Stress Less in Nature

stress less in nature

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

Stress has a purpose

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

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

Ongoing stress impacts health

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

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

stress less for better health

Be ‘stress aware’

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

Regulate your stress response

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

#1 Where are you spending your energy and attention?

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

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

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

Saying no

#2 Bring about a relaxation response

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

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

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

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

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

stress less with breathing practices

More ways to bring about a relaxation response

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

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

Stress less activities in nature

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

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

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

Let's sum up!

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

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

Listen in to the podcast episode here!

Daisy Spoke

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

Top Ten Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

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

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

Sleep affects mental and physical health

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

Sleep is complicated!

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

Find out what works for YOU

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

Plan of Action

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

1. Feelings of safety

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

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

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

3. Pain levels

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

4. Medication

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

5. Exercise and napping

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

6. Light and dark

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

7. Stress Management

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

8. Routine

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

9. Environment

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

10. Caring Responsibilities

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

Let's sum up!

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

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

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

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. 

 

 

 

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.

The 4 Foundation Stones of WELLNESS

This blog post summarises some of the information shared in a recent ROUND THE TABLE mini-workshop. To sign up for information about future workshops, click here: https://www.condamineassist.com.au/wp/mailing-list-sign-up/ 

Buildings don’t stand up for long without a strong foundation. Mental health and wellness are no different. By strengthening the foundation stones, we create greater resilience so that when life gets tough, we’re better able to weather the storms without crashing down.

So, what are these foundation stones of wellness? There are four main foundation stones that I work on with my clients as well as in my own personal life. Each of the stones support each other – they are interlinked – and they are a fabulous place to start building or renovating wellness at any time! The foundations are based on solid evidence that is routinely used in the mental health sector.

1. Movement

The latest Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines can be found here:

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines

Basically, people are designed to move … a lot. When we don’t move enough, we are at greater risk of switching into a depressed or anxious state. It’s simple biology. Get moving, get active, get off the sofa, and move as much as you can and often as you can. For most of us it’s recommended to aim for about an hour of moderate intensity exercise or activity each day, and limit our screen time to 2 hours per day. The combined mental and physical health benefits of exercise / activity cannot be replaced by any medication. If you are in pain, or have limited movement, injuries, or chronic disease, the best idea is to do what you can. Remember always check with your doctor or health professional if you have any concerns about your health, exercise, and resting needs.

2. Sleep

Sleep is often a problem that arises when something else (in fact, anything else!) isn’t quite right. Good quality sleep is needed for restoration of our minds and bodies. Sleep problems include too much, too little, and interrupted sleep, as well as feeling fatigued on waking. There are plenty of things you can do to try to improve your sleep, but remember that there is a huge variation of what is considered ‘normal’. First of all, there are some health issues which may be contributing such as sleep apnoea, snoring and medication. If you suspect these to be problems, check with your doctor. How much caffeine, alcohol and tobacco are you using? How are you managing your everyday stresses? Your relationships? Issues with pain management or other health issues? Is you mind staying awake when your body is trying to sleep? Are you able to rest peacefully even if you can’t sleep? What routine do you use to prepare for sleep? Are you relaxing and de-stressing during the day? The list is almost endless!

3. Nutrition

There’s some value in the old sayings “You are what you eat” and “Healthy body, healthy mind”, although I acknowledge it’s not quite as simple as that! When it comes to nutrition in the media, it can be very confusing. So, let’s cut to the evidence-based framework that’s used by dieticians in Australia. These guidelines provide clear direction about what and how much we need to eat to reduce the risk of disease and illness. Many people I work with are surprised when they realise how much 1 serve of vegetables looks like, and the proportions of the different food groups we need to aim for each day. A dietician once said to me that we should all aim to eat a rainbow everyday, if not at every meal, so this is another tip I often share to encourage people to eat a wide variety of foods. Some nutrients are thought to assist with mood management and sleep, but for most of us, we’ll be getting these simply by eating a well balanced diet. Oh, and don’t forget to limit your alcohol consumption and drink plenty of water! And check the guidelines here: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au

4. Mind

Mind health encompasses basically everything about life and living that is not visible – thoughts, feelings, spirituality, beliefs, assumptions, self-awareness, attachments to things / people / places, and inner skills to manage our mood and behaviours. And that’s just to name a few! Mindfulness skills training is a valuable component of mind health. This is something that everyone can practise either formally (eg using mindfulness meditation) or informally (eg noticing with curiosity and without judgement what you see, hear, feel, taste, smell while eating lunch). Practices such as these train our minds to pay attention to what is happening internally and externally. We come to notice the patterns of thinking and behaving that we automatically engage in. And with this knowledge comes the power of choosing something else.

So, the next time you notice you’re feeling down or anxious, check your foundation stones and make the adjustment you need. Strengthening one foundation stone will strengthen the whole structure, but to maximise resilience overall, you’ll need to work on all four of them. If you don’t have the skills to do this yourself, ask for help. Team up with your doctor or health professional to build the best YOU that’s possible!

Mountain Biking is my Parallel Universe! (Part 1)

“Just relax!” The words are easily spoken ….. but how easy is it for you to do?

I seem to learn all sorts of lessons about life on my MTB and vice versa. I have some trouble relaxing at the best of times, and this is definitely evident on my bike as well. I hold my upper body quite tense. I’m easily spooked by rocks and sticks on the trail especially when the ground is dry and slippery like it has been this season until a couple of weeks ago when we got some beautiful rain that stuck the dust together. I get freaked out by tight corners and steep descents. All of these things are pretty common features on a trail ride so you can begin to imagine how tense I am by the end!

So lately I’ve been practising keeping my upper body more relaxed on my bike. I’ve especially been trying to increase my awareness of my body position on the easier green trails so that when I ride the more challenging trails, I’m better prepared because of all the practising. I think it’s not only helped me to handle the trails a bit better, but also helped my shoulder and chest injury, as well as helped me to relax a bit more in other areas of my life. What a bonus!

 

Mind Your Worries

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“Mind Your Worries” is a 2-tiered workshop for parents and carers to build knowledge and skills around childhood anxiety. Feelings or emotions such as worry, stress and anxiety are normal reflections of how we experience our inner and outer worlds.

Learning how to navigate our emotional experiences involves complex skills which we continue to develop our whole lives. These skills include:

  • noticing body sensations and emotions
  • naming and describing sensations and emotions
  • noticing thoughts
  • making conscious choices about responding to those thoughts, and
  • consciously choosing constructive or helpful actions / behaviours (instead of simply reacting)

Developmentally children progress their skills over time. Parents, carers and educators play a vital role in supporting the emotional development of the children in their care. This includes having an awareness of their own emotional state and being able to confidently role model healthy strategies.

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We are all human – we all experience emotional states that are sometimes challenging. A healthy emotional life does not mean we are always happy. It means we have a tool box of knowledge and skills from which we can choose various strategies or tools as we need them. Sometimes we choose a tool that doesn’t quite the fit the job, and we need to go back and make another selection.

As parents or carers, it’s important to have realistic expectations of ourselves and our children. Sometimes we think we got it right, and other times we think we got it wrong. By building a large collection of tools for ourselves, we’ll be better placed to support the emotional development of the children we care for.

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“Mind Your Worries” will help you towards your goal of growing your tool kit by offering you a practical, down to earth workshop that will build you knowledge and skills around emotional development.

Parents and carers are invited to register for the first tier of the workshop held during school hours at St Mary’s Parish Centre. Morning tea and lunch are provided.

You are invited to bring your children back to the venue for the second tier of the workshop after school.  We’ll demonstrate and practice some practical stress management and relaxation skills altogether.

The John Wallis Foundation has generously supported this event to minimise the cost to you. Each family is asked for a contribution of $20 to be paid when you register online. Contact Kathryn if you have any difficulties with your registration kwalton@condamineassist.com.au

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When: Thursday 13th October 2016

              9am – 2:30pm (Parents/Carers only)

              3:30pm – 5pm (Parents/Carers AND Children)

Where: St Mary’s Parish Centre Palmerin Street Warwick (between Wood St and Pratten St next to St Mary’s Upper Campus)

Fees: $20 per family

Registration Fee includes m/tea, lunch, a/tea and handouts.

To Register: https://www.trybooking.com/LXUU

Cancellation Policy: No refunds with less than 7 days notice. You reserve the right to substitute another person to come in your place. We reserve the right to cancel in case of insufficient registrations, illness or other unforeseen situations. In this case, a full refund will be provided.

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This project is supported by donations to the John Wallis Foundation Small Grants Program, an approved project of the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR). FRRR is a government philanthropy partnership, supporting projects that benefit rural, regional and remote communities.