As a society, we’re suffering from a full-blown epidemic of stress, anxiety and depression. You know this, because you’re one of the people affected, or because you know someone who is. You feel you’ve neither the space nor the time to relax, unwind and simply ‘be’. Your phone bleeps constantly. There seems no end to the emails you must answer. Your work environment is frenetic. Everyone is wired on caffeine. There is not a moment to spare; not a minute where your ‘performance’ isn’t being appraised and monitored. The pressure is on, constantly and relentlessly. We all feel this, yet we collaborate in keeping it at boiling point. We’re seeing burnout on an unprecedented scale, and yet we are all complicit in it. How many of us dare say no, we won’t work beyond our hours, or yes, we are having a lunch break and no, we’re not giving in to any more unreasonable demands from increasingly stressed-out managers?
Rather, we attempt desperately to carve out some ‘me-time’ amid this maelstrom of stress. We cram in a whistle-stop city break here, a pointless work trip there; we sit glumly on a packed beach, wishing those noisy kids playing near by would clear off, or we go on a yoga retreat and find we can’t stop crying. Our feelings are rarely far from the surface and yet we push them down with all the force of someone cramming rubbish into an overflowing dustbin or hide them away like clutter in the attic that we don’t want to see, yet somehow can’t bear to be parted from. We cannot – and do not want to – engage with them, because to do so feels unnerving, unfamiliar and maybe even dangerous. So we continue to perform at work while self-medicating with drink, drugs, sex, fast food, intensive gym workouts, hours of therapy and whatever else it might take to keep ourselves pacified. And this vicious circle keeps repeating itself.
The solution . . .
. . . is simple. It involves no joining fees, no memberships, no appointments. It does, however, require time, patience, an ability to switch off (literally) and a desire to reconnect with that which is all around you.
The solution is to go for a walk. Not a stroll down the pub or a pop to the shops, but a good stride out that gets body and mind moving, allowing you to de-stress, see what’s important and find perspective in all the difficulties and challenges life presents.
When you walk, you find the space to process your feelings and begin to understand that nature is your greatest healer.
By being outside in nature, whatever the weather, you will re- establish the vital and fundamental connection to the earth that we were all born with but have somehow lost. You will also learn how to relax and how to listen to what your intuition is telling you without all the ‘noise’ that usually blocks it out.
The beauty of what I term ‘Walking Therapy’ is in its simplicity. All you need to do is make time to put one foot in front of the other, in a space which calms the mind, invigorates the senses and helps you to walk alongside your difficulties, seeing them for what they are.
And it’s important to note that ‘nature’ is not confined to wild, remote and inaccessible places. It is everywhere, even in the most urban areas, if you care to look. The great cities of the world, including London, contain many amazing parks and other open spaces in which it is perfectly possible to feel close to the earth and connected to the environment. It is on your doorstep, and it invites you in with open arms. The trick is in responding to its call. If you do, wonderful things will happen.
Extract from Walk with Your Wolf by Jonathan Hoban, published by Yellow Kite, £14.99