We live in an almost constant state of stress, and this was true before the pandemic added a new layer and level. In the words of the late comedienne Gilda Radnor, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” There is nothing new in our need to deal with too much pushing in on us. One of the best methods of managing stress is taking time out of usual environments and, if possible, into nature.
The Romantic poet. William Wordsworth wrote this sonnet around 1802.
The World Is Too Much with Us
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Apparently even back then, “getting and spending” was a preoccupation,” and we were already out of touch with nature. “We are out of tune” – then and now.
Getting out is about moving at the pace of your choice. It’s taking the time to see the world around you. It’s about greeting people as you go. And it’s about thinking– literally — outside the box that is the place you work.
We need to make getting out a priority in our lives. No matter our work and life schedule, we benefit from choosing a way to destress. The caveat is the choosing because what we mostly see is where there is too much to complete, too many errands to run – and doing errands is not getting out.
So, with all you have to and need to do, how can you get out? Ryan Tahmaseb proposes 7 Ways to Get Outside More Often. Hopefully, one or more of these will work for you, and the benefits are enormous.
- Schedule a walk – Until this becomes a habit, you need to put it on your to-do list. Plan the time. Will you do it at lunch? If so, you will come back energized and are likely not to experience the afternoon slump. Does the timing of your free period work better? Or maybe it’s after you get home and before starting dinner – or even after dinner. Whatever works, schedule it. Tahmaseb suggests, consider going with a friend. You will hold each other accountable. Think about what best fits you and your life. Set yourself up for success.
- Take Phone Calls Outside – This can be a great addition to any personal calls you make. It’s not my favorite idea since your mind is preoccupied with whatever is happening on the phone, which may be stressful, but you are breathing outside air and that helps. It may encourage you to get off the phone faster and since you’re already outside – stay a little longer.
- Move Small Meetings Outside – This may not be an available option but is worth considering to see if it’s an option. The meeting is likely to go better. Suggest it to your principal or a committee chair.
- Eat Outside – You can eat your lunch, and then go for a walk. Burn off the calories. You may enroll any lunch companions to join you. Before long you might have a cadre of walkers. Even just sitting in the sun for that time with a book will lighten your stress.
- Try Walking Meetings – If it’s no more than 3 or 4 people, this may be a possibility. You can record your notes as you go. It is worth trying and it may stimulate creative approaches to the discussion. Or make meetings go faster!
- Bring Your Work Outside – If you can’t afford to give up the work you do during your free period, do it outside. The work will feel easier. You will breathe better. And you may find, as I do, the creative juices flow when you are outside.
- Just Take a Short Break – Step outside for a few minutes. If you are attuned to it, you will be aware of the change in your mindset. If you can’t eat outside, try to finish lunch a little early and take those minutes to yourself.
There is no doubt that changing your environment can change your outlook and being outside can almost instantly change your mood. Watch for the birds, notice the clouds. Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. Do what you can to get into the habit of going outside now. It will be easier to continue it when winter comes. You will be healthier and less stressed if you do.