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In the woods – Nature in Stroke Recovery

nature in stroke recovery

In the woods – Nature in Stroke Recovery

Using nature in stroke recovery is very important to us. This week we’ve been in the woods three times, collecting wood for the winter having cups of tea and flapjack and we had a breakfast of Huevos Rancheros together on Friday morning. I think though that we may have overdone it!

This morning has seen me start slowly. Lately, we’ve been woken up at 4.30 by next door coming to get the tractor out. I don’t know why but he cannot seem to open his door quietly! I don’t really mind, I do love those magical early morning moments. But, instead of getting up and going out with the dog straight away, I’ve been bringing my cup of tea back to bed which both of us did this morning.

I’ve struggled with my ‘morning routine’ for such a long time and I am getting tired of feeling guilty for not doing all the things, so I am experimenting with only doing what feels right. Slowing down and not putting pressure on ourselves, especially where work is concerned, is something that both of us are trying to do.

It is surprisingly difficult to slow down.

In the woods

When we got back from hospital we spent a lot of time in the woods close to where we live. We’re incredibly lucky to be surrounded by woodland, made up mostly of pine trees. We can walk for 2 minutes and be ‘in the woods’ or take a two-minute drive and set up our 4×4 to cook lunch or make a cup of tea among the trees.  

healing in nature
time in the woods
woodland healing

We live at quite a high altitude, almost 1000m, and many of the drives we do easily take us up about 4000m. The landscape is quite barren, some of the spaghetti westerns were filmed near here and with temperatures ranging from -18 Celsius in winter to over 40 degrees as we have had the past two summers, and of course hardly any rain, you can imagine, it’s not the greenest or lushest of places.  So when I say woods, it’s not quite like my favourite woods of Kielder Forest or The Lake District back home, but they are woods and trees all the same which I find incredibly soothing and soul-nourishing.

We’re both quite outdoorsy people in the sense of we like camping, and hiking, spending time in nature and ever since we got our 4×4 almost two years ago and put a kitchen in the back, we’ve enjoyed cooking and making cups of tea in all sorts of beautiful, natural spaces from woodland, to tops of mountains, reservoirs and next to rivers.

Spending time in the woods is by far, the best way to spend a morning or afternoon for us. As you can read in this post, I dream of living in a log cabin in the woods, I feel safe and nourished among the trees. The time flies by, we’re never bored and even though Nico will grumble about being dragged away from his laptop, give him half an hour and a couple of sticks and he too finds enjoyment in his surroundings.

There’s also something mysterious and magical about the woods which draws me in

There’s also something mysterious and magical about the woods which draws me in far more than the beach does. I’m pretty sure too that as well as the fairies, we’ve giants or dragons living in our woods.

There’s a spot we’ve been to many, many times, and one day as we drove through we noticed loads of snapped branches that look like the trees have been damaged by a storm or wind or been struck by lightning but completely random with no rhyme or reason to it. There’s no sign of fire, no clear path of damage, and quite a big area is affected. Nothing makes sense except for a giant wandering through the trees snapping branches like toothpicks as he goes.

trees snapped like toothpicks
trees snapped like toothpicks

Stressing about work

Since the stroke, we’ve tried to get out as much as possible because we realised that spending so much time in front of the computer is not something we wanted to go back to. I do think that constantly being ‘on’ and stressing about work has been in some way responsible for what happened.  

At first, it was quite easy, not to do, or think about work. My husband obviously couldn’t concentrate for any length of time, plus his eyesight has deteriorated since the stroke and I had no brain space for anything except pills, pilates, and what to put on our plates.

Doing nothing

As well as diet, the stroke has forced us to look at our lifestyle and make some changes. I feel I am at a bit of a crossroads in terms of my business, but one thing we both agreed on was that we had to make an effort to do less and try and embrace the concept of slowing down and even getting comfortable with doing nothing from time to time.

However, it is hard to ‘do nothing’ but we’re trying to make it a priority and found it really helps to go and spend time in the woods. In the beginning, though we could only spend an hour or so at our favourite spot, as soothing and relaxing as it was, it was also really tiring. We are getting better though and over time have been able to stay out longer each trip.

into the woods
faffing about with sticks

These past few trips, we’ve been combining wood collecting with relaxing and cooking. Since about February, we’ve been collecting sticks and pinecones to go towards our winter wood, and recently we’ve become more organised and, dare I say it, serious about our time in the woods. My friend mentioned the other day that it sounds like hard work and it can be physically but in a wholesome kind of honest full day’s work way!  There is something satisfying about coming home with the fruits of your labour and by labour, I do mean physical work.

It can be physically exhausting

I won’t let Mac use the chainsaw which means I have to do my fair share of sawing now instead of just faffing about snapping sticks and gathering pinecones like I would have done in the past.  As a result, my arm is aching a bit this morning and while I will never win a Canadian sawing competition my technique has improved greatly this week. It is fun and relaxing and a chance to unplug and disconnect. It is, however, also frustrating for my husband who loves to saw and chop and collect and organise but finds it more tiring now than he remembers.

I have to confess sometimes that it’s easy to forget that he is still recovering because he looks more or less the same and the physical symptoms are hardly noticeable now. But working takes its toll and he has to sit down more often than before. He told me that he frequently gets hit with a wave of sudden physical fatigue, but then recovers quite quickly so it’s like little bursts of energy and dips over the morning.

I don’t feel so bad sitting down to take a break either and of course, it’s a great excuse for a cup of tea! The hardest thing of all is the changing of mindset and accepting that it is, actually, okay to slow down and take a break. In fact, it is more than okay, it is necessary. It’s why we’re leaning heavily on nature in stroke recovery because it’s this part of the recovery process that I feel will do the most good. It is also the bit we’re struggling most with at the moment. I want this to change.

So, it’s off to the woods again this weekend. I wonder if we’ll see the giant this time……………

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