One thing this pandemic has taught me is to maintain flexibility. It’s one value that allows me to maintain agency in an age of uncertainty. This was at the forefront of my mind before I set out on a backcountry camping and ski touring break. As I reflected with a client last Wednesday: “I won’t get my hopes up until my skis are gliding on the snow!”
As it happened, the “fortune cookie” crumbled on my side and I was deep in the alpine backcountry, when Victoria’s 6th snap lockdown was announced. Oblivious to the chaos that was unfolding 400km away, I was immersed in the moment, taking some deep breaths, reminding myself of the regenerating and nurturing qualities of being at one with nature. The ability to “nature bath” has been one pillar of my wellbeing formula missing in the last 16 months. Previous trips to the great outdoors have been a sure way for me to reset and connect with my “deeper self”, in short a systems reboot for the soul.
The book “Your Brain on Nature” sights a series of studies that have measured cortisol, heart rate and blood pressure to demonstrate the measurable benefits of wellbeing and performance by simple contact with nature. Interestingly some Japanese research has also shown that exposure to nature not only mediated the stress response, but also impacted the immune response.
Connecting with nature is not the only reason I came back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. During my time ski touring I was also engaged in an activity that saw me in a state of flow. For many hours my mind and body were immersed in the cyclical gliding of skis over snow, regulating my breathing, as well as reading and appreciating the terrain I was traversing. Reaching a state of flow- where you are immersed in a task and lose a sense of time, is one of the biggest predictors of wellbeing during “iso” according to Dr Shanta Dey Psychologist.
Another factor influencing my sense of wellbeing was simplifying my day into manageable tasks. Melting snow for hydrating food and drinking water, breaking and setting up camp for the day, and skiing to my next destination were all I needed to focus on. Although the tasks were simple, there was a definite sense of achievement as I fulfilled on my requirements to survive in the sub zero temperatures.
Finally my remote locale allowed me to disconnect from technology and the 24 hour news cycle. Being unable to check my email and news feed helped sooth my nervous system, taking a break from the anxiety fueled COVID updates normally bombarding my psyche.
On leaving my “alpine bubble” I reflected on my sense of calm and the possible contributing factors to my greater sense of wellbeing. Driving back to another lockdown it made me consider how I can incorporate nature, flow, attainment and creating a technology and news Sabbath into my weekly lockdown routine. Here are my ideas:
Schedule time each week to connect with nature. That can be as simple as gardening when at home or lying in the hammock enjoying the surrounding tree canopies. A simple mindful walk in the local botanic gardens is another opportunity to forest bath when in lockdown
Restructure my week and maximise flow activities in my schedule. This could be reading a book, writing in my journal, or doing some mindful movement. This helps build capacity and my mental resources to get through another week of zoom meetings and home schooling!
Simplify my daily to do list to three outcomes that can be achieved on the day. Chunking down projects and goals into manageable daily tasks, helps increase my sense of agency and achievement.
Create a technology curfew each night after 6pm. Only check into a reputable new source once a day.
Schedule some daily movement. It is the best remedy for getting my brain out of lockdown.
So why are mountains so important to me?
"Mountains are cathedrals grand and pure and not stadiums to satisfy my ambitions. On their alters, I strive to perfect myself physically and spiritually. In their presence, I see myself and understand this life. From their summits, I view my past, dream of the future, and with unusual acuteness, I experience the present moment. In the mountains, I celebrate creation. On each journey, I am reborn." Anatoli Boukreev (abridged) 1958-1997
What is your mountain in lockdown? I would love to hear from you.J