As my long eyelash extensions sailed through the wind, my rose gold flask and matching water bottle weighed down my over-packed gym rucksack, I took a deep breath as I begin climbing England’s tallest mountain after a last-minute idea to deal with life challenges differently.
I had been tucking into a Chinese Hot Pot inside my cosy Yorkshire home with my family the night before and here I was with my step-dad 8 hours later, voluntarily trekking through the cold wind as icicles formed in my hair. I had chosen this path today, with only a flask of hot coffee and a ridiculous number of layers to keep me warm, because the alternative would have been to wallow further inside my lonely anxious brain at home on my own.
Underprepared perhaps but sometimes when we feel we’re falling in life, it’s important to dive into the unexpected.
I am by no means, an ‘outdoorsy’ type and growing up I would complain about walking anywhere and even as a young mum myself, whilst I could see the huge benefits of taking my children to play at forest school, I would be the first searching for a takeout coffee.
But the beauty of nature, outdoors and just exploring somewhere close to home, is available to us all, even if it starts with looking at the trees through a window.
Ever since that last minute decision to get out of my head and into my body to mount Scafell Pike a couple of years ago, I have found myself walking and exploring more of our region, Yorkshire. There is true beauty in serendipitous moments that the natural world opens up to us in abundance, allowing our minds to be free, especially when feeling stressed, walking is the fastest way to begin your meditation journey to build peace within so we are less impacted by the noise of the external world which can clutter our brains, not to mention detract from our growth as so much of our daily lives is now curated for us. Whether it be computer algorithms chasing our every move, selling to us based on one google search, playlists automatically curated on our behalf or even the news we scroll online tends to feed into our own echo chambers.
We rarely stumble on anything new and unattached to our previous interactions, especially with the rise in digital usage throughout lockdown.
No wonder our brains and bodies now feel so numb, dulled down by ‘top picks’ based on our ‘interests,’ and we are only challenged by the unhealthy temporary pleasure of dopamine hits and adrenaline from quick fixes.
As a journalist, parent and author, you can see why for this alone I am passionate about supporting community libraries, book shops and buying newspapers which can open us up to a whole new world of learning. Despite the fact, I am often the youngest of my friends frequenting these beloved locations but I am far from the most virtuous of all.
And there is no blame or shame in seeking excess which we are subconsciously fed daily, especially when the first Lockdown closed our world. So many of us, slipped back into unhealthy habits from picking up smoking again to drinking excessively, and choosing to feed our minds and bodies with negative language.
I went from having discovered a true joy in buying second-hand clothes from charity shops, clothes exchanges and trying to shop local and independent, to initially spending Lockdown scrolling for fast fashion, investing further into internet giant Amazon’s surging Pandemic trade, even my plant-based diet has somewhat slipped.
Desperately in search of external pleasure, my hedonist ways put a plaster over my internal dampened pursuit of fulfilment.
Lockdown has been a perfect analogy for our world today, as throughout history we have gone from periods of scarcity to excess and we are no happier, if anything more stressed than ever before.
Like all cheap plasters, these quickly become unstuck and our wounds are left gaping.
After all our own negative self-talk and what we consume, becomes how we think, feel which then become how we act, behave and our habits. To make or break a habit takes around two months. So, it’s no wonder that after a year of Lockdowns shaking up our usual routines and at times even limiting our outdoor pleasures how we have neglected to flex the moral muscle of self-control and having clarity over our moral compass.
That said we have done our best, charity shop donations have risen, book sales have boomed and a lot of us, me included have been adjusting to a more zen ‘simple life,’ appreciating what we have.
As restrictions ease, I chose to take a spontaneous self-care sabbatical away from my busy work schedule online to do the opposite of what my stressed mind wanted me to do (plough more coffee and slog at my computer), accompany my step-dad and my partner on a scrambling trip for a few hours into the stunning Yorkshire countryside.
This helped to clear my mental clutter, connect with my loved ones and even feel unexpected snowdrops sparkle over my face and the icicles in my hair were back.
My Step-Dad Lee Furness has also been on a similar journey in life this year, from slipping back into unhealthy eating and excess TV when losing clients in the first Lockdown to refining his woodwork skills on YouTube and having the time to start focusing on his hiking too, he said:
“At first, I would hike for 5, 6 or 7 miles but after a few weeks this turned into 10,15 miles and later 20 to 30 miles, always starting from home and making my way-out step by step into the countryside.”
Lee now spends his working weeks outdoors building garden offices, bird boxes and makes time for his hiking, instead of slamming the phone and sitting frustrated in front of a screen.
And as for my eyelash extensions, I completed a beauty qualification in Lockdown to learn to apply them myself, I’ve studied mental health and fitness and now Yoga and Face Yoga… having this time has been a great self-care for my “brain and booty” as I say.
But do you know what, no make-up, no lashes, no nothing our last-minute self-care sabbatical last week was just the tonic. Unpredictable, a challenge and a healthy start to practicing the mental kettlebell of freeing our minds. I hope my kids will follow in my footsteps, and even the school run is a great way for us to get moving together.
It is important to get out of our heads and into our bodies whether this be a physical outdoors pursuit, dancing free or picking up an easel or a makeup brush and creating art your own way, just take one step forward and who knows where it will take you?