Wild Minds Podcast logo

Season 1, Episode 6:
Stress & Mental Health: What Happens & What Helps?


Marina Robb

Hosted by: Marina Robb

In Episode 6, Marina Robb talks about how stress can feel in our bodies and the importance of giving words to our sensations and emotions.

Topics include some simple ideas to improve our ability to emotionally regulate and that when we do this, we model it for others around us.

  • How stress feels in the body.
  • The importance of giving words to our sensations and emotions. 
  • The idea of place attachment.
  •  A few ideas to improve our ability to emotionally regulate.

This model underpins our courses, and in every module of our Advanced Certificate in Forest School & Outdoor Learning, Marina gives direct examples of how this can be applied to nature-based practice.

Music by Geoff Robb: www.geoffrobb.com 

You may also like....

Subscribe to listen to your favorite episodes!


The Outdoor Teacher Ltd owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Wild Mind Podcasts, with all rights reserved, including right of publicity.

You are welcome to share an excerpt from the episode transcript (up to 500 words but not more) in media articles, in a non-commercial article or blog post, and/or on a personal social media account for non-commercial purposes, provided that you include proper attribution and link back to the podcast URL. For the sake of clarity, media outlets with advertising models are permitted to use excerpts from the transcript per the above.

No one is authorized to copy any portion of the podcast content or use Marina Robb's name, image or likeness for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books, book summaries or synopses, or on a commercial website or social media site (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) that offers or promotes your or another’s products or services. 

(transcribed by AI so there maybe some small errors!)

Hello, and welcome to The Wild Minds Podcast for people interested in health, nature-based therapy and learning. We explore cutting edge approaches that help us improve our relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world.

My name is Marina Rob, I'm an author, entrepreneur, Forest School outdoor learning and nature-based trainer and consultant, and pioneer in developing green programmes for the health service in the UK.

You're listening to Episode 6 ‘Stress and mental health, what happens and what helps.’ In this shorter episode, I'm talking about how stress can feel in our bodies, the importance of giving words to our sensations and emotions, some simple ideas to improve our ability to emotionally regulate, and that when we actually do this, we model it for others around us.

I'm really grateful today, to have a home that I know I can go in, I can shut the door. And the relatively things are calm and safe. And I've got a bedroom and I can go in and do what I need to in that place. And I think about all the people that don't have that, and in particular thinking of Allison last week talking about children that are taken away from their homes, whether or not that home was safe or not, they're still taken away from homes and put into either foster homes or people put them in to their own homes and from that perspective, are often really trying to help those young people, but to be a young person, or to be a person that is in the hands of the other to go into someone else's home.

And to not necessarily have family in that way is a big deal. So I'm, I'm really grateful to have that. And it's got me thinking a lot about emotions and words, and how can we really support ourselves and young people to have better mental health and want to start with just thinking about all the kinds of emotions like anxiety, disappointment, embarrassment, fear, hurt, jealousy, feeling lonely, overwhelmed, times when I felt or others have shown me sadness, or their own vulnerability, or shame and all this languaging of sensations that occur in our bodies, which we could call emotions, and how comfortable I am, or others are with speaking in that way.

And of course, there are all other whole sets of other more positive feelings and emotions, but just to be with for a moment. Those other more challenging sensations and feelings and what that brings up for you and for me, and the times when I know when I felt stressed. And that often makes me behave in ways that I wish I hadn't behaved.

Or I can start saying things like blaming someone for not doing something because of how it makes me feel. Or not being able to express my hurt or sadness or feeling that somebody else has hurt me and I just want to react to that and defend myself. And underneath that, you know, that feeling of not feeling safe or the relationship not being strong enough to hold me in believing that I can truly express what's going on for me in a way that that means that the PIP the people that I'm expressing that to or the person that I'm expressing that to will still look at me kindly, afterwards, I suppose would still have a sense of love towards me.

Because that's in relationships that are more familiar. But I do think that ultimately, it's so important that we feel that from the from another person at some point in our lives. and an in that we internalise those kinds of relationships and those ways of being towards ourselves. So when we think about our own mental health and young people's mental health, one way of approaching how we can improve that is by being more familiar with the languaging. Some people call it like emotional literacy, but like the languaging of these emotions, and I know that it's not easy, because I know that even if I am more familiar with that, how often can I actually name what I'm actually feeling. And, and sometimes that takes time to reflect and to think what is actually coming up for me and why that triggered me why I felt that way.

So when we can know a little bit more about what's going on for us, then we are in a better position to, to say what works for us and what doesn't work for us. And it gives us more choice, and more freedom, to say no, to say yes. And to explain how to explain and put in place things that will enable us to look after ourselves. And that's really important for our mental health to be able to do that. And there are lots of different ways of being able to do that.

And one of the things that really has worked for me over the last 10 years is really noticing how when I feel that stress feeling, often in my stomach area, if I take a deep breath, and maybe do another couple of breaths, it actually can feel my physiology changing. And I can feel my body pause and relax. And it doesn't always work for me when someone would well it very rarely works for me, when someone tells me to relax, in fact, that feels a bit more like a command.

And I don't that that that that stresses me out. But if I can do that myself, and build in a more awareness of the breath, and then that can really help might sound really obvious, but I think a lot of us are breathing lightly from the top of our chest and not actually breathing into our bodies. And when we do that, it there's a release and there's a certain relaxation actually happens. So what works for us, what works for you what works for the young people that were that we're working with?

There are all kinds of important theories, one of which clearly is this theory of emotional attachment. And really understanding how we all need to feel, at some point in our lives to be well, we need to have felt that we have been attached to somebody that's important. And in doing that, we get our cues, we can get our we can see from their behaviour, the ways they're reacting to us what that we haven't, we actually have value to them. And there's a relationship of meaning of love, ultimately. And when we don't have that when that is broken, then we will always be feeling somewhere that we are not good enough. And that we are not worthy, really, of actually being here and taking space and taking our power in some ways.

And of course, we can remedy that. But one of the ways we need to move towards if we want to remedy the things that have been troubling or the events that have happened that have been difficult in our lives is to have that own inner dialogue with ourselves to be able to notice the way we speak to ourselves. I think, you know, when I close my eyes, it takes me inside, because I'm not distracted by all the things that are happening outside or the doings that I might be doing to distract myself from myself. And that's also fun and being in the moment. And that's also wonderful, but it can also be a distraction. And I think if we take a bit of time, and we close our eyes and we notice the kind of thought processes that we're having and the conversations we're having with ourselves one of the first things is to notice the language in which we talk to ourselves and whether that is actually empathetic whether that's kind whether that's considering of ourselves in a nice way just like we wouldn't often talk about others.

If something had happened to them we wouldn't necessarily think and speak to them in a in a really discouraging or mean or hurtful way and but often With our own mental health, we're being super hard on ourselves, we're super judgmental of ourselves. And we're not actually noticing that we're even doing that. So that's one of the things that we can start to do is to notice that and to start to be kinder to ourselves, and you know, there's so many labels out there, you're this, you're that you're, you're not good enough. You're you can't, you can't do if you're, if you're a school, all the things that we were told about ourselves that we couldn't do, obviously, not all bad. But that ends up with us feeling that there's something wrong with us, fundamentally wrong with us.

Rather than that there was a whole set of circumstances that happened to you, that actually, in some ways, determined what you ended up thinking about yourself. And when we're young, and we're growing up, there's a whole set of powers around us that we're not necessarily consenting to, we're not even aware of, and that really has affected the way we think about ourselves. And there can be big environmental reasons, social reasons, socio economic reasons, cultural reasons that are absolutely out of our control with the way things have occurred and happened. And it isn't, because there's something wrong with us or wrong with you.

It's because of the circumstances that you find yourself in. And I often think when we are working out, out in groups, with whoever they are, is that we, we can think, oh, you know, if you're in a school, for example, you can you can think this behaviour is unacceptable, it's rude, it's X, Y, Zed. But actually, that behaviour is actually communicating something. And usually now we think of it as distressed behaviour.

Because when I'm distressed, I will defend myself, I will say things that push people further away from me, rather than bringing them closer to me, because it's easier to do that feels easier to do that, than to actually in that moment, it feels easier to do that, rather than show a need to show and use language that explains that perhaps I am scared or sad or hurt, or jealous, instead of actually finding languaging I'll defend it because I feel attacked, which is really natural. I mean, that's one of the things that we have evolved to do is to respond to threat. And then our physiology heightens.

And we can either run, we can either get angry, or we can disconnect, we can freeze and disassociate. So those are the kinds of three simple choices that we can make. But when we learn that we can actually move alongside these feelings that come up the sensations that come up, and we have a better dialogue with ourselves around them, then we can increase our tolerance. And I think culturally, we, there are certain emotions that a seen to be bad and not acceptable. And one of them is anger, you know, and I think of that feeling like if there's too much heat, let's say too much sun, you get burnt.

So you need to cool yourself down. But if there's if there's a right amount of power and right amount of energy, then that is a force for change. And it's a force that says no, that's not okay. And I love Brene Brown's work, and particularly the work around boundaries. And she says that in the 1000s of people that she's interviewed, that the people who had boundaries of steel were also the most compassionate. That says something to me. And I really sat with that. So, so much thinking, the most kind, compassionate, considerate, people have boundaries of steel, so they know what's okay for them, and what's not okay, and they can, they can really name that, not in a way that that is reactive or defensive, but in a way that actually speaks to acknowledging what feels right for them in that moment, what they're capable of doing with the capacity they have, so that they're not draining themselves, so much so, or having a whole set of circumstances happen around them that they really don't want to do that they haven't consented to.

So boundaries are really really, really important. You know, often when we think about like, especially in the work of going outside this idea of freedom, and, you know, having space to choose and doing what they want, good practice will always have a container will always create a contract container where it's, this is okay, but this isn't okay. And when we can we try and have these agreements in place CO produced by the group so that everybody understand why these boundaries are in place. And that is both psychologically and emotionally as well as physically creates safety.

And there's lots and lots of kind of ways of doing that, particularly in the outside lots of games, lots of fun ways of like marking out boundaries, but also really understanding as well, that there's this kind of invisible thread that's going on in that space that says, okay, this is the place where we can be. And this is the place where we're looking after each other, and we don't go outside of that space. So there's a kind of similarity here with our mental health and our wellbeing knowing our limits. Knowing when we, we need to have risk, we need to go to the edge, that's where all that lovely learning can happen.

And kind of creativity and stepping into the unknown, but not so far that it taps us into being on high alert and stress that actually shuts us down and doesn't allow us to learn doesn't allow us to have contact with the other which we need so much.

So thinking about what helps us what helps young people, we can think about that simple thing about breath, as I said, we can think about boundaries, we can think about putting words to things that are going on for us and daring to ask for what we need, we can acknowledge that we're a practitioner that, yes, some behaviours of people around us.

Adults, as well as young people, if we're working in a young people setting is really triggering for us. But what we do with that really matters, whether we react, whether we learn to notice what's going on for us long enough to regulate to kind of calm ourselves down. So that we're not just firing back, that we're actually noticing what's coming up and having naming that for ourselves. And in that we're starting to model for others what's actually happening.

And so they can see that you have that language. And that actually, life isn't always in one kind of linear way that there is always these ups and downs and these different feelings and different expressions. And this is why we talk about this idea of windows of tolerance, being able to tolerate more, to be able to tolerate our strong feelings of passion, and perhaps, you know, that feeling of anger, that generative energy, but also, this fit times when we need to allow ourselves to feel the sadness that might be there for different reasons that things that happened, that are happening in our lives that are real, that actually need attention, need attending to need tending to, and then that that reduces our stress, and hopefully, makes us much more resilient and empathetic and increases our self-awareness.

So, what about nature in all this, we talked, in the beginning of attachment, we've used these words as the importance of emotional attachment. And that never really ends. I think as social beings, we always have a fundamental need to feel in connection with attached to another. But I really also think that we also very much need to feel an attachment to place to other such things that are not necessarily the human world. And what can that bring because humans can be tricky.

Humans, and the company that we keep, will always bring different stories that can be difficult or more easy, depending on the situation. Whereas non-human animals, natural spaces, water, fire, the elements, they all also have an impact on our physiology, and on our emotional wellbeing and on our capacity to think to be able to give space to what might be coming up as well. So the natural world Old, having access to that, and taking yourself out to the natural world is also so valuable for our mental health and our well being.

And when we're thinking, as I often am around young people who are very much in that physical body-based stage of their life, they need to move, and they need to be able to express themselves, and actually learn to kind of build that muscle around emotions and an expansive sense of self and be able to communicate that as much as possible. So how do we do that? And how are we bringing that into everyday practice within schools, or within our own workplaces or, or within our own lives.

And it goes back again to that beginning of that discussion around that nature centric model, in episode two, which we began episode one about looking at these different aspects of being human, our physical self, our emotional self, our spiritual self, and our cognitive, rational self, and how much these are operating in balance or not in balance, and how we can really start to, to address that in our workplaces, and in our schools and in our systems to help us to have healthier mental health.

For us, and for the people that we work with, and for the environments that we find ourselves in. So I really hope that you get a chance, even if it's just for five minutes, to take a cup of tea, or something and just sit outside, whether that's sitting on a womb, looking at a tree or going to a park or whatever little space that you might have just to take that time, and give yourself that short period of time to be present. And try and bring that self-awareness and to recall something positive about yourself and know that you're not alone. That I'm not alone, that you're not alone. And not only are we not alone in the sense that all of us share so much similarity as humans but also that under our feet and around us is a whole network of other beings that are impacting us, and we're impacting them. And I hope that you get a moment to feel that and be with that.

Join me next week for Episode Seven. When you're meet Lily horseman, a forest school trainer and play worker, and we're talking about the idea of wildness and domestication, being uncomfortable, the love of play and what lights us up. Thank you for listening to this episode of The Wild minds podcast. If you enjoyed it and want to help support this podcast, please subscribe, share and leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts. Your review will help others find the show.

To stay updated with The Wild Minds Podcast and get all the behind-the-scenes content. You can visit the www.outdoorteacher.com or follow me on Facebook at theoutdoorteacherUK and LinkedIn, Marina Robb.

The music was written and performed by Geoff Robb. See you next week. Same time, same place