Mental health

Mental Health and the outdoors

After suffering with depression and anxiety since my late teens, I’ve tried so many things to help. But I’ve always found the tips given to me to help with my mental health, are easily achieved by getting outside more.

So I thought I’d share the top 10 tips given to and explain how getting outside helps achieve these

 

1.

Avoid alcohol, smoking and drugs

Drinking and smoking aren't things which we always associate with withdrawal symptoms, but they can cause some which impact on your mental health. When you've had a few drinks you can feel more depressed and anxious the next day, and it can be harder to concentrate. Excessive drinking for prolonged periods can leave you with a thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is important for our brain function and a deficiency can lead to severe memory problems, motor (coordination) problems, confusion and eye problems.  If you smoke, between cigarettes your body and brain go into withdrawal which makes you irritable and anxious.

Other drugs will often leave you in withdrawal and can often cause very low moods and anxiety. More severe effects of drugs include paranoia and delusions. There is some research that suggests drug use is related to developing mental disorders like schizophrenia.

Getting outside on adventures, takes you away from the places you can get these.  Also I find when I’m out on trips I’m not thinking about these, though I do like a beer at the end of trip 

2

Get plenty of sunlight

Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a really important vitamin for our bodies and our brains. It helps our brains to release chemicals which improve our mood, like endorphins and serotonin. Try to go out in the sun when you can, but make sure you keep your skin and eyes safe. 30 minutes to two hours a day of sunlight is ideal

Getting outside exposes you to all sorts of weather, but most importantly you get all the sunlight you need  

3

Manage stress

Stress is often unavoidable, but knowing what triggers your stress and knowing how to cope is key in maintaining good mental health. Try to manage your responsibilities and worries by making a list or a schedule of when you can resolve each issue. Often if you break down your worries and stresses and write them down, you realise that they are manageable. Try to avoid burying your head in the sand, and tackle problems face on. If you find you are having trouble sleeping, or are waking up thinking about all of the things that are stressing you out, write them down and reassure yourself that you can deal with them in the morning.

Getting outside I find I forgot about my worries, relax and come back no longer stressed 

4

Activity and exercise

Activity and exercise are essential in maintaining good mental health. Being active not only gives you a sense of achievement, but it boosts the chemicals in your brain that help put you in a good mood. Exercising can help eliminate low mood, anxiety, stress and feeling tired and lazy.

You don't need to run a marathon or play 90 minutes of football; a short walk or some another gentle activity might do the trick.

Getting Outside doesn’t have to be riding 900miles on a trike. I do all sorts 

5

Do something you enjoy

Try to make time for doing the fun things you enjoy. If you like going for a walk, painting or a specific TV show, try to set aside time to enjoy yourself. If we don't spend any time doing things we enjoy, we can become irritable and unhappy.

Getting Outside is what I enjoy, so for the last 5 years I’ve made a career doing what I love. Making me a much healthier person  

6

Connect with others and be sociable

Make an effort to maintain good relationships and talk to people whenever you get the chance. Having friends is important not just for your self-esteem, but also for providing support when you're not feeling too great. Research has found that talking to others for just ten minutes can improve memory and test scores!

Getting Outside always haves you meeting new people, when I’m leading groups for a day or for a month long expedition. Or even when I’m out walking I’ll stop and chat to other walkers 

7

Do things for others

Helping others isn't just good for the people you're helping; it's good for you too. Helping someone can help with your self-esteem and make you feel good about your place in the world. Feeling as though you're part of a community is a really important part of your mental health.

Getting Outside has you helping others on trips. With cooking, setting up tents and other tasks.

8

Eat well

Eating well isn't just important for our bodies, but it's also important for our minds. Certain mineral deficiencies, such as iron and vitamin B12 deficiencies, can give us a low mood. Try to eat a balanced diet. If you find you're a particularly stressed or anxious person, you should try limiting or cutting out caffeine as this can make you feel jittery and anxious.

Getting outside has us all eating more fruit and nuts then ever, drinking so much more water and improving our diets. Even dehydrated meals have improved to be much more of a balanced diet. 

9

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is really important for our physical and mental health. Sleep helps to regulate the chemicals in our brain that transmit information. These chemicals are important in managing our moods and emotions. If we don't get enough sleep, we can start to feel depressed or anxious.

Getting outside exposes us to sunlight, exercise and fresh air. All of these help us get a better night sleep. Especially when you’ve cycled 3 marathons a day for 14 days, you can sleep everywhere  

10

Ask for help

One of the most important ways to keep yourself mentally healthy is to recognise when you're not feeling good, and to know when to ask for help. There's no shame in asking someone for support if you're feeling low or stressed. Everyone goes through patches where they don't feel as good as they should. You can try speaking to your friends or family, or a GP 

Getting outside people tend to open up more, chat about their issues and problems a lot more openly.  Then go home with a weight lifted 

 

  

Cornwall to Cumbria

I’m terrible at remembering to write down my trips, as I’m already 9days behind on this.

But here goes 

From leaving Lands End, in glorious sunshine I could not believe how nice the weather was. With the odd passer by stopping to ask what I was doing sat around on a strange looking recumbent trike. Something I had never ridden before. I would say I’m about to cycle the length of the UK to John o’groats in Scotland. I was actually just sat, worrying about if I could actually do this! Trying to find routes which avoid the A roads, which I’d soon experience!

Avoiding the A roads

Avoiding the A roads

I took mainly the little side roads from Penzance, to avoid the big A road. But I soon discovered the hills were killers. As I wrote about in my previous blog.

So I thought I need to get through these as quickly as possible, so I got my head down and hit the main road as soon as the traffic died down. Staying in hostels and camping allowed me to spend long hours on the road, clocking up big distances! I had originally planned on 70km a day, but with the determination to get the hills done as quick as possible, I found myself doing over 100km a day.

I was soon in Bristol, where I had arranged to stay with a friend. He greeted me with beers, snacks and a hot water bottle. We chatted until about midnight, though I was fallen alseep it was amazing catching up.

soaking at the YHA 

soaking at the YHA 

Leaving his flat, the weather was nice. This was about to change. As I decided to take the Severn Bridge, as I approached the hail started! Then as lorries headed over the bridge, I was swamped by a tidal wave of spray! Even in full waterproofs I was soaked. That night I had planned to camp, but as the day got late I started to get really cold. Though I tried to cycle faster to warm up, it wasn’t enough to dry. So I found a YHA! The first time I had used one. I got there late. A youth hostel which seemed to house to Elderly salesmen. These men didn’t know each other, though they chatted late into the night about VW golfs. They also went into any open door, I describe them as busy.

The moment I wanted to cry

The moment I wanted to cry

I woke up early to find snow on the road, the trike did not enjoy this. The back wheel kept losing traction of the road on the snowy hills.  And by the time I had got to Nuneaton (does any actually live here) I was soaked again. So I found a £20 hotel to attempt to dry my stuff once more. 

I had an interesting stay also in Wigan! A man, broke into tears when I told him what I was doing. I had no idea what to do, so the caring back pat came out.

But riding from Wigan to Kendal was one of the most fun, 120km along canal paths, country roads and the A9. In amazing sunshine, this day made me feel refreshed! My legs had stopped aching and my clothes had started to dry in the sun. I really enjoyed it, even if a local man in a spar shop sent me down a swamp track. Luckily I bumped into a farmer and his daughter, watching their neighbors farm on fire (suspicious) who then laughed at me and sent me back on the right track. Passing through Preston I passed a man on another recumbent trike, this is the second one I’ve ever seen! So stopped and chatted, he was telling me he can get up to 60mph! Then I spotted the two big batteries and told him mines just powered by me. He went into shock, ‘why are you doing this to yourself’ then started hunting for a hidden battery on the trike.

That night approaching Kendal, I had my closest near miss! As a Range Rover driver on his mobile only spotted the Hi Vis vest and flag and the flashing red lights last minute. Seeing him spot me and swerve in my mirror was terrifying! I was literally about to ditch the trike! It shook me up a bit!

The rest of the trip before then, I had been impressed with the drivers. Not so impressed though at the amount of litter thrown out of vehicles!

getting to Penrith on Sunday morning and realising I was doing so well. And knowing the fact my family only lived 45mins away. I decided to have a rest day that Monday and spent it at home drying my clothes FINALLY.

Scotland coming soon

Cornwall to Cumbria

I’m terrible at remembering to write down my trips, as I’m already 9days behind on this.

But here goes 

From leaving Lands End, in glorious sunshine I could not believe how nice the weather was. With the odd passer by stopping to ask what I was doing sat around on a strange looking recumbent trike. Something I had never ridden before. I would say I’m about to cycle the length of the UK to John o’groats in Scotland. I was actually just sat, worrying about if I could actually do this! Trying to find routes which avoid the A roads, which I’d soon experience!

Avoiding the A roads

Avoiding the A roads

I took mainly the little side roads from Penzance, to avoid the big A road. But I soon discovered the hills were killers. As I wrote about in my previous blog.

So I thought I need to get through these as quickly as possible, so I got my head down and hit the main road as soon as the traffic died down. Staying in hostels and camping allowed me to spend long hours on the road, clocking up big distances! I had originally planned on 70km a day, but with the determination to get the hills done as quick as possible, I found myself doing over 100km a day.

I was soon in Bristol, where I had arranged to stay with a friend. He greeted me with beers, snacks and a hot water bottle. We chatted until about midnight, though I was fallen alseep it was amazing catching up.

soaking at the YHA 

soaking at the YHA 

Leaving his flat, the weather was nice. This was about to change. As I decided to take the Severn Bridge, as I approached the hail started! Then as lorries headed over the bridge, I was swamped by a tidal wave of spray! Even in full waterproofs I was soaked. That night I had planned to camp, but as the day got late I started to get really cold. Though I tried to cycle faster to warm up, it wasn’t enough to dry. So I found a YHA! The first time I had used one. I got there late. A youth hostel which seemed to house to Elderly salesmen. These men didn’t know each other, though they chatted late into the night about VW golfs. They also went into any open door, I describe them as busy.

The moment I wanted to cry

The moment I wanted to cry

I woke up early to find snow on the road, the trike did not enjoy this. The back wheel kept losing traction of the road on the snowy hills.  And by the time I had got to Nuneaton (does any actually live here) I was soaked again. So I found a £20 hotel to attempt to dry my stuff once more. 

I had an interesting stay also in Wigan! A man, broke into tears when I told him what I was doing. I had no idea what to do, so the caring back pat came out.

But riding from Wigan to Kendal was one of the most fun, 120km along canal paths, country roads and the A9. In amazing sunshine, this day made me feel refreshed! My legs had stopped aching and my clothes had started to dry in the sun. I really enjoyed it, even if a local man in a spar shop sent me down a swamp track. Luckily I bumped into a farmer and his daughter, watching their neighbors farm on fire (suspicious) who then laughed at me and sent me back on the right track. Passing through Preston I passed a man on another recumbent trike, this is the second one I’ve ever seen! So stopped and chatted, he was telling me he can get up to 60mph! Then I spotted the two big batteries and told him mines just powered by me. He went into shock, ‘why are you doing this to yourself’ then started hunting for a hidden battery on the trike.

That night approaching Kendal, I had my closest near miss! As a Range Rover driver on his mobile only spotted the Hi Vis vest and flag and the flashing red lights last minute. Seeing him spot me and swerve in my mirror was terrifying! I was literally about to ditch the trike! It shook me up a bit!

The rest of the trip before then, I had been impressed with the drivers. Not so impressed though at the amount of litter thrown out of vehicles!

getting to Penrith on Sunday morning and realising I was doing so well. And knowing the fact my family only lived 45mins away. I decided to have a rest day that Monday and spent it at home drying my clothes FINALLY.

Scotland coming soon

LeJog day 1

Waking up in Penzance in a 10 bed dorm, isn’t my preferred way to wake up. But it happened. I was here to meet my new friend for the next month, the recumbent trike. A trike where you are basically lying down flat.

Having never ridden one before I was pretty nervous as the team from the manufacturers came to watch the start, and my first go! Dreading braking it I stayed in one gear whilst they got all the photos they needed.  

Now I am riding for mental health, I’m not a big fan of collecting money of people, but raising awareness for this is something I believe strongly in. Especially when it comes to being outside to help this. 

so the aim is to show how much benefits to your mental health can be had by living a little more adventurous and outdoors. 

 

 

My first day was horrific! Hills and strong head winds hampered progress, but I still managed to smash an 80km day. Putting me 10km already ahead of schedule!  

I stayed in a hostel over night, as I was in a built up area and didn’t fancy spending the night under the stars behind some bins near Newquay! 

though I hate hostels, this one did not change that opinion. Full of youngesters drinking until 2am on a Sunday! Madness. And obviously even this hostel had a guitar playing nobhead, who murdered wonderwall and other oasis classics

 

but I’m rested and ready for day 2

Talking at the Destination Travel show

Destination Travel Show

 

I was lucky enough to be invited to talk at the Destination Travel Show in Manchester. At first there was a slight panic when it looked like I was going to be talking and being interviewed on stage whilst cooking! Now I can cook, but cook whilst trying to talk is a different matter! 

I was on the Meet the Expert stage by the Times newspaper. With my slideshow and Britney Spears style headset I was ready to go. With tales of my adventures in Africa, Asia and Central America. 

A full audience had come along to hear listen. 

 

For those of you who don’t know I had an unpleasant encounter with a big cat, leaving a large scar on my back. Whilst telling this story to the audience, it was greeted with a large gasp when I described in detail the encounter.  I found this amazing!

The story of the muggings in Central America also went down well, this was the point I started to think this crowd enjoyed my suffering!  

Best question from the audience at the end was, when am I writing a book. I think maybe a coffee table book or a pop up book would be the best I can do. 

but over all, it was a great show. I recommend going along. The London show has a certain Levison Wood talking! 

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Me dressed as a member of Kings of Leon

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Quick note check (I was actually watching football) 

Health and my adventures

I find it hard to talk about my health to people, but the more I’ve worked with groups. The more I see the importance of being able to open up.

My health is what got me into my life of adventure, so I thought I would explain it in a short blog.

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Mental Health

During my teenage years, I was bullied at school, this lead me to barely attending school. Doing my best to avoid being picked on, it also lead to me developing depression and anxiety at an early age.

It took a random job in South Africa working at an animal rehabilitation centre, to snap me out of my first low. Which I could not see ending.

But I still find things trigger me into going into huge lows

returning from Expeditions

as soon as I’m home, and trying to slip back into a 9-5 routine, after months of being on the road working abroad. Sends me into what is called adventure blues.  

social media

Now this one is a big one for many people, as we all find ourselves on social media.  I find myself comparing myself to people, or being jealous of their trips. 

Ill health

This was the big one for me, and sent me into a big low this year.  I contracted Malaria at the start of 2018 from a trip to Madagascar. With being ill, I had to cancel most of the years work as I had no idea when I’d be fit again. With not being able to work, losing my fitness and spending more time on social media. I found myself in a very bad place. 

 

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But after a lengthy talk with my GP and myself, I decided I was the only person who could change how I feel. 

So first I started taking silly pictures of me Jumping in the air! These pictures got me back outside hiking, thinking of places to walk to find the shot. Which meant my fitness started to improve. 

Then I thought I am going to stop competing with people on Social media, as they may be in the same boots as me. 

When I was feeling nearly back to normal I decided to walk the Pennine way, which I was a great time. No signal, just me and the fresh air.

 

 

Now I can feel, when I’m on a down and I now know what helps me.  opening up and getting outside