Monday, 19 June 2017

Why the outdoors is good for my mental well-being and confidence …

15 years ago I was working full time teaching in the outdoors with a fledgling company, a young family. Having just completed a trip of a lifetime on the Grand Canyon … life was pretty good on the whole! Sure, not everything was perfect, my wife at the time was from England struggled with the cultural differences and distance from her family and I didn’t really get it and was/am not the best communicator, but we were making a go of it.

My confidence/well-being (I see these intrinsically linked) was high! When life got turned upside down in a moment. For those who don’t know a client drowned while I was instructing … not the work story you want to live out …

I see confidence is like an egg shell … press on it one way it is incredibly strong but smack it from the other direction it shatters … my life-dream on kayaking full time, having it as a family business disappeared overnight … along with my confidence and well-being … it was a dark and moody place one at times I just didn’t want to see. At times I just wanted it to end or I end it.

I withdraw into myself … trying to answer the why, how, when, what … not communicating well with anyone … eventually, I went back to what I knew … sitting in a boat or on a bike or running, racing as an individual the only focus was me … it was how I could survive … one session at a time … it felt familiar … it allowed some of that eggshell to be repaired, to grow stronger.

I ended up, back building, not by choice but a necessity, I did not enjoy my apprenticeship and really struggled with going back on the tools. It felt like life was one big deep dark rut with no way out.
Racing in multisport and triathlon events certainly gave some hope, it got me back into the hills and rivers back into areas where I felt at home, it grew my confidence, but the demons were still there.
I started to identify what I required to be in a positive frame of mind and kept looking at where I could do this …

The first was to surround me with people who had a positive outlook on life … get rid of the negatives … this meant not seeing or minimising contact with some friends and family or work colleagues.

The second was to create goals, firstly in the area of recreation as it was the most familiar area, secondly in my career.

The third was to learn what triggers the dark periods … this is an ongoing process …

The fourth was to learn how to minimise the effect of those triggers … removing myself from a situation, withdrawing to think about what has gone on – sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

The fifth was to learn how to get out of the spiral … which is the second step … set goals small steps.

Along the way the goals became bigger and bolder, the went from being solo to being duo/group/team goals. Each time I went back to my roots of being in the outdoors, being active in the outdoors, sharing activity in the outdoors … the stronger my confidence and the better my well-being has become.

So, what is about the outdoors which builds this confidence and well-being, I believe it is life becomes simplified, less complicated back to the basics of shelter, warmth, food, companionship, shared experiences, trust and reliance on yourself and others.

Where has it lead me to … a point in life as I enter my 52nd winter, where I am nearly back to the point I was 16 years ago with confidence but a stronger and more knowledgeable way of dealing with the dark holes. I still recognise that I am not the best communicator but I am working on it!

Life is not easy, it is full of challenges – some we choose to take on and others we have no choice to take on – but what is our choice is what we can learn from them, sometimes the learning does not appear immediately …


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