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Here’s an edited transcript of this installment of Amy’s Outdoor Diary. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.
Raise your hand if you’re dragging just a little during this final sprint between the end of spring and school – whether yours or you kids’ — and summer break.
That’s where I am right now with a ton of work deadlines and several new projects ramping up and overlapping with a few others before those ease off. It’s just that time of year, I guess. The busy seasons just sneak up on you until bam, you’re in the thick of it without really any warning. It’s crazy town.
You know how much I love to take planning retreats, something I talked about back in episode 76 when I took myself on a solo planning retreat to Seward, slept a bunch and got a lot done. I decided that I needed to do that again, but instead of two days I gave myself one. And rather than starting it with a long night of sleep, I started it after completing an early morning work task, thinking I was already up and at things anyway, so why not?
I’ll tell you why not: I am now very tired. My work engagement was three days of emceeing a virtual conference from a hotel room in Anchorage. And while the conference was completely packed with awesome takeaways that I can’t wait to use to make Humans Outside better, it was also so exhausting for this introvert. I absolutely love emceeing and I like to think I’m good at it – but it lays me out.
So what does this have to do with going outside? Well, by trying to do a work retreat that is NOT focused on nature, I have once again realized how key developing my planning time around outdoor time truly is.
We know from researchers that heading into nature is proven to lower the hormones associated with stress, and increase those associated with happiness. But it’s more than that for me. Being outside just moving lets me think in a way that being inside simply does not. Part of it is that I’m removed from distractions. Part of it is the movement.
I’ll give you an example. I’ve been sitting in this hotel room in Anchorage where I’m recording this for four days, working, thinking, relaxing, eating, whatever. I even finished piecing together my book proposal and shipped it to my advisor last night. In short, I’ve been getting stuff done. But today coming up with good ideas about where I want to go with this podcast for Season 4 in September – yup that’s what I’m planning – was like dragging myself in a low crawl uphill through mud. In short, it was not that fun.
Solution? Coffee break walk. So outside I went. Coffee retrieved and in hand and turning the city block to walk to the hotel, I thought “this fresh air is nice. I think I’ll walk for a minute.” As I started towards a city walk, I remembered the research noting that while movement outside is great, movement in a space with trees and natural features is better, so I turned right instead of left and headed down to a park right on the Cook Inlet where I could see the water and the mud flats.
And there I walked back and forth for 20 minutes, talking to myself and hashing out what I need or want to do. It was more productive deep thought than I’ve had all day, even though I’d been doing simple planning tasks and things that just needed done. In fact, after I record this I’m headed back out there for more brainstorming.
But this is about more than future planning and more than using nature to get ideas — it’s about using nature to get out of that overwhelm of this season. I’m usually a great planner, using my time super careful and purposefully, but this time I flailed and stacked too many things in one several week period. I think that probably is a lot of us right now as one busy season ends, and a season where we get to have more time for recreation begins. And as you move through this crazy pants time, use nature to not just nurture your good ideas, but your wherewithal for getting through this period.
You might be tempted to spend more time inside because you’re cranking things out in preparation for later. You might be tempted to double down on work tasks or computer time now so you can just get through this and tackle the next, more fun thing. You might be doing what I’m doing, which is trying to get planning for later done so you can have some free time later for fun and relaxation.
But while you’re doing that, don’t fall victim to the idea that nature is unnecessary for making that happen. In fact, as I found today, my outdoor time is even more important in seasons of busy than it is any other time.
If you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, try taking that feeling for a walk. You might find what you need on the path.
You can see all the paths I’m walking and pictures of my outdoor time by following Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. I want to see your outdoor time too, as always, so don’t be shy! Share it by tagging #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.