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  • Writer's pictureAntonia Higgins

Lessons learned in a tent

I’ve recently returned from my family holiday that was a completely new experience for me. Camping (or ‘glamping, as seasoned outdoor types would probably call our experience) wasn’t something I ever imagined I would enjoy for all sorts of reasons: bugs, mud, cold, rain, nowhere to plug in my hairdryer…I had lots of reasons for avoiding it. But time and money made it a sensible option this year. And my family really wanted to try it, so I was outvoted too!

Surprisingly, I did enjoy it. And I’ve been reflecting on the differences I felt while enjoying this relaxed and peaceful living in the Scottish countryside compared to my usual, hectic day-to-day life. Generally speaking, I think I’m pretty good at self-care. As a counsellor, I need to look after myself so that I can help other people to look after themselves. And I take that seriously. But there’s something about living life in a different context that has made me realise that there’s room for improvement. So here are five lessons I’ve learned from living in a tent.

Being offline is healthy

Our tent (unsurprisingly) had no TV, no wi-fi and the area had only an intermittent signal. So the pressure to be connected and react instantly was taken out of my hands. And I didn’t miss it. I was forced to be more disciplined about when to be online. I felt more balanced and more present for the people I love.

Books are a joy

Actually, I have always known this. And I’ve always had a love of reading. But now mostly I read for personal development. Reading for pleasure is a luxury when my to-do list is long and screen-time is a constant procrastination tool. So I made a point of spending time reading fiction in the sun and got through a book in less than two days. I hadn’t done that in a while. So I’ve made a promise to myself to make more time to read for pleasure.

Facing fears is good for me

A walk to a waterfall was almost abandoned because of slippery, muddy conditions and my fear of heights, sheer drops and water. But my boys’ disappointment made me determined to keep going through the scary parts and try to rationalise my fears. It was hard and there were tears at one point, but the reward of seeing the waterfall at the end made it worthwhile. And I’m proud of the courage I found within myself. I’m going to hold onto this success and bring it to mind the next time I’m battling with a fear, whether that’s about heights, spiders or public speaking. Hopefully it will help me overcome those barriers.

When exercise is fun it’s easy

My self-care falls down when it comes to exercise at the moment. Life can be busy and I struggle to motivate myself to get moving. But being outdoors in the sunshine, walking in beautiful surroundings didn’t feel like exercise. It felt like fun and relaxation. And my aches and pains felt better for it. Finding ways to move more every day is probably the single most beneficial thing I could do for my own self-care.

Life doesn’t have to be complicated

Camping was a simple existence, but a really enjoyable one. Playing cards and reading by candlelight, cooking quick and easy meals and eating outdoors with chickens and horses for company were all uncomplicated things that seemed slower paced than ‘real life’. Getting up when we felt like it, eating when we were hungry, sleeping when we were tired and being spontaneous was so freeing. No expectations, no pressure, no lists, no diaries. No stress!

Note: now I’m back to my usual routines and commitments I’m already finding it hard to hold onto the promises I made myself to do things differently. Life is a juggling act and sometimes the best of good intentions can go awry. So I’ll continue to aspire to live better, compromise on the days when this feels impossible, and practice self-compassion when it’s not going as I’d like. After all, I’m only human.

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