Nature was my rescue boat – it always has been. I hadn't realised just how much of a lifeline it threw me until it felt out of reach. Having that thing you do when you are worried, anxious or upset, that thing that without even noticing or trying, brings a sense of peace and focuses you on the present, that seems to me a vital ingredient for mental health. For some people that's running through the mud, sexy salsa dancing or yarn bombing their local lamppost. For me it was forests.
I've always loved being among trees, that feeling of walking in an old place, full of a sense of magic and the quiet rustling of leaves. I was always trying to work out where that squirrel just disappeared to or what kind of bird was making that odd noise. Then a year ago I was badly bitten by a dog and suddenly that all stopped. The walking was replaced with chronic pain, hospital appointments and at 35, a walking stick, and an uncertain future. Depression quickly followed digging its claws deep into me. Perhaps it was always lying dormant, kept only at bay by my "forest bathing" but it's here now and so much worse that the scars left by the dog.
I tried to find something else to release the stress - but banned from all physical exercise by my doctors nothing seemed to cut it. I tried reading more, baking bread, joining a choir, seeing friends – all those things people generally suggest but I remained flat and broken, raw on the inside from the sense of loss.
And then it hit me – having a fall back for your stressbuster is a great idea, but why not adapt what you love instead. So one day I switched from focusing on what was now impossible to a new possible. Taking my car I drove through the countryside – I had no plan, no route or direction but just being out of the house and seeing the trees was the first dose of my natural medicine. Tentative hobbled steps followed: finding woods with car parks where I could just get out and sit in the trees, getting to know all the benches in my local park, RSPB reserves with cafes overlooking water and finding nature in the urban – bird feeders bring the forest to me when the pain is too much. Of course there are days I still shed tears for my missed long walks through a forest but I can breathe better knowing I've new ways to get my nature hit now.
So my advice to you – try a daily dose of our glorious natural world and if you think you are loosing something maybe it's a chance to rediscover it another way. You are stronger and more resilient than you think.
A Moodscope member.
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