Updated: May 21, 2021
Spring has well and truly sprung, and thank god for that! Like many, I really struggle during the winter in the UK. With little sunlight everything just seems grey and damp, constantly. This winter has been particularly hard with the added complications of the pandemic and lockdown. Its been this last quarter that I, and I’m sure you, have really felt the side affects of it. For the first few months of this year I personally really struggled with my mental health. I felt anxious all of the time and at points very low. There just didn‘t seem to be any hope left. I found myself in a place where I couldn’t be bothered to do anything to help myself as I physically didn’t have the energy. It also wasn’t a priority. I know that sounds bizarre, why wouldn’t I take my own advice and follow simple steps to help my mental health? Because in all honesty, when I was that low all I could do was ride it out. I knew that it would pass and the day would come that I did have the energy to run, eat well and sleep well. Have you heard of Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs? If not, in short, it’s a theory that uses a ladder diagram, where the bottom steps are your most basic needs. Think air, water and shelter. As the steps climb the needs become aspirations, but until you have the below step met you cannot move forward with the next. It’s all about priorities, and our brains do the choosing for us as it’s all part of survival. It’s like suggesting to a homeless person to get a job. Of course, that’s an aspiration, but it’s not a priority, nor will it be achieved until that person has shelter and food, and feels secure with those and that they aren’t at threat of losing them. For me, getting through the days and ticking one things off of my ‘to do list’ was a priority so that I felt in some way that I was moving forward and away from this time. It was a very dark place and I know I wasn’t alone there. So many people, unfortunately, were in that dark place with me, and many sadly still are.
Spring arriving really does feel like a new chapter for me. It genuinelly feels like a page has turned and there is some light & hope again as the nights get shorter and the sun shines brighter. I felt like a shift had happened and I could breath again a bit easier. I wasn’t feeling anxious or worried around the clock. It gave me a needed circuit breaker, some perspective and some time. What changed? Why did I feel like I suddenly had the resilience from my first step to start looking after me again? I’m not entirely sure, but it came at the same time as spring arriving, reconnecting with friends and family after lockdown and our house renovation, (which had been a huge cause of stress), getting somewhat sorted. I felt more in control of my life again. I took the time I needed each weekend to go for a walk and think about my intentions for the week ahead and I started sharing them with my loved ones so that they became shared objectives and goals. Even the little things like, ‘I’d like to get to bed early this week and have smoothies for breakfast’. Just saying it out loud was like having a mantra to work towards. I also set intentions with friends and family like doing daily yoga, even if it was for 20 minutes or walks after work. Just these slight changes gave me a spring in my step and made it feel possible. They also gave me something to focus on and work towards.
There are a few things that I know by doing i will feel more resilient - having a break away, being outside, being by or in either the sea, mountains or forests. There’s something about the last point that makes me feel insignificant. The power of that shouldn’t be overlooked. For me, it grounds me and puts it all into perspective. As I write this blog I am sat on the most beautiful of decking, drinking coffee and looking out at a beautiful view of west Wales. I’ve come away for the weekend to Fforest in Cardigan. Just me, my partner, Matti, and our dog, Buddy. Apart from this short time taken to write a blog, we’ve not had screens, we’ve read books, sat by fires, walked, reconnected and swam in the sea. Oh and there has been some epic food too! I feel like me again and I’m not taking it for granted. I know that I am very, very lucky to be able to do this, but it has made me think of a few simple things that got me here, and that I will continue to do when I’m either feeling low again or to help me stay feeling grounded. I thought I would share them with you in the hope that they may help you too....
1) reconnect with a loved one. Talk to them even if it is to say ‘I’m not good and I need some time’. 2) ride it out, be kind to yourself and don’t make lots of plans or goals. Just be, and focus on your immediate needs. It will get better. 3) when you feel able to, get outside, move your body and breath. If possible, get back to nature.
4) do something different to your normal routine. It could be waking up half an hour earlier to sit and drink coffee, stretch or walk. 5) go somewhere different. Even if it is for half an hour. Find a new walk, get away, change the context you’re in and the view you can see. 6) slow down. Take the load off and don’t make plans, just go with the flow. This is super hard when at home and there’s life admin, but just don’t give yourself anything to do for a morning or a day. Rest. 7) sit in the sunshine and look to the furthest point you can. Notice everything in between and be still. 8) fuel your body with nutrients. You wouldn’t put the wrong petrol in a car to make it work properly, so when you’re feeling depleted and you need all the help you can get, reach for fresh produce. If your stretched for time and stressed, pack it into a smoothie for breakfast or lunch. This way you’ll make sure you’re body is getting what it needs whilst also not giving yourself extra things to do. Spring is a great time to get fresh produce, so pick up something new in your weekly shop every week to keep things varied.
A good friend of mine last year really needed a break. Her family weren’t able to take time off, so she packed her bag and a tent and had two nights camping on her own. She was scared and felt intimidated, but she had a couple of books to keep her company and booked a campsite in an area she loves in Somerset. She took herself away and gave herself the break and the time she needed. When she came back she was recharged and she’d had the best time. She was able to go at her own steam, do what she wanted and when she wanted. Not only did the break help her but the time on her own grounded her and gave her masses of confidence that she wouldn’t have achieved on her own.
A change really is as good as a rest, so as the nights draw out and the sun shines, get outside and change your scenery. Whilst getting away isn’t always possible, breathing in the fresh spring air is. Take five minutes each day to be still, look around you and just be. You don’t need to be anywhere, do anything, you are enough. We’re getting through this and Mother Nature is giving us a big old reason to get outside at the minute. Whilst we can’t be indoors with all of those we love due to unlocking restrictions, be outdoors and give yourself some kindness.
Spring really is a good time to set about to make changes, reset goals and ways of thinking. It is naturally and religiously a time for rebirth, with flowers coming into bloom, trees blossoming, spring animals being born, and as we emerge from being indoors we can make even small changes to our daily routines that will make us feel like we have a spring in our step. Having had the perspective and time needed this weekend to consider this, I feel recharged and ready. I know my anxiety levels are still high, but I feel more resilient to cope with them, and I have new routines to make positive change.
Things I will be doing this week following on from my incredible weekend in nature to ensure I keep my batteries recharge.....
1) not turning on the tv each night, but sitting outside whilst the weather is nice and reading
2) light the outdoor fire and watch the flames
3) find a new walk for me and Buddy to go on next weekend.
Thank you Fforest for a wonderful weekend away, you’ve brought me back down to earth and given me the spring in my step to take on the next challengers whatever life or this world brings. We will definitely be back, even in the dark winter months! What small changes can you make this week to give yourself some self-care and love? Can you get outside? Can you eat fresh produce? Can you take 5minutes to sit and focus on your breathing? Or maybe you’re still in your own dark period. In which case, go easy, do what you need to do. Ride it out and when you’re able to, reach out, emerge and breath in the fresh spring air. Either way, be kind to yourself and others. Welcome in spring to your life and embrace a new season, embrace that time is moving forward and you will too.
Go easy, and be kind,