I feel like my last few posts have been a bit ‘heavy’. It’s the reality, but we also need to be able to focus on the good things, the little bursts of sunshine, and the brighter rays of light in our days.
I’ll keep this short in the hope that we can continue to build community spirit and resilience, and that some of you will post about the ‘little things’ that have been good in your days. Thank you.
*Get moving and stay in training*.
Have you noticed that as we are now in a form of ‘lockdown’ in the midst of this pandemic, people are beginning to take notice of things they may have once taken for granted? There are the obvious big things, like life itself, health, being able to draw the next breath. Yet there are also other things that we might begin to notice more: nature, the colour of the sky, the freedom we once had to be able to go outside without the level of fear or apprehension we now face.
Maybe what you miss is being able to go out for a walk, a run, or just the natural flow of movements you make throughout the day as you go from place to place.
During this ‘lockdown’, movement and physical activity will have a direct impact upon how well you cope with being indoors most of the time. It’s important, regardless of your level of physical fitness, to get moving and stay in training. You might be an athlete, or you might be mostly sedentary, or like me, you might be somewhere nearer the middle of that spectrum. Even if you can’t go outside, try to establish a routine where you will be moving and exercising at least 3 times a week, if you can’t manage everyday. This could be something as simple as some basic stretches to begin with, or some seated exercises and low intensity movements if you don’t feel you can manage much, but the important thing is to do things regularly, even if a very little at a time, depending on your fitness. Don’t put pressure on yourself, but remember that the endorphins produced when you get moving will help you to (a) feel better (b) have a more positive outlook (c) manage your emotions and stress responses (d) help you to manage and regulate physical and psychological pain.
So even if you feel you can do very little to begin with, do that little bit, and keep going. It will help you to build up both your physical and mental / emotional resilience.
Feel free to comment on your exercise of choice to inspire and encourage other people.
At this time of the year, the days are growing shorter and darkness sets in a lot earlier. It can be oh so tempting to spend most of our days inside, however, our bodies still need whatever sunlight we can get and while the days are still light, and reasonably temperate, my encouragement is to make the most of that by stepping outside whenever we can. It’s early November, and here although we have rainy and windy days, they are also interspersed with days like today where it is calm, still, and reasonably bright, albeit a little cold.
The ‘Brits’ are probably well known for talking about the weather a lot, but it’s probably because things are so changeable over here. We can’t be guaranteed sun in the summer, and when it comes, we all get very excited about it. In Scotland, like Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, these can often occur in one day!
At the moment, we are blessed with some crisp, cold, sometimes even bright autumnal days. I need to remind myself to make the most of these, to not spend an entire Saturday indoors, but to go for a walk while I still can, to wander down to the park and to enjoy the wildlife. It is beautiful, and so good for us to take in a bit of nature and breathe in some fresh air. Bearing in mind the winter seasons here often bring with them wilder weather, lashing rain and wind, and even snow, I really ought to enjoy as much ‘outside time’, even if that means a simple short walk, while I can.
It is good not only for the body, but also for those of us who have to work at our mental health, whether that may be depression, anxiety or some other condition, it is good also for the mind. So let’s make the most of the brighter and more temperate days while we can….for we know that they are very likely set to change very soon!
If you read part two of day three’s retreat reflections, you’ll know that after spending several hours over two + days sitting on my couch and working on writing my book, I was creating space and time to get out of that creative (and mostly immobile) state of being, to doing some of my usual light exercise. However, I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’ for some reason, and the easy exercises I usually do seemed like something I was just not going to (or too lazy to) manage at that moment. So I did some light stretching, and then found this on YouTube… it is a virtual treadmill walk in Palm Cove, North Queensland, Australia.
This for me personally was amazing! I don’t have a treadmill at home, but you can still do this while walking on the spot (yes, you’re not allowed to just watch it while still sitting on the couch! 🙂 ) and I have just walked the half hour, also using hand-weights and jogging a bit on the beach. It has given my body and mind a boost. Of course, actually going outside for a walk would be great, but if you have been indoors, being a recluse for a couple of days, and are perhaps still in your pyjamas 😉 or if you don’t have somewhere to walk outside, or the weather isn’t great, or you just. don’t. want. to. engage with actual human beings, and traffic and noise and outside stuff right now, then this is really great, or at least I found it to be so. So thank you to whoever made the video, you have made the internet a little brighter.
Also, it terms of creative head space if you have been intensely working on something, this is a good way of still getting moving and having the chance to mentally engage, explore, be curious about what’s around the next corner, and enjoy some beautiful and relaxing views somewhere you may never have been before. I feel refreshed and relaxed at the end of this and ready to do 5 or 10 minutes of cardio before a bit of a cleaning / tidying up session to get organised for a more relaxing evening. Another thing is with this particular walk, is it is so relaxed, and there are people passing by, but you are still in your own personal retreat space. If like me you experience anxiety and panic attacks in crowds or public spaces, this can be really helpful for your mind to prepare from going from relative (or total) solitude on your personal retreat, to actually beginning to prepare for re-joining community, and reminding yourself that you will have to engage with people shortly while still being relaxed and calm right now. Preparation is key if you have anxiety – and maybe also if you just happen to be a bit of a recluse.
Psychologically I found it fascinating. Sometimes when we exercise, we struggle mentally to persevere and have to push ourselves. This of course is very light exercise and not really challenging for most reasonably healthy people I would assume, while recognising for others it is an accomplishment which is great. However, my mind was so engaged in the ‘story’ of where I / we / go-pro? was going next, of looking around, listening to the birds, the waves, seeing people of different walks of life, reading signs, enjoying the view and wondering about other people, that I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that I was walking, jogging and using hand-weights, because mentally I was engaged and it was an enjoyable experience. Also, probably quite helpfully, while ‘passing’ people during the virtual walk, my mind started making connections about the people I would have to engage with whether at work, or during my commute, and kind of preparing for that while still enjoying my ‘me time’ and without the stress of the contrast of a social situation after having my creative head buried in a personal writing project. If you don’t have these issues, then this may seem a bit strange, and that’s great if you don’t struggle, but it also might help provide a little bit of an insight into people you know who may have anxiety.
Anyway, all in all I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it really has helped me to shift gears into the next part of day three of this three day writing / personal retreat. Daydreaming…maybe someday I will go there for real 😉
If you could go for a (virtual or real) walk in any part of the world, where would it be? 🙂
At the end of a personal retreat, it’s important to feel rested and refreshed and ready for what lies ahead. However, the reality of that isn’t always the case, so I’m hoping that it works out for me by the close of today, as it’s onwards to ‘normal life’ at work in the office, tomorrow. Thankfully just a two day ‘work week’ (although I have been working hard on my novel at home).
The approach I’ve taken over the past couple of days has turned out to be very productive for me. By 11.30am I was able to put away my novel writing for another day, note down a few ideas to research, explore and take forwards in between now and my next focussed writing session, save my work, tally up a total word count over the two ‘and a bit’ days to 6,369 words, back up my files and give thanks for a productive time.
Retreats and ‘Couch potato syndrome’:
It can be hard to shift gears back into the ‘real world’ after a personal retreat. It’s therefore important to smooth out that transition as best as we can rather than expecting to be bright eyed and busy tailed and ready to go the next morning.
Ahead of me ‘looms’ piles of unwashed dishes, a messy bedroom and other ‘to do’ type things. It’s only mid afternoon, but I don’t want to end my retreat feeling rushed, busy or distracted. I don’t want to end the retreat tidying up, I’d much rather ease into the evening in a tidy environment, a soothing atmosphere and have the time, space, opportunity and mental focus to reflect upon what I’ve learned, what I want to take forward, and to do some calming activities (such as playing my violin, doing some adult colouring in, working on my photography, reading, decorating my ‘planner’, being calmly prepared for work, praying, and generally feeling accomplished, relaxed, refreshed and rested, rather than anxious).
The big however, is that for the past couple of days I’ve been all but a complete couch potato. I went out for a short walk on Saturday afternoon after I had accomplished my writing goals, but yesterday I didn’t even get ready, and stayed in all day, sitting on my couch and typing on my laptop, interspersed with eating food of various sorts, and drinking cups of tea!
Today therefore, although feeling like I have made progress creatively, physically I am experiencing a bit of couch potato syndrome. To overcome that I set aside a bit of time for the next ‘segment’ of my personal retreat, to help me to shift gears and actually get up, move about, and do things so that I can hopefully relax and do some light creative activities in the evening. I started to do some light exercise, using one of my usual You Tube exercise video series. However, even doing what is generally quite easy for me, was a bit of a challenge for me – I suppose my legs feel a bit ‘floppy’ after couch sitting for two days, and my mind is ‘in between’ creative space and physical action at the moment. We don’t always consider this dynamic when thinking about retreats, that there is a shifting of gears and adjustment required on the concluding day. Definitely don’t expect to do hours upon hours of focused work on your last day of retreat, and to feel prepared and refreshed afterwards. Get your best work done earlier on when you can more fully dwell in that creative space, and consider less to be more for the last stretch of retreat time.
Another thing to consider is if you are a deeply creative person, it can be difficult to suddenly expect to go from one mode of thinking and being to another. For example, after spending hours writing my novel, if I had to suddenly switch straight back into work mode, that would be difficult for me – I would miss the experience, discovery and engagement of writing too much – which is why it is helpful to have other avenues such as writing my blog that mean it isn’t such a sharp mental, emotional and creative contrast, as I will still be able to express the creative part of me on a regular basis, even when there is no focussed retreat time.
So back to easing out of the world inside our heads and computers, to the world around us. Leave a bit of time and space for you to do this on your retreat. Have an afternoon of gentle exercise, stretching, if unlike me you are dressed and ready for the outside world you could go for a walk somewhere peaceful, and maybe do your tidying in short segments of time while focusing on being present, noticing things creatively, or listening to something inspiring while you work – don’t fully reconnect with the outside world yet, especially online, this is still your time, and headspace, enjoy it, savour it, even as you gently shift gears.