Self care: getting outside is good for the soul

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You know what’s worse than failing to follow someone else’s good advice? Failing to follow your own good advice, that’s what. I make no secret of the fact I am a big advocate of spending time outside because it’s basic self care. Family life has got so busy over recent weeks that I’ve failed to spend much time outside at all. My record for doing so has been so poor that I’m concerned I may get a Vitamin D deficiency.

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I took this image when I took some time out for myself to dedicate to photography the other day. Sometimes you just can’t see the wood for the trees.

Okay, so I’m perhaps being a little melodramatic. I am in no immediate danger of developing rickets, but I haven’t been looking after myself.

Despite being winter, we’ve had some gloriously sunny days recently. Thing is, I’ve failed to make the most of them.

Once I’ve dropped Helen and Izzy off at school in the mornings, I’ve returned home and charged headlong into a variety of domestic tasks or been working on this blog of mine. Every now and again I’ll look out the window and see glorious, glorious sunshine.

As a child I grew up in the most amazing countryside and when I see sunshine like that, I just want to get outside and enjoy it. It’s just the way I am and the way I have always been.

Over recent weeks, something has happened to stop me getting outside. Be it a lengthy phone call I get stuck on, a pressing work deadline, a massive pile of laundry or a need to tidy up the house before visitors come around, I simply haven’t been getting outside. Of course it’s winter and the days are short. Having no light after 4pm doesn’t help.

If I think back just a few short months, I could spend the day working and take myself off for an evening stroll. I particularly looked forward to days when Helen had athletics practice. The athletics club has a bar with a terrace and Mrs Adams and I would enjoy a drink and play cards with Izzy as Helen, sprinted and jumped hurdles on the running track while the sun prepared to dip behind the horizon.

Last time I dropped Helen off at athletics, the weather conditions were so poor that practice was taking place inside the club’s sportshall. The sun had dipped behind the horizon some considerable time ago and the terrace was threateningly dark, the only thing on it being empty, damp benches.

Failing to spend time outside is unquestionably bad for the soul. I find it saps me of energy, leaves me with disturbed sleep and taking a break from it all enables me to think more clearly.

There is nothing quite like leaving your phone behind and taking yourself off somewhere quiet, even if it is only for 20 minutes. I love to go for walks with the children but as a busy dad of two, I think there’s no shame in getting away from the world for a while by myself.

My wife works incredibly long hours, but she gets solitary time to herself each day during her commute. As a work from home parent, I may get a lot of time to myself during the school day, but that’s spent on housework, earning money, family administration and so on. Simply finding the time to use the exercise equipment in the garage is a big enough struggle, leaving the house to listen to birdsong and admire the changing seasons has recently felt like a luxury.

This is a form of self care and I know I haven’t been caring for myself quite as well as I should have been. It’s also a subject that men, dads in particular, aren’t always that good at talking about. It’s one that we should perhaps embrace.

The photograph at the top of this page, well I took that a couple of days ago. Despite the dark nature of the image, it was a wonderful sunny day. Having dropped the kids off at school I made the effort to visit some nearby woodland for an hour with my camera.

I love my photography and I was hoping to get some good landscape images. As is often the way on such photographic jaunts, the image you want to take and the picture you end up with are two very different things!

I enjoyed my walk in the woods. That picture, well, it said a lot to me. I know it’s a cliché, but sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees. I’ve not been looking after myself as well as I could have been because I’ve been so busy concentrating on other things. Maybe the ironing and vacuuming aren’t as important as I like to think and maybe it’s more important for me to go for a walk in daylight instead of tidying the bedroom?

Well I’m sorry world, but I’m going to focus just a little more on self care and take time out for myself. That’s going to involve spending more time outside in the fresh air.  

What do you think? Do you agree taking time out to spend outside is an important part of self care? Do you struggle to make time for yourself while looking after the family? Maybe you are very strict with yourself and go out of your way to spend time outside? Whatever your experience, please do share your experience with a comment below.

6 thoughts on “Self care: getting outside is good for the soul”

  1. Completely agree. As a part-time work from home mum, my life seems similar to yours. I almost feel guilty if I do anything that’s for me. I do go to the gym but simply going for a walk or even taking photos feels like I’m breaking some sort of unwritten rule. It’s even more odd because my husband wouldn’t care, in fact he’d encourage it. I hope you do get to take some time for yourself. As for your image, I know it’s black and white but it doesn’t feel dark to me. It feels hopeful, if anything.

    1. Isn’t it awful that we feel guilty for dedicating a little time to ourselves? It really shouldn’t be that way. Love that you find the image hopeful! Although I stripped it of all colour, it wasn’t actually that colourful but turn round 180 degrees and I had the most amazing Surrey landscape to look upon (it just didn’t come across well in a photo because of the shadows).

  2. I totally agree on the importance of getting outside. It is important for everyone, but I think some people need it more. I’m one of them and it sounds like you are too. I could almost have written this myself, apart from the fact that my routine involves a run or walk every day after i drop my son at school and before I start work. I see it as a non-negotiable part of the working day because it helps me to function better.

    1. I’m very impressed by your discipline Sarah. Very good idea to have that set routine where you know you are going to start the day with exercise. It may be a bit easier when both my kids are at secondary school and aren’t quite so dependent on me to remember things for them.

  3. I myself like to get out for a walk and get some fresh air. It’s one thing me and my family don’t do as often as we should.

    We all love getting out and about with the dog, I used to be out every morning rain or shine taking him for a walk and on an evening after work and the kids were in bed.

    This time of year even though its glorious sunshine, I avoid it. Part of my anxiousness which I am aiming to conquer in this new year. The nerves of the dog been his usual idiot self, 1 or 2 of the girls who aren’t very well built for the cold whinging that they want to go home after 2 minutes into the walk. Basically getting out in public sets off my anxiety.

    I’m no photographer but the days I’ve managed to get out of the house around the housework and school runs, I’ve enjoyed taking a few scenery snaps on my phone and having a bit of a faff around editing them.

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