So, lockdown. How are you managing? Are you embracing it and seeing it as a challenge? Filling your instagram feed with the inventive and fun things you are doing every day to stave off the boredom? Or are you quietly becoming more and more introvert as you watch said people seemingly having the time of their lives? It's a tough one isn’t it?
We are well into lockdown now with no end in sight, we can speculate as to when it may end but actually all we can do is take one day at a time. For us all in the Ramblers community the prospect of not being able to access the National Parks, hills, moorland, forests and coastlines that we love walking on is heartbreaking. Not only is it affecting us physically but also mentally. Experts are now saying that the potential knock on effect of lockdown on peoples mental health is going to be huge. Indeed as someone who suffers from anxiety and depression I found myself having more than just a ‘blip’ yesterday. Luckily there was someone to pick me up and help, but some people aren’t so lucky.
So, is there a solution? Of course not, for a start we are all unique and the way in which we will deal with this alien situation is completely different to the way someone else will. Also, your reactions to it may come as a surprise to you. You may pride yourself on being upbeat, resilient and positive, but wake up one day and feel the complete opposite, maybe for the first time in your life. It's scary, I get it.
Okay, so no solutions but there are definitely strategies we can adopt to help us to manage our physical and mental health, and get a fix of the great outdoors that we all love so much. The Government has stipulated (as of date of posting) that you can take ‘one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household’. It has also been stipulated that this should be from your home and that we should not drive somewhere to exercise. Michael Gove has also suggested that this exercise should be ‘…a walk of up to an hour, or a run of 30 minutes, or a cycle ride between that, depending on their level of fitness, is appropriate.”
The Ramblers has subsequently launched their initiative called Roam Sweet Home.
‘Staying active is more important than ever, for both our mental and physical health, and getting moving feels great! We challenge you to put one step in front of the other Our Ramblers community is brilliant at being active. We might have hung up our walking boots for now, but our rambling spirit and sense of fun is going strong. That joy of walking can be felt anywhere - from a hike up the stairs, a jog on the balcony, a stroll in the garden, to a wander in a nearby park. So, we challenge you to join us in getting all our step count up in the weeks and months ahead. We can each discover new energy and excitement, as we roam close to home.’
If you visit their website you will see lots of great people doing great things; hiking long distance paths in their garden virtually, climbing the stairs up to the peak of mountains and stepping up to the challenge. You will also see people who are taking their time on their daily exercise to explore their local area, be a tourist for the day, use the Ordnance Survey Greenspaces layer on their Digital Map App to explore and discover new places. There are people discovering beautiful walks on their doorstep, from their front door that they had either forgotten or didn’t even know were there as they were always searching for that mountain, peak or coastline. It seems to me that we have an opportunity here to really engage in our local environment and become mini-adventurers. I am loving my daily walks with Otis my dog, we have explored woodland, rivers, streams, rolling fields all within walking distance from my home. Little places of wonder that I never knew existed. Trig points that I had never taken the time to locate that I can access from my home. Every walk, every day is an adventure and I am an explorer.
Not only is this helping me physically (the dog is in heaven!) but it is helping me mentally. It is proven that just 15 minutes outside every day, and I mean quality time, no social media scrolling allowed, 15 minutes, is all you need to significantly benefit your mental health. However some people don’t have access to the countryside from their front door, but you can get outside. How many blue plaques are there near to you? Can you draw a picture on your map tracker while you walk? What happens if you leave the house turn left, then next right, then left, then right? Can you discover new alleyways and roads in your home town? Can you walk and take photographs of different coloured front doors? How many colours can you find? Go to the nearest park and stop for just 10 seconds and listen, truly listen. How many birds can you hear singing?
And then there are those like my Mum who is having to stay indoors due to underlying health issues. She is lucky to have a beautiful small city garden (as long as my Dad doesn’t cut it all back to the ground - she has a good teacher voice to stop him!) and she can sit out there and look up and watch the sky. Deep breathing, focusing on the clouds one day, birdsong the next. Recording what she hears, or not. She can sit by an open window and read, wrapped in blankets.
The greatest gift we have right now is time, time to truly engage in the outdoors. Be it by making our daily exercise meaningful, enjoying what outdoor space we have or throwing open the windows and sitting, peacefully. It's all too easy to start thinking about ‘what if’ this, ‘what if’ that. It's all too easy to worry about what may happen. But remember we are living history, people will look back at this time in awe and we are a part of it. It will end, we will also all be very different people because of it. So, try not to worry about what has happened and what may happen and focus on the now, what it happening today and how we can treat ourselves, look after ourselves and most importantly connect with others. Just because we have to stay at least 2 metres apart doesn’t mean we can’t smile, say hello and ask how each other are. You never know, that connection you make with that person may well be the only interaction they get that day, so isn’t it amazing that a simple action could literally make that persons day. Get outdoors, Roam Sweet Home, stay safe and enjoy the simplicity and peace the outside world can bring us.