Around 11 years I ago I faced my biggest mental challenge yet, agoraphobia. After facing a huge amount of stress from sitting my GCSE exams, I started to develop a fear of stepping foot outside my front door. No explanation, no dramatic event which could have caused it, I just woke up one day and couldn’t bare the thought of being out in the open.
Back then, even just the thought of ecotherapy would have filled me with crippling fear. Being at one with nature meant I was open and vulnerable, which sent me into a frenzy at the mere thought!
However, ironically, ecotherapy was the only way I was going to overcome this irrational fear and ecotherapy was the only thing that got me back on my feet, and on the fitness/outdoors loving path I’m on today.
What is Ecotherapy?
Ecotherapy is the idea that nature can help you manage your mental health. Many studies have suggested that getting outdoors can have a hugely positive effect on a person’s mentality.
This form of therapy prescribes a dose of the outdoors with a bit of physical activity thrown in, to help you boost that serotonin and aid in the treatment of depression. Its main purpose is to get you out into the open and really experiencing everything that life has to offer!
How has Ecotherapy Changed my Life?
When I was a child, I was forever wandering a country estate or castle with my parents. These were the standard weekend outings and I always felt an overwhelming sense of calm whenever I looked out onto a beautiful vista. Of course, at 6 years old it’s hard to really appreciate those things, but I remember vividly how it felt.
After my final episode of depression, I decided to try something I hadn’t really attempted to before to control my mental health issues, exercise.
I’d always been slightly chubby and avoided any kind of workout at all costs, but after getting in the gym, finding a love of weights and walking, I started to notice huge benefits to both my physical and mental health.
Soon I wanted to try more challenging walks, away from the boring treadmill, so I ventured out into the stunning Cheshire countryside to partake in a few more eco therapy activities. This is where I really started to feel completely at peace and depression free. From that point on, I was hooked and planning a new hike every weekend!
Why I Decided to Walk the Great Wall of China
I’d wanted to do something to help support the UK mental health charities for quite some time, but I wanted to do something big, like really big! A 5-10k run just didn’t feel like enough to show just how grateful I was to these organisations and the help they had given me over the years.
One sunny Sunday morning, after 1 too many coffees, I spotted an ad for the Mental Health Foundation’s Great Wall of China trek. It didn’t take me long before my credit card was in my hand and I was booking my place on the trip!
The trek represents, not just a physical challenge, but the opportunity to prove to myself just how far I’ve come from that agoraphobic 16 year old. It also combined the biggest factor in my recovery, the outdoors and cements the undeniable link between nature and mental health. You don’t get more outdoors than one of the 7 wonders of the world in the middle of the Chinese countryside!
Now I’m on the road to the Great Wall of China October 2018, desperately trying to raise enough funds to even qualify for the trip! But I’ve never been more determined to do something and I can’t wait until I have accomplished this huge life achievement that I never dreamed I was capable of.
Cat is a fitness & travel blogger with a passion for spreading the word about mental health. She blogs over on Body With Mind covering everything from her love of snowboarding, tips on looking after your mental health and how fitness can keep your mind and body strong and healthy!
You can support Cat’s Trek at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Catherine-Crawford-great-wall-trek