Slower Living

There’s something that’s been on my mind more and more over the past few years – living life at a slower pace, with greater simplicity and with moments of stillness. It’s something that I used to scoff at but it’s increasingly been something I’m drawn towards.

Living life in the fast lane can be very satisfying. Running on adrenaline keeps you energised and buzzing. I know. I’ve been there! But it has lots of drawbacks too. In the hectic pace of living a busy life, even one you love, your stress hormones are circulating constantly through your body and this can have a significant impact on your longer term health. Yes, you might not feel it in the moment, but over time the impact can affect your health including your mental health. There can be silent wear and tear going on in the background affecting your gut, your nervous system and other systems in your body.

Bringing a slower pace to your life, even for just a small part of your day, can invite a healthier balance for your body and mind. Just a few minutes a day is a perfect way to start a new habit of resting, re-energising and restoring your inner balance. I often encourage people to do this in nature if they can.

Nature has some amazing effects on the human nervous system which benefits your overall health and stress levels, and can also help improve your sleep. If you can’t get outdoors into a relaxing natural environment – maybe you’re in the city or the weather is wild outside or you’re in quarantine or you’re not able to move about – whatever the reason, you can spend a few minutes looking outside through a window, snuggle up to your favourite indoor plant or hold a shell or river pebble while you take a few deep slow breaths.

orange flowers
Slower living in nature – spend some time in the garden

Choosing moments of slow living each day, whether it’s for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours, is a valuable treasure in your day. Remember, something is better than nothing, and your mind and body will thank you for it.

You can read more about my efforts towards slower living as well as other people’s actions over on my friend Margy’s blog Simple Slow Still.

If you’d like more handy little tips to connect with the outdoors for mind and body health, you’ll love my newsletter Grounded Inspiration which comes out about twice a month. For a limited time I’m giving away “Your Guide to a Perfect Nature Escape Day” to new subscribers. This is a super-easy-to-use checklist that will help you easily and effortlessly plan a day of escape in nature where you can relax, rejuvenate and rediscover inner peace and calm. I have very regular escape days and I highly recommend them! I’ll tell you more about them in an upcoming blog.

SUBSCRIBE to Grounded Inspiration and download your free guide to a perfect nature escape day!

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I live and work, the Gidhabal people. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Listen to the audio of this blog post on the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast – Episode 28!

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

Cycles in Nature: Endings, Beginnings and Hope

This amazing planet that we live on has sustained life for many millions of years. It’s a world filled with incredible cycles in nature and in our own lives as humans. When we sit back and observe these cycles, we grow in understanding about our world and ourselves, and we learn that hope helps us to deal with the endings and beginnings that are part of life.

Cycles in nature are everywhere!

Cycles are part of nature. We experience them everywhere – in the animal and plant worlds, space, deep inside the Earth, the climate, the weather, natural disasters and within the human body and mind.

In the animal world

Over the past summer I watched a pair of willy wagtails go through their breeding cycle 4 times! They hastily built a little nest perched precariously above the spotlights on my shed, then suddenly there were two or three eggs in the nest and lots of back and forth and sitting on the nest, chasing away other birds, and catching insects. Then the signs that the baby birds were hatching started to show. The adults seemed agitated; not sitting still on the nest any longer.

Soon, the delightful sounds of little peeps coming from the nest heralded the arrival of the babies. The parents were busy with their harried back and forth of catching food and incessantly feeding the young. Then lots of oohing and aaahing from us as their little heads became visible above the edge of the nest as they stretched and called out to their parents to be fed before flopping with exhaustion back into a little feathered huddle again.

Willy Wagtail nest fallen on the grass

After a couple of weeks the babies would stretch their wings fully and teeter precariously on the edge of their nest, and take their first flight amid their parents’ squawks and alarm sounds at anything and everything nearby. The first fledgling seemed to get all the attention and every time we thought they’d abandoned their other babies, they suddenly reappeared and steered the next baby on its first flight too.

For the next few weeks the family hustled and bustled around the garden, eating and defending, and then suddenly the parents were back to the nest (a couple of times rebuilding the nest when it had fallen from its perch!), sitting on the next batch of eggs and the cycle started all over again. Each cycle had, for me, moments of excitement, delight and extreme worry. There were lots of ups and downs for the birds as well as for me, the observer! And when you think about it, life’s like that!

In the plant world

The cycles in nature are everywhere. The more obvious ones like animal breeding seasons and flowering and fruiting seasons come to mind. I’d love to share another story about the cycles in nature. This one is from the plant world.

My son was gifted a punnet of petunia seedlings when he graduated from high school. It was springtime and he potted them out into a beautiful ceramic pot on the verandah. He watered them and nurtured them and they grew – prolifically! The flowers were abundant and brought so much colour and joy to the world.

Purple Petunias

And then twelve months later they began to die back. He wondered if he’d done something wrong; maybe over-watered or under-watered them. But as he learned, this was part of the natural cycle of life as a petunia. When he cleared away the dead stems he saw new growth in the pot. So he continued the watering and nurturing pattern, not being sure whether they were baby petunias or weeds. The extra light from clearing away the dead stems helped the plants to grow, and yes indeed, they were baby petunias growing from the seeds of the previous plants. As I write this article, the little petunias are beginning to flower again. It’s such a beautiful cycle!

the solar system, climate and natural disasters

Apart from living things, there is also the cycle of night and day and the yearly cycle of the seasons. We hear and read about the climate cycles in times gone by, such as the ice age, and we wonder how much of our current climate change is due to a natural cycle and how much has been exacerbated by industry and human impact. You can also see natural cycles at work after bush fires, floods and other natural disasters when regrowth takes place.

Deep inside the earth and in space there are cycles at work too, changing the world as we know it gradually, and sometimes rapidly.

The Human Body

There are less obvious cycles in nature too. You might be aware of the sleep cycles that we experience. We don’t tend to think too much about them but research is showing more and more that each part of the cycle is vital for health and wellbeing.

We discussed how you can improve your sleep by spending time in the outdoors back in a previous blog post so if you missed it, you might like to check it out.

Within your body you have cycles and systems for digestion, blood circulation and even the way you think, make decisions and grieve happens in cycles.

Endings are connected to beginnings

Whether they’re obvious or invisible, cycles are an integral part of nature including human life.

As one cycle completes, another begins. Nature holds these reminders for us, and they give us hope when we feel lost or depressed. Endings are connected to beginnings. And beginnings have endings too.

Outdoors is my Therapy – beginnings and the next phase

The Outdoors is my Therapy initiative began just over a year ago. In the first phase I recruited eight Ambassadors to help me share inspiration around the world about the benefits of spending time outdoors. I also launched the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast and the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group. We’ve been out and about exploring and meeting people and sharing adventures and listening to other people’s stories. Recently we had a beautiful camping weekend to celebrate the completion of this phase of the Outdoors is my Therapy cycle. There is sadness but there is also a lot of excitement and anticipation for what comes next. As this phase completes, what new beginnings will there be?

Stay tuned as we continue to roll out stories, inspiration, information and adventures in the outdoors because, as my Ambassadors all agree, Outdoors is my Therapy!

Nature Escape Day GuideWould you like to soak up a little more outdoor life adventure or get connected to nature-based resources? Subscribe to my Grounded Inspiration newsletter which comes out approximately twice a month. It’s a short and sweet reminder in your inbox to prioritise your self-care in the outdoors.

At the moment, I’m giving away “Your Guide to a Perfect Nature Escape Day” to new subscribers. This is a super-easy-to-use checklist that will help you easily and effortlessly plan a day of escape in nature where you can relax, rejuvenate and rediscover inner peace and calm. I have very regular escape days and I highly recommend them! I’ll tell you more about them in a future post.

Listen to Episode 27 of the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast!

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which I live and work, the Gidhabal people. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

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

How to use nature to relax

This article explores some practical ideas that will help you use nature to relax and de-stress. You’ll be able to take these ideas and experiment with them, practise the skills, and hopefully you’ll be able to help other people learn to use nature to relax as well.

use nature to relax

Stress Mode vs Relaxation Mode

Humans are wired to easily go into a fear and stress mode. It’s a survival trait that’s helped our species to survive. But staying in stress mode is not helpful or healthy. It’s great for short term and emergency use but if you’re always in stress mode it’s no longer helpful and it can lead to chronic disease, a shortened life expectancy and generally less joy in your day to day life.

So how do you strike the balance between stress mode and relaxation mode? An interesting fact is that your body can be experiencing stress without you even realizing it. Your brain and your body can be so used to being in stress mode that it feels normal. To complicate matters even more, some of the things you enjoy doing in life can add to you body’s physiological stress response.

Most of us have strategies that we routinely use relax but some of these are more effective than others. Some strategies can make us feel good temporarily, but in fact they can contribute to our stresses. Alcohol is a good example of this. When you drink, you may experience a temporary feeling of relaxation but it can also trigger an unhealthy response in your body that may lead to dehydration, headaches, organ overloads and an altered brain state.

Nature and Relaxation

There are many natural ways to relax, and there are many things in nature that can help you relax. Whilst this article focuses on those parts of nature that are calming and soothing, it’s important to acknowledge that there are also many aspects of nature that might increase your stress response. For myself, the flies, mosquitoes and snakes in summer definitely trigger my stress response! When I’m using nature to relax, I won’t be bringing my attention to those things; I’ll think of other things in nature that bring me a sense of joy and calmness.
We all experience the world differently so what you find relaxing and soothing could be different to me or different to someone else who’s reading this post.

Step 1 – Connect with nature

The first step in this relaxation activity is to think of something in nature that is soousing nature for relaxationthing for YOU. If you have trouble doing this, it could be useful to conceptualise nature in the three different categories below and make a selection from one of them. (These are not scientific categories, but they are a useful way to organise your thoughts for the purpose of this activity.)

  • Plants
  • Animals
  • Minerals (this includes inanimate objects such as still or running water, the sky, pebbles, breeze, rocks, boulders and sand)
Step 2 – get up close

Once you’ve identified something from nature that you find soothing, if possible, get up close to it (as long as it’s safe to do so!). For example, if a pebble is something that helps you to feel calm, centered and grounded, you can hold one in your hand. If you’re thinking of a creek, perhaps you can sit near it. You could also watch birds in a garden or run your hand through the sand. If it’s not possible to get up close, you can hold a photo or artwork that represents that thing, or have an audio recording that you can listen to.

Remember, it’s important to do this activity with something you find joy in so that you don’t get triggered into stress mode. Turn off or move away from any distractions for a few minutes including devices and other people if possible.

Step 3 – Relax body and mind

Now that you’ve made your selection and you’re up close to it, allow your body to become heavy. Allow your muscles to relax and go loose. Close your eyes if you feel safe to do so and simply focus on the feeling of your body softening and becoming heavy and melting into the ground or your chair beneath you.

When you’re in stress mode, your muscles tense up. In this activity you’ll be helping your muscles do the opposite. You’ll be helping your muscles rest and relax.

And when you’re in stress mode, your breathing also tends to get more rapid and shallow. As you relax with your chosen item, be aware of how your breath is going in and out of your body. Without forcing it, allow your breath to slow down and become deeper. Feel your breath nourishing your mind and your body.

breathe in nature

Your heart rate also tends to go up when you’re in stress mode. Your heart is pumping blood around your body to keep your muscles tight and ready to jump or run at any moment. As your muscles relax and your breathing relaxes, your heart rate will also come down a little. That’s going to be a lovely rest for your heart.

You might find as you’re doing this activity that your mind races away; this is normal. Don’t try to control it. Training your thoughts is a bit like training an excited puppy that wants to dart here and there and all over the place. Be gentle with yourself, don’t scold yourself when you notice that your mind has wandered. Simply and gently bring your thoughts back to rest on your relaxing muscles or your breath. Your thoughts will be there later, you don’t need to go chasing them now, so just let them be.

Step 4 -Focus on nature

Once your body begins to feel relaxed, bring your attention to your chosen item or feature in nature. REALLY look at it, touch it, feel it, examine it. What does it look, feel, sound or smell like? Focus all your senses on your chosen item for a few minutes and give yourself permission to have this special time to simply enjoy this relaxed experience.

If your thoughts start telling you to hurry up or that you’re bored, just let them be. Bring your attention back to your body and your breath, to how you feel in this relaxed state, or to your chosen item.

Step 6 – Repeat regularly

You can repeat this activity regularly – every day would be fabulous! And you can use different things found in nature each time if you like. As you get more and more practised, you’ll be able to relax even when you’re not up close and personal with your chosen item. You’ll be able to do it by imagining or visualising being there.

A valuable hint: Practise when you’re NOT in a state of extreme stress, especially for the first few times. If you’re very stressed when you try to learn any new skill it can lead to frustration and increased stress levels. However once you become practised, your brain and body will be familiar with the process and you can more easily make it work for you even when you’re highly stressed. You can also use this activity to help you get to sleep or switch off after a busy day.

From Stressed to Relaxed With Nature

In summary, the idea behind this relaxation activity is to develop a relaxing association with something from nature that gives you joy, and to do that with minimal distractions. As you allow your muscles to become heavy and relaxed, bring your attention to your breath and very gently and slowly, deepen your breath. Focus on the rhythmic breathing in and out and you may find your heart rate will also come down a little bit. Using all your senses, bring your attention to your chosen item from nature and stay with it for a few minutes. When your mind wanders away, gently bring it back to your body, your breath or nature.

These are the powerful actions that will help you to counteract the stress response and trigger a relaxation response. It’s a simple idea, but one that needs practise. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be able to teach other people, including children, how to use nature to relax too.

Listen to the audio version of this post in the Outdoors is my Therapy Podcast Episode 24!

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

The Adventure Therapy Project for Women

Adventure activities inspire healthy choices

The Adventure Therapy Project has been inspiring and skilling women to make healthy choices for themselves by valuing self-care, spending time outdoors, challenging themselves in new ways, and being physically active. We’ve had amazing fun and free activities on the go throughout 2019 and 2020 including:

  • bushwalks
  • gentle nature walks
  • birdwatching
  • trail yoga (outdoors yoga)
  • mountain biking
  • canoeing
  • bouldering
  • nature craft workshops
  • camping

The Adventure Therapy Project

The evolution of The Adventure Therapy Project

It’s been super fun to be a part of this Project from identifying the gap in women’s outdoor activities in the community, to developing the concept, applying for funding, organising and implementing the activities, and seeing the women enthusiastically getting involved. The Project has been funded with a grant through the Empowering Our Communities initiative which supports communities adversely impacted by severe drought. The funds were made available through the Darling Downs West Moreton PHN.

The Project has hosted about fifty different events for a few hundred women mostly from the Southern Downs Region of southern Queensland. Six small businesses provided instruction in their speciality activities, and numerous community groups and individuals shared information about the activities. Many men and women have told me that although they haven’t participated, they’ve been inspired to get outdoors and get active simply by hearing and seeing the Project in action. How awesome is that!

The Adventure Therapy Project canoeing

Outdoor adventures are a valuable part of mental health and self-care

Spending time outdoors can be incredibly valuable for almost every aspect of human health and wellbeing. The outdoors, and especially natural spaces, have a pretty unique advantage. They offer infinite opportunities for the development, growth and restoration of the whole self. Nature can both challenge and heal your physical body, mind, emotions and spirit. Spending time in nature also supports connection with others, connection with the inner self, and a greater understanding and connection to the world around us.

Having worked for many years as a mental health worker in the public and private sectors I believe that mental health deserves much broader attention than what the current medical model allows. There is a tendency to focus narrowly on formal diagnosis of specific mental illnesses and treatments which frequently include medication and/or talking therapies.

I believe that we need to examine and adjust ALL the systems that impact mental health at an individual, family, workplace and community level. And we need to do this not only when someone experiences distress, but most importantly to prevent and minimise problems that inevitably will occur in life. Healthy lifestyle choices are particularly relevant to preventing and managing general mood disturbances such as feeling anxious, ‘down’ or mild to moderately depressed, stressed and tiredness (where there is no other known medical condition).

The Adventure Therapy Project MTB

Mental health can thrive when the foundations are strengthened

Thriving mental health is built upon strong lifestyle foundations of:

  • physical activity including general movement, exercise and activity levels
  • sleep
  • nutrition
  • mind skills, and
  • connection with the world around us including the natural world and social connections

A strong foundation does not mean that an individual will always bounce happily and easily through life, but it does mean that they are in a better position to manage their life stresses and challenges.

Your bio-chemistry changes when you move and exercise. It also changes with the nutrition you take into your body, the quality and quantity of sleep you have, the way you think, and the connections you have with other people and even when you spend time outdoors in nature. We need to value and adjust each of these systems to truly make a difference to mental health. Outdoor adventures go a very long way towards supporting each of these foundations.

The Adventure Therapy Project Nature Walk

The success of The Adventure Therapy Project

Two years ago I felt I needed to constantly justify why I wanted to take small groups of women on outdoor adventures. For years and years I provided talking therapies in closed rooms and saw patterns repeating themselves. Occasionally you can convince someone to get outdoors and get active for their health. But to actually take them outdoors and be active with them, that’s something pretty special. That helps to overcome some of the hurdles that get in the way. With increased exercise, connection with nature, new physical and mental skills, and new friendships, you’ll tend to sleep better as well.

The Adventure Therapy Project bouldering

What’s next for The Adventure Therapy Project?

It hasn’t been completely plain sailing for the Project. The funding targeted the drought affected community but when bushfires ravaged the region and filled the air with thick smoke, we pushed the pause button for a few months. Likewise, COVID-19 has impacted in a variety of ways. Following these disruptions the Project was extended for another six months and now it is complete. When another round of the same funding was announced in 2020, the Project was no longer eligible due to new guidelines which excluded face-to-face activities.

So, for now The Adventure Therapy Project has paused. I’m spending my time and energy this summer on creating some new online resources that I’ll be excited to share with the community shortly. If you’d like to be the first to hear about new releases and new adventure activities, be sure to subscribe to my Grounded Inspiration email.

The Adventure Therapy Project camping

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for general information only. Please always seek individual advice from a health professional or crisis centre such as Lifeline (ph 13 11 14) if you have any concerns about your own mental health and safety or the mental health and safety of another person.

Daisy Spoke

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

Family Adventures: Tania’s Story of Travel Around Australia

Have you been thinking about creating a family adventure? Maybe an epic travel adventure? Or perhaps you’ve already nurtured a culture of adventure in your family? In this blog post, Tania Bertram (guest blogger) shares her memories of travelling throughout regional and remote Australia  with her husband and two young daughters in the late 90’s. Tania is a keen Ambassador for the Outdoors is my Therapy initiative. She knows first hand that spending time outdoors gives you the chance to switch your mind off stressing, take in the beauty of your surrounds, focus your mind and your body, and bring a smile to your face.

An Epic Family Adventure

All packed and ready to go. One of many family adventures was about to be made. The adventure actually started many months before with the decision my husband Jeff and I made to travel Australia with our 2 year old and 4 year old daughters. Travelling and camping were not new to us or our girls.

In February 1997 the old camper was hitched on the back of the old LandCruiser and we headed south. Enjoying our own company, we chose secluded, quiet spots to camp. Nature is always on display when those around it are quiet and observant.

family adventure

The ups and downs of adventures

First week we encountered gale force winds as a storm tore through our camp site. The girls sheltered under the kitchen table as Jeff held the awning and I held the canvas side from ripping inwards. The next week in a remote National Park we sat in buckets of water as the temperature peaked at 48 degrees in the shade. The Grampians [part of the Gariwerd Aboriginal cultural landscape] beckoned us to explore its mountains and rocky outcrops, then a visit to the nearest emergency department to get the youngest child’s elbow manipulated back into place after a slip. Then our children’s eyes wide as 4 spoons darted in and out of a tub of ice-cream, overlooking the valley.

Awe-inspiring adventures

Hiking up a stony track at sunset we wandered around the amazing stone sculptures of Broken Hill. Further south to some sinkholes we camped near clear water pools and watched an echidna waddle on past, leaving us pondering where he was heading to. We explored remote and windswept beaches with only our footprints to keep us company while we fossicked through treasures that had been washed up.

adventures in Australia

Travelling up through the middle of our vast country we lay at night stargazing in the desert and listening to all the night animals calling. We sat on a low branch with the cool water washing over our feet, making up songs about what we saw. Redback spiders needed to be pushed aside so we could use the long-drop toilet. We swam in 38 degree artesian bore water, chilly crystal clear water in numerous gorges and warm tropical waters. It was a sheer joy every time.

Us girls put on our posh frocks, our only going out dress, and cheered as we watched a horse race event in a small outback town. At yet another remote beach we dodged the squirts of the blue ringed octopus as we walked past their enchanting rock pools. Red chasms of the Bungle Bungles [now known as  Purnululu National Park] beckoned us in to explore around the next bend, listening to our echoed voices dance above us. Boab trees in the north west became hiding places for our happy girls. We joined hands and circled the tree only to reach half way.

family adventure in Australia

We sat mesmerised while listening and watching whales playing in the inlets, their fluke slaps lulling us into a peacefulness that only nature can do. We saw so many historical places, natural wonders and native animals up close. Our favourite pastime was lighting the campfire and making, cooking and eating damper on sticks filled with golden syrup.

making damper on the campfire

Daily life on the road of adventure

Daily chores were part of life on the road. The children would wash their undies and socks in their bathwater and hang them up to dry and some times they would wash the dolls clothes and hang them up.

I have beautiful memories of them sitting on a rug under the tree, observing in quietness. Other times they would be drawing what they saw or how they felt. I often smiled as my little family were huddled up on our laps around the campfire and Jeff would start a story with …. Once upon time there were two little sisters off exploring Australia…

adventures in the outback

Make memories while you can

Many older travellers would ask “Why do it now? Wait till they leave home!” Our answer was twofold. If we waited we may not get the chance to do it, and, we were having a wonderful family time making so many memories together. There are so many opportunities and adventures as a family.

Grow a culture of adventure in your family

We always wanted our children to know their country and the many people who make it their home. Eight months on the road began their confidence with their surrounds and their ability to fit into society, respect for their country and those who live off the land. Continued travels, to often remote locations, has given our daughters the courage and knowledge to become successful members within their communities.

amazing family adventures

Be with your children. Get down at their eye level and explore together. Explain and discuss what you all see, hear and feel. The colours and textures vary between leaves, bark and rocks. Make up stories about your children’s adventures.

Safe travels.

Tania x

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, daisy spokeKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves.

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.

Everyday in the Outdoors

everyday in the outdoors sunrise

Intentionally spending time everyday in the outdoors can add amazing value to your day, to your mental health and to your life in general. Yet many people rush through their day without even a thought about it. When you invest time and energy into connecting with the outdoors and with nature each day, you stand to gain multiple health benefits including improved attention, reduced stress levels, improved sleep and a better mood. Spending even just a few minutes outside each day can start to make a difference.

Recently the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group ran a 7 Day Challenge to share ideas about some of the ways we can all get connected with the outdoors on a more regular basis – so we feel better! And live better! All of these are completely do-able, perhaps with some modifications, no matter your fitness level, age, where you live or how mobile you are. Here are the 7 challenges we undertook to spend time everyday in the outdoors:

GO FOR A WALK

I’m referring here to simply walking around, moving your larger muscle groups and immersing yourself in your surroundings. Whilst daily exercise is very important, the act of getting your body in motion and connecting with the outdoors is the focus here. You can take a walk at various times during the day depending what works best for your routine.

Morning walk

Getting out into the natural sunlight first thing in the day helps your brain to wake up, re-sets your body clock so you’re ready for sleep again after dark, and forms a solid foundation for your day.

Lunch time walk

A mid-day walk helps to break up your day. Getting outside your usual workplace and changing your focus is one of the best stress breaks you can give yourself. Perhaps you’ll love it so much you’ll incorporate a daily constitutional into your regular workday routine.

End of the day walk

A stroll at the end of the day signifies the end of work and helps you transition to family time, personal time or relaxation time. Walking as the sun goes down is especially helpful to switch modes and settle for the evening.

WITNESS SUNRISE & SUNSET

Begin your day with the waking light of dawn and finish your work day as the sun sinks below the horizon – nature’s perfect bookends for your day! If you practise yoga, why not do some sun salutations as the sun rises or sets. Or use this special time for personal prayer, meditation or breathing or stillness practices. Sunrise and sunset are global phenomena which can help us feel connected with other people and places.

SPEND TIME IN A GARDEN

Are you fortunate enough to have your own outside yard? Or do you have pot plants, indoor plants or access to a local park or green space? Maybe you have an in-house kitchen garden with herbs or bean sprouts growing? Your daily garden routine could include weeding, pruning, watering, planting or harvesting. It could also include more physically demanding jobs such as fencing, making compost and nurturing your worm farm. If you don’t have your own garden, you can spend time planning your dream garden, creating a garden either in the earth, on your balcony or on your kitchen bench. Or you can use your senses to enjoy nature’s handiwork outdoors.

HAVE A GO AT BIRDWATCHING

Bring your attention to the bird life around you. What birds can you see? And hear? You might like to identify the various birds in your neighbourhood, or simply watch and listen to them. Over time you’ll notice their patterns and routines, flight paths, nesting sites, amusing behaviours, social groupings, and how they respond to seasonal changes.

PRACTISE MINDFUL PRACTICES

Mindfulness-based practices are wide and varied. In general the focus is on slowing down and bringing your attention to your surroundings and your experiences in the moment. This can be challenging because we spend so much of our lives rushing around.

Sensory mindfulness

One way to practise mindfulness in the outdoors is to observe the world around you through each of your senses one by one. Spend a couple of minutes noticing what you see, then move on to noticing what you hear, what you smell, what you feel, and so on.

Mindful walk

There are many variations of mindful walks too. You can be barefoot or wearing shoes. Begin by pausing for a few moments, close your eyes, take a few breaths and tune into how that feels in your body. Notice the sensations of the ground beneath your feet. Slowly open your eyes and draw your gaze to the ground slightly ahead of you. Move slowly forward one step at a time, bringing your attention to the sensations as you move your foot forward – lifting, moving, placing it down, and adjusting your balance. Repeat this for each step you take bringing your attention back to the sensations of walking each time your mind wanders. Continue for a few minutes, then when you are ready to finish, pause again, close your eyes, take a few breaths and then open your eyes. This is a wonderful moment for a gratitude practice.

FIND THE LITTLE TREASURES

Make new discoveries in your outdoor spaces every day. When you begin to look, you can find little treasures everywhere! Cobwebs hiding in the corners of the fence. Bugs scurrying in search of new homes. Grasses beginning to seed. Leaves swaying in the breeze. The soft sound of bird wings as they fly by. Grains of sand sparkling in the sunlight. The feel of the breeze as it moves your hair or caresses your skin. The smell of the eucalyptus tree.

CELEBRATE LIFE WITH A PICNIC

Picnics are the perfect way to celebrate life and the outdoors. They are equally delightful whether you go solo or share it with others. Picnics can be simple or complex, planned or spontaneous, romantic or practical. All you need is some food and somewhere suitable outdoors. You might like to have a picnic rug, chairs or a park bench to sit on, but finding a fallen log or rock is heaps of fun too.

Pre-preparing picnic food can be pretty special, however turning your ordinary everyday meal into a picnic outdoors is a fabulous way to liven up your day. If you like, you can bring some extra activities with you such as a camera to do some photography, bat and ball games, “I Spy” games, books and crosswords. Turn your picnic into an adventure by adding a physical challenge to it, for example hiking or biking into your picnic spot.

Let's sum up!
We had a lot of fun sharing these activities during our 7 Day Outdoor Challenge. Which ones would you like to incorporate into your routine for getting outdoors everyday? Or what other actions are you feeling inspired to take to get connected everyday in the outdoors?

Head over to our Facebook Group to view the videos and threads about our #7DayOutdoorChallenge and share your ideas with us. By the way (if you’re not already a member) when you request to join the Group you’ll be asked to answer some questions before you can join (so we know you’re not a robot!) and you need to agree to the rules which are there to keep the group as a safe space for sharing and inspiring.

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

Kathryn talks you through how you can incorporate a daily routine of spending time in the outdoors that works 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.

Calming techniques for fear and anxiety

Daisy Spoke Banner

With dramatic stories of doom and gloom flooding the media in recent times, I’ve found myself digging into my store of calming techniques for fear and anxiety. I figured you might find them useful too, after all, we’re all experiencing a global pandemic together – something that none of us have had to deal with before. This article explores the nature and purpose of fear and gives you a list of action-based techniques and a list of mind-based techniques that have a calming effect on anxiety and fear.

Fear is the voice in your head trying to keep you safe

Fear is the voice in your head telling you a story that sets off a chain of physiological and psychological responses. This gets you prepared to fight off danger whether it’s really there or not, to run away from it in pursuit of self-preservation, or to freeze.

As much as we may not like the sensations that fear brings, we need to allow it. It’s helped to keep the human race alive so far by signalling to us and enabling us to draw away from danger and move towards safety.

So how do we keep these voices of fear in check so that they do their job of keeping us safe without stopping us from living a healthy and fulfilling life?

fight flight freeze OR pause breathe think

The biology of fear through the ages

Biologically, for some of us, our brains and bodies excel at responding to fear. In days gone by, we were the warriors, chiefs and the village leaders who led our families to safety, found shelter from storms, fought off predators and kept everyone together. In our modern world it’s easy to forget that people led very physically active and outdoors-based lives not that many years ago. Bodies were in constant motion throughout the day and in tune with nature and with their wired brains – the perfect combination.

But today we’ve removed a lot of the physical movement from our lives and we’ve become disconnected from the outdoors and often from each other and our inner selves too. We’ve organised the world around us to protect us from weather and hard labour. Many of us live in permanent housing in societies with building regulations requiring our homes to be resistant to cyclones, tornadoes, rain, snow, hail, and wind. We shop for our food rather than hunt and gather it. Most people around the world commute using motorised transport rather than human power. And everywhere we look there are labour saving devices such as food processors and power tools.

The signs of fear and anxiety

Although our physical activity levels have reduced and we spend a lot of time indoors, our wired brains continue to go searching for danger and find it everywhere. This is exacerbated when something unexpected happens, such as the current corona-virus pandemic. For many of us, our bodies are not moving enough or connected with the world in ways that stimulate the physiological changes that keep a calm equilibrium and so we experience more signs of anxiety including:

  • ruminating thoughts
  • difficulty sleeping
  • sweating
  • feeling on edge, irritable
  • distracted
  • difficulty concentrating
  • body tension
  • aches, pains and nausea
  • lethargy
  • restlessness

are you feeding your fears

Action-based calming techniques for fear and anxiety

When we understand the physiology of fear, that is, what’s happening in our bodies when we feel anxious, we can begin to take actions to calm it. Calming actions may include:

  • set boundaries around your sedentary activities, for example, give yourself permission to use your electronic devices at set times of the day, put them away at night, set a limit on your daily quota of usage, and limit the number of times you check the news and social media
  • move more, sit less – move as much as you can during the day and get outside whenever it’s safe to do so
  • exercise for 30 – 60 minutes each day, preferably in the morning so you’re energised for the day ahead and it doesn’t disrupt your sleep at night
  • spend time with people whose company you enjoy or create a tribe of like-minded people – this can be face-to-face (when health directives allow this once again) but don’t forget there is great value in connecting with others online or by phone, video-conference (eg Skype), text and through social media groups
  • get creative and constructive doing hobbies or other tasks
  • participate in regular yoga, meditation or breathing practices – if you can’t go to a group class, try using an app, online class or a YouTube tutorial
  • watch a funny movie or a comedy show – laughing helps you breathe deeply and relax
  • talk to a professional
  • drink plenty of water and feed your body with good nutrition
  • spend time outdoors connecting with nature using your senses to be fully present in that space and time
  • watch your posture – shoulders back, head held high and breathe fully and deeply
  • have a massage to release tension from your muscles
  • give yourself a head massage
  • use your senses to connect with activities that you find relaxing, for example think about what things you can look at, listen to, smell, taste or touch that brings you joy
  • work on improving your sleep – if you are having trouble sleeping, read my  Top Ten Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
  • rest or have a nap in the morning or early afternoon if you need to

use nature to deal with fear and anxiety

Mind-based calming techniques for fear and anxiety

Your mind is a mighty powerful tool that can also contribute to a sense of calm. Using your mind in this way can be a bit tricky if you haven’t done it before so here are some techniques to get you started:

  • talk to yourself using a calm, kind and rational voice

I know you’re feeling scared. Is it actually dangerous, or does it simply feel scary?”

What can I do to minimise the risk and maximise the benefits / enjoyment in this situation?”

What do I have control over in this situation? Hmmmm…. Okay, let’s just focus on that”

  • choose a positive intention or attitude for the day that will help you stay calm eg “Just breathe” or “I’ll start each day with movement and exercise”
  • remind yourself about fear’s purpose and that even in low risk situations your brain is wired to search for the danger, the difficulties, the problems – but this is only part of the whole picture
  • tune in to yourself and notice what’s happening in your body and what’s going through your mind
  • allow the fearful voices and thoughts to settle gentle as if they are snowflakes in a snow dome that’s been shaken up
  • imagine what advice a wise mentor might give you – this can help to balance up your own narrowly-focused thoughts
  • visualise wrapping your worries up as a gift and handing them over to someone or something that has more control over the situation
  • give your worries a name and imagine a safe little place that you can store them for now so that they no longer take over every part of your day and night
  • if you feel the fear or anxiety in parts of your body such as your belly or your head, imagine shrinking them down and allowing them a small space to do their thing – maybe a little corner of your belly or your little finger nail or behind your ear
  • visualise yourself walking into a beautiful garden and leaving your worries on the ancient worry tree at the gate before you go in (this idea comes from Maureen Garth’s book “Earthlight: new meditations for children”)

fear and possibility

Fear brings up other emotions

Fear is closely connected with a range of your emotions. It can keep you quiet with nervousness and shame. Fear can make you loud and angry too, or it can make you feel jumpy and agitated. It’s different for each of us, and it’s different in each situation we face too. That’s why it’s so important to have a deep store of techniques that you can draw upon when you need to. What worked for you before, may not work for you in a new situation.

Fear can be suppressed, expressed and transformed

When you think of fear as a form of energy, you can understand how it can be suppressed, expressed or transformed. Each of these processes has their purpose, but today I encourage you to focus on transforming your fear into productive and constructive actions and a healthy and helpful mindset. This takes practice and patience with yourself. Using the calming techniques for fear and anxiety that are listed in this article is a great way to begin your learning journey.

More Help?

If you would like help in managing fear and anxiety, you can chat with your doctor who may be able to refer you for counselling or to a local program or online resource that meets your needs. And check my website for my current individual and group programs including coaching, bush adventure and retreats that have been created to inform, inspire and empower you towards health and vitality.

You can listen to this article in the Outdoors is my Therapy podcast – Episodes 5 & 6!

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.

Bushwalking in Goomburra, Main Range National Park

Regardless of your level of fitness there are plenty of options for bushwalking in the Goomburra section of Main Range National Park on the Southern Downs. As with many National Parks, it is a privilege to be able to share in the natural wonders and history of the area. There are varying stories about the meaning of the word “Goomburra” taken from the local Aboriginal language. The European history of the Darling Downs area relates to transport routes between the east and west, the logging industry, and frequently violent conflict with the Traditional Custodians of the land.

About Main Range National Park

Main Range National Park covers over 30 000 hectares in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area in south east Queensland. With an amazing diversity of plants and animals and unique terrain, Main Range is a popular place for people to picnic, bushwalk, camp and venture into the more remote areas of the Park.

Main Range National Park is divided into 3 sections including Queens Mary Falls, Cunningham’s Gap, and Goomburra. Let’s take a closer look at the Goomburra section. 

Are you new to bushwalking? Read some tips and hints on how to get started bushwalking.

Goomburra Section

bushwalking Goomburra 3
Explore the wide variety of habitats when you go bushwalking in Goomburra

The Goomburra section of Main Range National Park is about 170kms south west of Brisbane by road or about 55kms north east of Warwick. The Park offers spectacular scenery with rugged mountains, scenic lookouts, open dry forest, and rainforest. The Park habitats provide shelter to a variety of Australian flora and fauna including some endangered species.

Accommodation

Camp sites with composting toilets are provided in this section of the Park, and other private camp grounds and accommodation options are located nearby.

Access

Hidden away from the highway, access to the Goomburra section of the Park is along Inverramsay Road. Travelling along here reminds you of where your food comes from. The road meanders along the beautiful Goomburra Valley, home to grazing, dairying, vegetable and crop farms, as well as recreational enterprises such as 4WD parks and private campgrounds – very popular destinations for long weekends and school holidays.

The final approach to the Park is unfenced and unpaved so be aware of cattle wandering across the road. At times you may need a high clearance vehicle to navigate the unpaved sections. After rain there can be several water crossings as you enter the Park.

Kurrajong Picnic Area is on your left near the intersection with Lookout Road and a nearby information sign. Driving straight ahead you’ll discover two campgrounds with toilets and access to some of the walks from the car park where the road terminates.

Driving along Lookout Road you’ll wind your way up a narrow unpaved road which gives access to more walking tracks.

Bushwalking Tracks

There is a variety of walking tracks in the Park ranging from short and easy walks to steeper and more

bushwalking in Goomburra 1
Rock pool on The Cascades track

challenging half-day walks.

Dalrymple Circuit (1.2kms return) is a Class 3 walk with interpretative signs which winds through the forest and creeks. This walk is suitable for families or anyone looking for a short walk that gives you a taste of what Goomburra has to offer.

Cascades Circuit (6.5kms return) is a Class 4 track that’s a bit longer and more challenging. Wind your way up through the rainforest crossing the creek numerous times to sit by the rocky pools at the upper reaches.

The Ridge Track (5kms return) is a Class 4 track that takes you through quite steep terrain with dry forest and rainforest. Take care on the steep fire road and walking tracks as the gravel can be quite slippery whichever direction you go.

North Branch Track (7kms return) is a Class 4 track that begins off Lookout Drive near the Kurrajong

bushwalking Goomburra 2
Lush ferns growing on the Ridge Walk track

picnic area. From the picnic area, walk to the other side of Lookout Drive and cross the creek. On your left you’ll see the start of the North Branch Track which takes you through mostly dry open forest until it reaches the edge of the rainforest which is a perfect spot to rest and have a snack before returning the same way you came.

Araucaria Falls (3.6kms return) is a Class 4 track that takes you through rainforest to the base of the falls. Access to this walk is along Lookout Road.

Sylvesters Lookout (940m return) is a short and beautiful Class 3 track that can be accessed from Lookout Road. The walk takes you to a spectacular lookout.

Mount Castle Lookout (960m return) is another short, beautiful Class 3 track that can be accessed from Lookout Road. Walk through rainforest and be rewarded with amazing views below.

Winder Track (12 kms return) is a Class 4 track that goes out-and-back from the end of Lookout Road. This track is vehicle-width leading you through the forest to ‘the winder’ which was used in the bygone days of logging and timber cutting in the area. Although listed as a Class 4 track, the walk undulates fairly gently and does not generally have much in the way of obstacles. At the start of the walk keep an eye open on your right for views across the valley.

The art of not-bushwalking

If you’re not feeling up to the challenge of bushwalking in Goomburra, or maybe you have young children to care for, simply have a wander or a quiet sit-down in the campgrounds or picnic area. There’s always so much to see right on the edge of the forest, with birds flitting in and out, echidnas, wallabies and kangaroos, reptiles, and frogs and other water-based creatures along the creek. Take a book or some binoculars or a pack of cards and enjoy the peaceful surrounds as you reconnect with the natural world around you.

Things to watch out for

There are the usual things to watch out for whilst bushwalking in Goomburra including snakes, ticks, leeches, flies and mosquitoes. You may also see some stinging trees depending where you walk, so be careful not to touch these. Check the parks site for ‘alerts’ of bushfires and park closures. As always the recommendation is to be prepared with first aid knowledge, a snake bandage, sun and insect protection, wear long sleeves and trousers, slip on a hat, and take plenty of water with you as it can be quite hot and humid on the walks. Let someone else know where you are planning to go and let them know when you’ve returned so they don’t unnecessarily send out a search party. Mobile service is very poor throughout the area.     

It’s time to stop dreaming and start bushwalking in Goomburra!

bushwalkingSo….. enough reading and dreaming about it! It’s time to get organised and get out there for real!

WHICH TRACK WILL YOU BE BUSHWALKING IN GOOMBURRA?

Walking Track Classifications

This article refers to the Australian Standard for classifying the level of difficulty of walking tracks. The Goomburra Section of Main Range National Park has Class 3 and 4 walking tracks which are defined below:

Class 3 Walking Tracks

  • Well-defined, distinct tracks, variable in width. Muddy sections, steep grades and steps may be encountered. Some exposed roots and rocks.
  • All junctions signposted and may include interpretive signs.
  • May be partially overgrown; hazards such as fallen trees and rockfalls may be present.
  • No formed creek crossings; cliff edges and lookouts generally not fenced; appropriate caution required.
  • Reasonable level of fitness required and ankle-supporting footwear recommended.

Class 4 Walking Tracks

  • Distinct tracks, surface likely to be rough with exposed roots and rocks.
  • All junctions signposted. Markers may be used where necessary (e.g. at creek crossings).
  • Variable in width; muddy sections, steep grades and extensive steps likely to be encountered.
  • May be overgrown; hazards such as fallen trees and rockfalls likely to be present.
  • No formed creek crossings; no fences on cliff edges or lookouts; high level of caution required.
  • Moderate fitness level and ankle-supporting footwear strongly recommended.
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.

Bush Adventure Therapy and Deep Listening

What do bush adventure therapy and deep listening have to do with me? Well, here’s my story…..

Last week I really struggled. Everything seemed heavy and I simply wasn’t motivated to do many of the tasks I usually do each day. I know exactly why this happened, and with hindsight it all makes sense. But honestly, I did not see it coming until it hit me.

The Power of a Fantastic Conference

I blame it all on the AABAT (Australian Association for Bush Adventure Therapy Inc) conference that I’d been to the week before. After all the anxiety leading up to the conference and the pre-conference expedition, I never imagined having a more awe-inspiring experience surrounded by the friendliest, most welcoming, positive yet realistic people I’ve ever had the privilege of being with. After nearly a week spent camping, hiking, conferencing and in deep listening with the natural world around me, I found myself back at work surrounded by painted walls in the midst of the worst drought on record and isolated from my new-found tribe of bush adventure therapists.

Connection to Land, People and Myself

I sense that the lush and rugged terrain surrounding me while I was at the conference was also my protector and connector. Having heard some of the stories held by this land, I felt like I became part of it and part of the stories to be told in the future. Incredible things happen when we connect with nature and with each other. We come to know ourselves. We learn the art of deep listening, feeling and responding.

At the conference I learned bucketloads about the science of sensory awareness, the future for social work in bush adventure therapy, healing trauma, writing grant applications for projects, and the value of story-telling. I discovered the real-life stories where bush adventure therapy had made a difference in the lives of people including women following domestic violence, young people in the care and protection and justice systems, and people wanting to rediscover who they are and what life is all about.

With over 170 people at the conference, I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to meet and get to know everyone. But the real treasure for me was going on the pre-conference expedition when I spent a couple of days and nights with a beautiful group of adventurists as we challenged ourselves with plenty of uphills and downhills (READ: very-steep-scrambly-sliding-on-your-butt downhills), navigating the terrain the best we could, and giving each other a practical hand and oodles of encouragement. So by the time we rocked up to the conference venue ever so weary and dusty and sweaty, I never felt alone or isolated. I had the beginnings of my tribe. And with this sense of belonging and connection, my confidence and comfort grew.

bush adventure therapy expedition
AABAT Pre-Conference Expedition August 2019
CREDIT: AABAT

Coming Home and The Aftermath

All these things I held gently in my heart as I made my way home after the conference, excited for all the wonderful projects across the globe that connect people to nature, and super-excited for the part that I hope to play in the future. Full of stories and inspiration, I joyfully shared the highlights with anyone I came across.

And then unexpectedly it hit me. With the realisation that I was back to the ‘same-old same-old’ I felt the slump growing bigger as I listed off all the things I ‘should’ be doing but wasn’t. My yearning to be outside was incredibly strong, but I ‘should’ go back in and answer those emails and phone messages. I wanted to scream out that it’s not fair it’s so dry here and so green somewhere else, but I thought I ‘should’ just get on with life and stop comparing. And I wanted to be surrounded by my comrades even though I ‘should’ be grateful that I get to work for myself.

Life Goes On – Struggles Included

Here I am at the start of another week, still spurred on by everything bush adventure, still struggling somewhat. And I think to myself “How human am I? How human is it to feel the struggle?” We all have struggles even when life is going well. And from the struggle, when we can step back and look at it with love and support, comes strength, inner knowing, and intentional action.

Bush Adventure Therapy and Deep Listening

That’s what I’m working on this week. Identifying my strengths and especially what I’ve come to discover over the past couple of weeks. Finding that place deep in my heart that knows what I need to do, and being able to trust it to guide my way forward. Deep listening with the land and all that it nurtures (even in drought), deep listening with my community. And deep listening with myself.

That’s what bush adventure therapy means for me – deep listening to land, others and self. Belonging. Connection. Trust.

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.