The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged us all into uncertainty and the ways in which we’ve have had to change the way we live and work is likely to feel difficult and stressful.

Coronavirus affects not only physical health but is likely to take its toll on people’s mental health, particularly those already living with conditions like OCD and anxiety.

Now, more than ever, is a good time to make the most of the nature we have right on our doorsteps and unlock the healing potential that the great outdoors offers.

Here we’ve compiled just a few ways that we at Climate Action North are connecting with nature during which could be a lengthy period of social isolation.

Sharon: Being in stay at home mode has really brought my small outdoor space into its own, affectionately known as the yarden due to it being a small garden/yard with a mixture of plants, fruit trees and herbs.

Each day I’ve noticed so many more birds and I’ve been following their patterns; from waking up in the dawn chorus, the day-long chattering of the sparrows, the coo-cooing of the wood pigeons, the high-pitched call and song of the blue tit and the unmistakable beautiful song of the blackbird. I’ve even had buzzards flying high above and the odd kestrel flying by – my very own bird therapy.

Being allowed to walk and take exercise locally has also kept me close to home; just walking half a mile up the road (and of course at safe distancing) takes me to a burn at the edge of the village where I’ve seen a Grey Heron; something I never dreamed I would see so close to the village and maybe never would had I not been steered to walking there.

Climate Action North was kindly given permission and full access from Joe Harkness, the author of Bird Therapy, to use his Bird Therapy Toolkit

We’re exploring ways to incorporate this into our business ecotherapy offer and will be launching events post Covid19 to trial the benefits of bird therapy and nature watching as a means to relieve everyday tensions of struggling with the climate emergency, encouraging more outdoor activity, and improving overall mental health. Watch this space for planned activities once we are all free to network again.

Here’s what Joe said: “It’s been wonderful to follow how Climate Action North are implementing my Bird Therapy Toolkit, especially knowing that they will soon be delivering activities, linking birds and birdwatching to wellbeing, particularly for those experiencing climate anxiety. Connecting people is one of the main ethos’ of Bird Therapy; so to know that they are going to be connecting local businesses and communities, through their corporate social responsibility, as well as their direct contact with the vulnerable, is fantastic.”

I’ve also used the stay at home time to brush up on my nature and rewilding knowledge taking every spare minute to read books, watch videos and I am looking forward to the future when travel can restart so I can visit the key places for more #rewildingme adventures such as the Knepp Estate, Caledonian Forest and back to the Isle of Skye for some serious otter watching.

I’m really enjoying taking part in the North East Bee Hunt hosted by the Natural History Society of Northumbria and which involves taking photographs of bees in my outdoor space, identifying them and then uploading them onto a recording system.  It feels great to be part of such important information gathering but also seeing and learning about so many different species.

Jen: I love cooking and trying out new recipes so growing my own vegetables makes sense. You don’t even need a garden to grow your own veggies, just some seeds and a shallow tray. I’ve started with easy options, like tomatoes and peppers, and have already got some dishes in mind for them.

I’ve been taking the opportunity to go outside for a walk in the fresh air and sunlight. The area I live in is surrounded with woodlands close to the Wansbeck river, and offers gorgeous panoramic views of Morpeth. We also briefly spotted a deer when out walking, so I count myself very lucky.

I’m also using the extra time now I don’t have to commute to various locations to develop a green ideas initiative, affectionately known as GIN, for Climate Action North, so we’ll be ready to hit the ground running when things eventually return to normal. More information coming soon but, essentially, it’ll be a way for us to meet, share ideas on green business issues and opportunities while using nature and outdoor locations for the benefit of all.

I’ve also found it useful to limit the amount of time I spend reading or watching things that don’t make me feel good. Instead I’ve started using a specific time to check in with the news and focus on pro-actively finding positive stories, like this, as well.

Julie: I’m using this time to develop projects to offer schools, businesses and communities to promote science and engineering in nature. One of my recent ideas is to ask kids who have a garden to cut an old carpet, or something similar, into a heart or a shape of their choice then cover a piece of the lawn (with their parent’s permission). This is a great way to demonstrate that for grass to be green it needs light. After a few days, the grass will be white; don’t worry parents, it does grow back!

It’s a superb way to introduce photosynthesis, the process where plants convert energy from light to make nutrients using an enzyme called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll traps light and is what gives plants the green colour. Plants take out Carbon Dioxide from the air and give out oxygen; that’s why we need them so much!

Nature can teach us so much about science and engineering and we can see how the systems interact and support each other. The signs are everywhere, you just need to stop and look. Engineering is all about problem solving and nature demonstrates this all the time. And we humans are not all bad for the environment; we’re also an integral part of this ecosystem. Yes, trees, plants and animals would survive without us, but without some essential maintenance not in the abundance we have now. We’re very much the caretakers and we need to make sure we take our role seriously. Now is a good time to start this!

The emotional distress resulting from the rapid spread of COVID-19, as well as the escalating climate crisis, can seem too overwhelming to bear. Now, more than ever, we should remember that connecting with nature can unlock a healthier mind, help us build our strength and carry on.

We wish everyone well and to stay safe.