Nurturing yourself with something other than food…
In today’s hustle of #covidlife, it is incredibly easy to get swept up in a monotonous list of to-do’s. Working in the office or outside of the house used to provide a clear-cut beginning and end to the day. Now, it seems those boundaries have become muddled and present more of a challenge to maintain.
What does this mean for you?
Well, it means you’re most likely experiencing a state of heightened cortisol, increased irritability, and inconsistent sleeping patterns. When our brains don’t get the signal that the workday is over, it isn’t surprising that anxiety starts creeping in.
So, the real question is, how can we recreate the end of the workday ritual (such as leaving the office) to help us disconnect and find more grounding during this pandemic?
I have one answer for you; NATURE!
Short bursts of time spent in the outdoors can provide your mind and body with the much-needed respite you are craving. Let me share with you just a few of the benefits of ending your workday with a walk in nature (and it’s not just that it’s free and easily accessible).
Nature increases healing capacities for your whole body. Many studies indicate spending time in nature can increase overall mood improvement by 90-95%. This means that on days you’re experiencing work stress or difficulty coping with anxiety or depression, nature can prove to be a pretty significant antidote. Nature helps us feel connected to the present moment and encourages connection beyond ourselves. We are all familiar with the debate of nature vs. nurture, but what if we became acquainted with the concept of nature becoming a form of nurture? All human experiences are inherently entangled and influenced by the surrounding physical space. Many workspaces have little natural light, have little room, and don’t allow for frequent movement or emotional expression.
Many people are currently encouraged to work from home, giving people a touch more flexibility in their daily work schedules. With the extra time that was once spent on commuting, there is less of an excuse for you to claim that you “don’t have time” to step out and enjoy the nature around you. This can be anything from spending 10-15 minutes at a local park, nearby wooded area, lake, ocean, trail, dog park, and any walking path that gives you that dose of fresh air. Nature’s natural ability (pun-intended) to provide you with more connection and balance may be the key you need to escape your endless hustle, and transition into a new purposeful night routine. Unfortunately, many of us are experiencing a new societal norm that requires us to spend much of our time in front of computers, phone screens, or televisions. Consequently, the idea of “Nature Deprivation” has become all too familiar among adults, young adults, and even children.
The burning question is: “How do I begin to incorporate more nature into my routine?”
- Do you have a morning ritual that includes drinking tea or coffee? I love to encourage clients to take their coffee or tea time outside. Get a burst of the fresh air, and marvel at the beauty of the trees and sky around you. Even if this morning burst of the outdoors only lasts for a precious and tranquil five minutes before your day starts, it is a solid reminder of where you can go to find the peace if you need a break. Another option is to opt to go on a short morning walk before your day gets started. This could mean venturing to your local park to watch the sunrise or waiting until you’re awake enough to venture out and walk to your local café.
- Incorporate nature time after your lunch. This supports the movement your mind and body need and creates a moment for re-centering before attempting to tackle the afternoon checklist. I am one of those people that loves a “two-birds with one stone” type of scenario. Getting in your steps while enjoying a moment to pause and reflect, can help your mindset and shift the mid-afternoon funk that can so easily creep up on you.
- Start adding in a short walk before or after dinner. This is not only great for decompressing after a long workday, but also wonderful for your digestion. A slow walk can help create a buffer before or after you finish your meal to allow your stomach to digest and send a signal to your brain that you are full or are hungry. Often, we move so fast that it is common to rush through meals and consume more food than you need to. Taking a walk before or after your meal can help you differentiate your feelings of urgency from your workday to feelings of actual hunger. This process alone can help you determine if you’re hungry, if you need to slow down and be more present, or if you just need some movement and fresh air. Either way, after your walk you will be able to engage with your food and your evening in a more present and less stressed state.
- Schedule a weekly call with a friend or family member to connect with while on your outdoor walk. Let yourself wander, because not every path, hour, or step in life has to be planned. Let the support come through the phone, while you find freedom in your movement and inspiration from the nature surrounding you.
Nature can bring you back home. Back to that place of belonging. So much of our time gets eaten up by the things we are told we should fit in to. That could be a personality at work, clothing brands we should wear to look “put together”, and even posts on social media we should make to seem popular. In order to feel accepted, or experience a wholeness, we are told that we need to achieve a specific level of success in various components of life to deserve this feeling. Nature can bring you back to your roots. Helping to remind you that healing isn’t linear, and that you don’t need to break to “become” whole.
Huelat, Barbara (2003). Healing Environments: Design For the Body, Mind & Spirit. Alexandria and Arlington, VA: Medezyn and Peecapress.
Ulrich, R., Zimming, C. (2004). The Role of the Physical Environment in the 21st Century Hospital: A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity. Report to the Center for Health Design (Ulrich #). Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.