Falling into the Heather

About failed adventures, resilience, and preparing for the new academic year.

Loch Vaa, Boathouse

Last week we spend four days in the Cairngorms (Scotland), as a short break after the summer was all but relaxing. However, the weird and wonderful mechanisms of stress and being worn out saw me reaching some physical and mental boundaries. And led to the invention of the sloth-move hiking style! Oh yes you read that right! Being out and about has another side effect it provides time to let the mind wander, while the body duplicates. Learning can be had from everything, and anywhere. The experiences of our mini adventure held learning about resilience and self-care that can translate into this academic year and the unknown challenges still ahead.

Day One

The Hermitage, Pitlochy, Waterfall

After a sleepless night and a failed try for a proper mountain-bike run—if you fall uphill this is not the day for challenges. We decided to climb up a mountain instead. All said and done. When climbing up over rock fields for weird and wonderful health reasons my body went on strike and mind over matter failed completely, sparing you details, lets say I didn’t have lunch and for the last 100 height meters I had to psych myself up for each set of five steps about to take. To top this off when finally on top of the mountain I reached the point of blacking out, you know when the dark vignette effect closes in and vision starts going, and only breathing exercise, bloody mindedness and some electrolytes stop me from crashing.

Mountain Top Ridge

Anyway, while I was literally fighting my way up the hill for some reason a report about sloths popped into my mind which stated that sloths move so slowly because their food does not have many nutrients and they need to preserve energy. So as a logical consequence I created the ‘sloth move hiking style’—I know not quite Bruce Lee, but movement. This is how it works: slow deliberate movements, and short breaks every five steps to keep going. Probably looks a bit like Monty Python’s funny walk, and is literally very slow progress, but it is progress nevertheless, I got all the way to the ridge, and once I stopped feeling ill even walked along the ridge.

Where is the learning?

This year holds more stressors than any other academic year for all of us. So, moving steadily, deliberately, with conscious breathing breaks might get us to the proverbial top of the mountain—or end of academic year.

Autumn Woodland with Blooming Heather

Day Two

We went on a 30 km mountain-bike track half of which was relatively straight forward woodland paths, the other one technically challenging, wet roots, loose gravel, rocks, mud and a good amount of up and downhill—even J whose technical skills are at black-run-level came off several times. The first hour was good, but you have to stay in the zone, in flow or you fall. After about two hours the ADHD brain reached a point of mental exhaustion, and I could literally feel my reaction-times getting slower. After a particularly challenging section, which according to the maps was not even a path—I swear there was one—we finally went back to easier paths.

Blooming Heather in Autumn Sun

The problem was in the middle of my mental fatigue someone had parked their bike trailer in the middle of the path, I was so mentally tired, I literally could not make the decision about getting off the bike or cycling around. So, I cycled around but focussed too much on the stuff standing around not on what I was doing with the bike and ended up in the heather. All good—falling into the heather is soft but I strained my thumb which meant for the rest of the ride I couldn’t shift gears well and thumb was twice it’s normal size.

What was the learning?

So somehow going on adventures and having a low baseline in terms of well-being physically and mentally means I was pushed to my boundaries very quickly. It made me think about how many of us, went into the new academic year with a very low baseline of well being. So mental and physical boundaries are going to be reached quicker than usual. And I assume I will probably end up more often in the proverbial heather than in a normal year, or run out of steam mid-mountain. Self-care, pausing, and slow deliberate progress seem the learning from our mini-adventure. Well, and also to enjoy the views! Be consciously aware of the happy moments, the joys, the successes. And this year more than ever be supportive and be kind.

Some Take-Aways

Nourishment is important: for body, mind, and soul
Take breaks, breathe, stop, pause.

And enjoy the view! 😂😂😂

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