It's been a busy summer month so far and it seemed fitting to write about how to manage some of the symptoms of stress, including low mood and energy. A good friend of mine is running some burnout retreats at the end of this month and clients are eligible to receive a fantastic discount. Also, I will look at how "Nature" can become a healing element.
We probably all know that prolonged stress isn't good for us. It can lead to burnout, anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue and many other symptoms. "Stress" doesn’t just mean having a lot to do or being too busy to see friends or go on holidays. Although yes, a long-term imbalance between work and play can create burnout symptoms. However, stress is also created by continuously doing things we deep down don’t like or don’t really want to do - but feel we have to, or feel we have no choice or power to change them. It could be doing jobs we hate, being stuck in a negative relationship, dealing with toxic family members, being unhappy with the boss or co-workers, or our home or the environment we live in. Many people also report feeling more stressed (mentally, physically, emotionally and in overall health) in the fast paced crowded urban environments in our cities. The disappointing truth is that none of these things will likely change until we are ready to change them. And most of the time the impetus to change has to come from ourselves. But to find the power within to recognise this and to then take charge to make changes is often frightening or seems even impossible at first. And for most people to be able to do this successfully and sustainably, we need to do something else first...
Step 1 - Find out what stresses you
To be able to actually do any of these things, to look after ourselves (self-care), and to make changes, we have to first recognise it as a problem.
Some questions you may ask yourself around the theme of prolonged stress:
What are currently three things in your work that stress you out?
What stresses you about your current relationship or life in general?
Do you frequently fell exhausted, drained, low in mood, get angry quickly, have difficulties sleeping or experience lack of energy?
Step 2 - Find out what you need to do about it
The second step is to figure out what to do about it. And then after that - how to do it!
Of course this seems like a logical approach and it is easier said than done.
So what stops us?
The second step is actually the hardest for most people. To start making any changes successfully and sustainably, we need to understand a little more about ourselves. Those stubborn parts of ourselves, that make us stay in our old ways of thinking and doing things. We may have an idea of what to do about our situation or perhaps rather what we 'should' be doing about it (i.e. what other people might think we should do about it). But that's the point that becomes a real issue here. It may not really be what we want to do, even if our logical rational mind tells us so. Despite the fact that we may know what it is we don't want, we may not be fully clear yet on what it is we do want! (So for many people staying the same is the 'lesser evil' for the time being. And so time moves on. And moves on. And on...)
"Nothing happens until the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change."
The second step requires some personal re-evaluation. What is it that I really want in life? What drives me? What makes me feel good...anything?
Who am I...really?
Wo do I want to be?
Step 3 - Get out into nature / take up an outdoor activity
Understanding our true underlying needs and wants, doesn't tend to happen with just a snap of our fingers. It tends to need some space and time to allow us to even start reflecting and exploring this a bit more fully. It requires some ‘grounding’ and state management first. Physical movement can help us with this and to be in our bodies more mindfully - more in a state of ‘being’ rather than focussing on ‘doing’ something all the time. For example, moving in nature can create a renewed sense of mindful 'presence'. By noticing and observing our bodies and physical surroundings more (= being 'mindful' not 'mind full'), space can be created for our thoughts to flow more freely.
This maybe just going for a walk, taking up gardening, hiking, jogging, kayaking, surfing, horse riding or any other outdoor activity.
Sometimes however, we may need a little more help then this to explore some of the core (and more difficult) questions above more fully...
"Only a relaxed mind can come up with new ways of thinking, perspectives, different ideas and creative solutions." Lara Just
Step 4 - Look for walking or outdoor therapy approaches
I like to use nature-based approaches in the therapy work I offer to clients to encourage this type of ‘creative nurturing’. This is counselling or psychotherapy outdoors - we walk AND we talk. We don't always have to walk, it depends on the fitness and ability of each person. There are plenty of spaces, paths to walk or benches to sit on in Hampstead Heath, North London.
There are other ways of re-connecting with nature, ourselves and others and the recent published article by Calm Moment Magazine (scroll down to the end) can give you some further ideas on how to approach it. Apart from the walking therapy that I offer, there will be also some workshops planned for later this year on ‘mindful gardening’ and ‘gardening therapy’ in North London.
If you have any questions about walking therapy or any future workshops, please contact me.
Step 5 - Go on a wellness retreat in nature
If you are interested in getting away from the city and do some more intensive de-stressing go look for a suitable wellness retreat. There are a number out there to suit your needs and depending what you want. This can be alone (e.g. just book yourself on a mini holiday!) or guided and with groups. I personally think the guided ones in small groups provide more structure and we are more disciplined to do some of the emotional and thinking work required. Another option to just get out is to check any relevant 'MeetUp' group (available on the app store, e.g. hiking groups).
Good friends of mine and a therapist I trained with in equine-assisted psychotherapy has also just opened up together with her partner a new 'inner wellness centre' called Pure Circle. They are offering a number of 'burnout' retreats that are launching this June and it may just be what you need. This amazing nature retreat venue is located near the northern border of the Cotswolds. A historic place with an old mill in a stunning luxury location. They offer an exceptional discount for their new pilot weekends. If you book before the 21st June 2019 this month you can receive an additional 10% discount on top by using the coupon code 'THEWALKINGTHERAPIST'.
The retreats are run by experienced and friendly, fully qualified facilitators. Raina and Mark have extensive experience of what it means to be in the busy corporate rat race and want to support anyone who is close to a burnout, or is recovering from one. The retreats are designed to help their clients find their path again by offering them the inspiration and tools to recharge and reconnect to themselves. For more visit their website.
If you do go, let me know how you found it!
In this latest article by Xenia Taliotis published in the Calm Moment Magazine, the The Walking Therapist was mentioned amongst other outdoor approaches. Read the full article here to find out why walking therapy can lift our mood and spark our imagination!
For other published media articles, see also in the resources section of this website.
If you have any questions, please contact me.