Woman looking up at trees by lake

Ellen's Story: Escaping the office

This post was written by Ellen, an office worker in Bristol. Ellen has found that her lunchtime walks offer a chance to escape the confines of office life. Learn more about forest wellbeing.

There is an area of woodland about a two minute walk from my Bristol office.

I was introduced to the woodland via a lunchtime walk with a colleague on a hot July day last year, during my first week at work.

I remember the shade from the trees - it was a very hot summer. But I also recall how while walking and looking at our surroundings I felt comfortable, chatting and getting to know my colleagues more than I had done in the office.

Woman walking in woods footpath

Perhaps it was the movement of walking or the feeling of being unconstrained by the walls of an office while being protected, shaded by trees, which made my first-week-anxiety lessen.

This was so much better than my previous lunchtime-stomps round the business park.

Since that first walk, the woodland has continued to be a social space for me. I try to get out for a walk most days – either during lunchtime or by turning a meeting into a walking meeting.

But the woodland is also a place I go to on my own when I need to escape, refocus and regain balance.

We all have those days when nothing seems to go to plan. Your alarm doesn’t go off, the dog rolls in something disgusting and you get soaked hosing her clean. You’re late, the traffic is awful. Important meetings don’t pan out how you want them to; the to-do list becomes a list of lists. Don’t even start me on my inbox.

Dog Sticking Tog Out
Jamie Street

"If I’m frustrated, I kick crunchy leaves. If I’m overwhelmed, I find calm in the space between trees."

Feet in autumn leaves

On days like these I’m tempted to chain myself to my desk and power through. And yet, my head is messy, I can’t quite pin down thoughts, and I flit from one task to the next.

This is when I go to the woods.

If I’m frustrated, I kick crunchy leaves on the path. If I’m overwhelmed, I find calm in the space between trees. If I’m happy, I take time to feel that happiness rather than worry about how long it will last.

I don’t have to hide how I feel or put on a brave face. I’m free from phone calls and emails. As I walk, thoughts fall into place. My shoulders begin to relax, my breathing is deeper.

There is space. I have time.

I return to the office, not Buddha-calm, but with a clearer head than when I left it.

Woman in forest smiling

Thank you to Ellen for sharing her relatable story.

Forests are places you can seek adventure, make memories or find escape, and escaping the office is just one of many ways that forests can help strengthen and reinforce your wellbeing.

Keep exploring

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From urban woodlands and historical places, to special habitats and vast wilderness, our forests are as unique and varied as the people who visit them. Whether it is an adrenaline-fuelled mountain bike ride or simply sitting quietly on the forest floor, heading for the trees is the perfect place for taking time out. And scientists back this up too. Research shows that spending time in forests can improve our health and wellbeing.
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