Mental health in the Outdoors - 2020

What a year 2020 has been so far! With such uncertain times for everyone, it's no wonder that there has been an increase in poor mental health this year.

"According to our research, with over 16,000 people, we know that more than half of adults (60%) and over two thirds of young people (68%) said their mental health got worse during lockdown. We know that many have developed new mental health problems as a result of the pandemic and, for some of us, existing mental health problems have gotten worse." - Mind UK

Although the nation came out of Lockdown the effects have been lasting in many ways, and as our local and national situation continues to change, it leaves us with even more uncertainty.

Some of you may have seen our "Omega at home" online activities, including our 5 day mental health awareness week sessions, which are all still available for you to use on our social media platforms. One of those sessions was all about our resilience, represented by a "stress bucket". A Stress bucket, or stress container, is a representation of our inner space in which stress accumulates, and how vulnerable we are to those stresses. Our stress buckets are all different sizes depending on a variety of factors like genes, life experiences and environment. If these stresses build up our stress bucket can overflow, and issues develop, that's why it's so important to have a good tap on our bucket. Our bucket tap is what allows us to release our stress, it is our job to make sure that we are using helpful coping methods rather than blocking our tap by using unhelpful ones.

"In the 9 years that I have been teaching outdoor education, I have seen first hand the increase in self confidence, resilience and the boost of morale that outdoor activities provide people of all age and abilities. Activities such as Climbing, Kayaking, Bush craft and Archery offer a chance for visible progression within a short period of time, allowing a release of dopamine and serotonin for our successes, even if initially we had to push through our comfort zone and experience that rush of adrenalin." - Judith

This year we have seen these positive side effects go into super drive. Whether this is because we feel higher highs when we have experienced lower lows, or that we find a greater appreciation for the things we had to give up for a while. The truth of it is that we have seen more families spending quality time together, we have seen more adults beaming with pride after stepping outside of their comfort zone, and we have witnessed the most motivated and grateful group of children we've ever had at Camp. Really, one day at Summer Camp it rained on us from 10 til 4, non stop, and we didn't hear one moan, everyone was just so happy to be out and active, they really seemed to stay in the moment and appreciate it.

"Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature." - Mind UK

Taking part in outdoor activities promotes a healthy lifestyle by increasing social interaction, reducing isolation and optimising opportunities for learning and development. Adventurous activities may seem extreme or scary but are actually very safe when done in the right environment with experienced and qualified providers. Fear is natural and gives us the opportunity to be brave. If we can put our trust into our instructor, and ourselves, we can make it through our comfort zone, we are then able to grow and expand that zone which increases our confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

It is so important, if not now more than ever, to make sure that we encourage the growth of our children's stress buckets, and that we maintain our own in order to continue to live a life that we can enjoy rather than fight to get through each day. We must be kind to each other and to ourselves, make sure that our tap is flowing freely and offer support to others if we are able. Every day is mental health day.

If you'd like to learn more, MHFA have a wonderful selection of free resources available on their website;

If you or someone you know are struggling with your mental health, please reach out to a professional for support;