June is shaping up to be a very busy month for me. I have important writing deadlines to meet, a large outdoor theatrical event to manage, a new work project to get underway and three weeks’ classroom teaching covering for a colleague that was totally unexpected. I am not one who subscribes to the glorification of busy. It’s overrated. Everyone needs time to chill, recharge the batteries, think through projects and directions and just be. And yet, at this time of year especially it’s difficult to find down time. Teachers and students have reached that major stress point in the school calendar – exams. Time to take care of your wellbeing is so vital if focus and enthusiasm is to be maintained during stressful or busy times. I tell my students this all the time. Build relaxation time into your work schedule. Take regular breaks away from your revision books or pcs. Some follow the advice; others find it almost impossible. How opportune, then that a review copy of a pocket sized book by Michael Townsend Williams should fall into my hands.
He’s a local man who exudes good health. Advertising executive turned yoga teacher and mindfulness coach, Michael is an advocate of ‘welldoing’, the art of leading a busy and productive life but not at the expense of one’s health. Do Breathe his pocket sized reference explores some techniques to bring busy people focus, vision and organisation as they work through their to do lists. And it all starts with better breathing.
As one who is starting work on a new study skills and organisation programme with secondary school pupils, it has one or two tips I think I might use or adapt for with students. Organised into three steps – Prepare, Practise and Perform – Michael’s book leads you from the basics of confronting the stresses in your busy life , through the first tentative steps of setting up and sticking to new and better work habits to finally managing your time successfully and getting through an ever increasing list of demands, whilst keeping a healthy focus on your own wellbeing. There are hints, tips and exercises to try out and further reference material for those who want to delve a little deeper. Some of it is common sense, but scattered throughout the book are a few gems you may not have thought of.
I think mastering the art of welldoing might stand me in good stead over the next few weeks.
The Wild Swans at Coole
Yes I’m back after the Summer hols and the inevitable mind-bogglingly expensive school shoe shopping that defines the end of August. I own few pairs of shoes. To be honest I’d rather buy a book or a plant. Most of my time at home is spent barefoot. And whilst I wouldn’t dig the plot or lay a brick path without my trusty workboots I’m more than happy sowing and potting on in my bare feet.
I’ve heard my style of gardening – organic, permaculture, treading lightly – frequently referred to as *barefoot gardening*. But recently, whilst researching an article about Nature Deficit Syndrome and the health benefits of physical contact with the soil, I came across several references to going barefoot in the garden literally. So if you’ve enjoyed a barefoot stroll along the beach recently, here’s why …….along with several good reasons to kick off your shoes outside on a more regular basis. Just watch out for the slugs!
- walking barefoot increases your levels of feel-good endorphins and can lower feelings of anxiety and depression
- ancient peoples believed barefoot walking in the grass cured insomnia. A barefoot stroll around the garden at bedtime should set you up nicely. Jetlag also seems to be eased by a barefoot stroll too. Try it.
- going barefoot makes you aware of the world around you as you watch out for potential injuries. It helps you focus on the here and now and live in the moment – something many of us are not so good at.
- It works certain less well-used muscles, strengthens your core and improves posture. It’s good for the knees and for the back.
- walking outdoors without shoes and socks stimulates those areas of your feet that need it most. A free refloxology session with none of the embarrassment of removing smelly socks in front of a therapist. What’s not to like?
- Here’s the hippy bit! Barefoot walking keeps you grounded or connected to the earth’s negative ions especially if it’s in water. You’ll feel calmer, more relaxed, in tune and downright brimming with health.
So there you have it. Several reasons to avoid too many trips to the shoe shop. As for me I’m moving onto the next stage ……………a spot of barefoot firewalking, obviously.
Whilst I have been putting the finishing touches to the adapted script for Pride and Prejudice next July (The Courts, Holt July 14th -17th) and keeping my sledding and snowballing children fed and watered, feast your eyes on what my mate Emms (aka Lydia Bennet) has been up to in the snow in Wiltshire. It’s good to know that members of the cast are sooo creative.
Heavy snow, freezing temperatures and a fierce north wind whipping against the house means we didn’t go outside all day yesterday – except to fill the log basket. It’s good for the soul to have days like this occasionally. There’s nothing like playing boardgames in front of the fire, baking biscuits for tea and toasting your toes when it’s wild outside.
When we moved into this house one of our first jobs was to remove the gas fire, unblock the chimney and get it checked out. Finances (lack of) prevented the installation of a woodburner but things weren’t in bad shape and so we made do with a pot of fire cement to effect some repairs and a new fire basket.
Wood fires were new to me. The range and open fires I grew up with were strictly coal fed but watching my mother and grandmother wiping every surface free of a greasy black film every day was enough to put me off that idea. Wood is entirely a different beast and I had a lot to learn. To me logs were logs but over time and with help from ‘woody’ friends I have learnt which woods burn best, how to store them and where to find the best quality. Ash is good for its heat and flame but I lke the scent of apple and walnut.
In a week or so we’ll need to collect another load of logs. We don’t have room to store many but we have found a woodsource not too far away where we can spend an hour loading up the car boot with seasoned wood. The rest of the day involves unloading, splitting and stacking the logs for use on days like these. It’s a job for the whole family and one I’d recommend to anyone.