How can I explore nature as a Disabled person?
Lauren (she/her) is The Mix’s Senior Services Officer. She is passionate about disability activism and hopes to one day open her own Dramatherapy practice to give individuals a safe space to be themselves and feel support.
Lauren’s guide to exploring nature as a Disabled* person
* Disclaimer: I am not a wheelchair user and don’t use mobility aid, so whilst I have tried to be as inclusive as possible, I am aware that my lived experience and advice may not be applicable to everyone.
I live in East London and have been shielding since February 2020 – I actually didn’t leave the house for four months when the pandemic started. There’s been a never-ending sense that something bad is going to happen; I get worried that because I have battled so much in my life, my body won’t be able to fight and beat Covid.
Although going outside feels really challenging, I really enjoy the buzz of completing a walk when I come home. So, I’m here to give some tips on how you can make ‘enjoying nature’ more accessible for you.
Tip#1: Go slow and small
There really is no rush to do things. It may feel like it when you see others going out and about, but everyone’s different.
We’ve been told for a year that it was safer to stay inside, you won’t be able to just flick a switch and forget that. It’s going to take time to feel how you did pre-pandemic and even then, things will feel a lot different.
You don’t have to be out for long either. At first, just embrace being outside and familiarise yourself with your space.
Each time you go outside, you can decide what you feel comfortable with doing next.
Tip#2: Start on your own
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If it’s been some time since you’ve been outside/or on a walk, your mind and body will need time to adjust. Plus, physically, it might be a bit harder to explore nature like you did previously.
Doing it solo is a great chance for you to explore your boundaries as you have more choice to do what allows you to feel safe.
If you want to meet with friends, you can arrange to meet them somewhere instead of going together. This way, you can go at your own pace.
Tip#3: Check for available walking routes or guides
You’d be surprised with how many famous people lived or were born in your area if you googled it.
I managed to find multiple easy-to-navigate walking routes that were on public pathways and flat surfaces.
Tip#4: Visit a city farm
There are 16 city farms in London and 13 of them are FREE!
Being around animals is a really therapeutic experience in itself. Also, people are generally focused on the animals, so there’s that reassurance that people won’t be focusing on you.
You can be whoever you want to be and not need to worry.
Tip#5: Challenge your fears
The ‘fear wall’ is the term I coined to describe the feeling when I physically cannot do something, even if my mind is screaming for me to do it. It’s a bit like going into fight or flight mode, but instead of running or being anxious, it turns into heavy tension.
The longer I let the fear stop me, the harder it is to go outside. It starts to become a worry cycle. I tell myself I will try tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes.
Sometimes you just have to mentally push through it and go outside.
With each step, it feels a little easier.
Tip#6: No rule says you can only enjoy nature by walking
If you can drive or can go with someone who can drive, jump in a car and head to somewhere rich with natural surroundings. My friends and I drove to Greenwich Park, and we just popped ourselves on a nice grassy spot and chilled.
When I started venturing outside, I got a lot of cabs. It’s not viable for everyone, but it is an option if you’re just not ready to travel somewhere on foot.
Have a little wander in your local green space. I can’t promise that nature will cure things or make life better, but it can allow you to step out of a space that might be less helpful for you in that moment.
If you need support on any of these issues
You can contact our team who are there to support you with anything and everything. Support is free, confidential and there are lots of different options for reaching out.
Read Lauren’s insights on being a student with disabilities.
Read our article about disability in the workplace.
Read our article about supporting someone in your family who is disabled.
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By Simran Atwal
Updated on 14-May-2021
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