on your electronic devices. Some examples include “Just do it”, “One drop raises the ocean”, “Keep it simple”, “Just breathe”, “Stand tall”.

6. Get yourself a playlist of mentors and role models

They might be people you know and admire personally, or they could be people you’ve read about, or even characters from movies or books. When you find yourself feeling anxious or angry, ask yourself “What would [insert name of someone you admire] say or do in this situation?” One of the tracks on my personal playlist is a mountain bike coach I went to a couple of years ago. I sometimes hear his voice when I’m riding technical terrain on my bike “Get down low. Lower!”, and “Look up. Higher!” These words have been invaluable as I’ve learned to manage my fears about riding.

7. At any time you can call upon 5 seconds of courage

That’s all it takes to pick up the phone, make an assertive statement, click on a button or walk away from a situation. Think what YOU could do in YOUR five seconds of courage!

8. Develop a mindful approach to living

Notice more of your inner world and the subtleties of the world around you. Really get to know yourself, your patterns, thoughts, reactions. With this powerful knowledge you can then make conscious choices to do things differently, or the same. You’ll be in charge of your responses instead of the other way around.

9. Visualise how you would like things to be

Picture yourself doing something you want to achieve, or being the sort of person you’d like to be. Visualisation can be used for relaxation (eg visualise yourself lying on the beach, your stresses trickling away into the sand beneath you) or to help you progress towards a goal (eg visualise yourself speaking in front of an audience, feeling confident, upright posture, smiling, relaxed). When I’m feeling nervous about riding my bike on a particular section of track, I stop for a few moments and picture myself riding it the way I want it to go, as if I’m watching a short video of myself successfully negotiating that section. It truly is a powerful mind-based strategy and one you can use in every area of your life.

Free printable to keep your powerful mind-based strategies in play!

So there you have it – some really powerful mind-based strategies to throw into the mix. And to help you keep your strategies in play, I’ve created a free printable for you. “I ask myself …” is a beautiful keepsake of the helpful questions listed above. You can download it for free from my website, ready to print and display. This will be a valuable tool to keep your powerful mind-based strategies present everyday.

Each month you’ll have access to a new FREE PRINTABLE on my website that will guide you on your journey of wellness. To make sure you don’t miss out, sign up for my email “Grounded Inspiration”. You’ll be the first to hear about my latest offers, news and inspirations. When you sign up, you’ll also have EXCLUSIVE ACCESS to a mini-workbook “Success & Happiness”, a unique guide to creating your own recipe for happiness using action-based strategies that beautifully compliments my last blog post.

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.