Can outdoor activities help a child with anxiety? Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor we truly believe that the answer is yes!
Read on as we explain why adventure breaks and outdoor activities help with anxiety in children of all ages.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion that is perfectly normal to experience. It can be described as a feeling of tension alongside worried or negative thoughts. Which is something we all go through occasionally.
However, anxiety can become more than an emotion and start to influence our lives. For example, people with anxiety may avoid situations they worry about. Others may constantly find their emotions hard to control so it affects their lives more dramatically, leading to many anxiety-based disorders of varying degrees.
Those with anxiety disorders frequently worry about and fear everyday situations at intense, excessive, and persistent levels.
Anxiety disorders and mental health are closely related and often influence each other.
Why would a child have anxiety?
There are many reasons why children could be feeling anxious. Key causes of anxiety include…
Separation – younger children tend to experience separation anxiety from parents or loved ones and do not want to be away from them.
Phobias – irrational fears such as heights, bugs etc.
Life experiences – remembering past events that they believe went badly or reflecting on negative feelings can cause anxiety in similar situations.
Social settings – being shy and not confident when meeting new people, or expecting to feel embarrassed, silly, or rejected by others.
Life changes – anxiety can be brought on by changes to the everyday routine, new settings, unfamiliar situations, moving to a new house and school, or the loss of a close relative or friend.
What are the signs of anxiety in children?
Each child displays their anxiety differently, but common signs include…
- Becoming irritable
- Having difficulty sleeping or having bad dreams
- Finding it hard to concentrate
- Losing appetite or not eating properly
- Constantly worrying or having negative thoughts
- Asking lots of questions or needing reassurance
- Feeling tense and fidgety
- Complaining of tummy aches and feeling unwell
- Lack of confidence to do everyday things
- Avoiding activities they previously enjoyed, such as seeing friends, going out or going to school
How can disability contribute to anxiety?
Anxiety can affect any child or adult, but children with a disability may be extra prone to feeling anxiety.
Depending on the disability or condition, a child may have additional difficulties in social settings and may face further struggles with change.
It’s also likely that their life experiences are unique to them and different to those without disabilities; they may feel that no-one else understands what they have gone through and that they can’t do what others can. Many people with disabilities feel social isolation and loneliness.
Therefore, their anxiety rates are high, leading to additional disorders.
It can be difficult for children with learning disabilities to express their feelings of anxiety. They may not understand their feelings and what is causing them, so cannot easily talk about them. Trying to express anxious feelings with limited communication skills can lead to misunderstandings, causing anxiety to intensify.
10 ways outdoor activities can help a child with anxiety…
1 – An improved sense of wellbeing
Outdoor activities usually take place in quiet places, away from the hustle of everyday life, especially at adventure centres like Calvert Trust Exmoor located in the countryside next to a national park.
Just by being in an environment surrounded by nature brings on an improved sense of wellbeing and is relaxing, reducing anxiety in general. Fresh air, trees and pretty views put the mind at ease even at a young age.
2 – An acceptance of new experiences
Structured outdoor activities can encourage an openness to new experiences. Doing new activities helps children learn that they can do things they didn’t think possible. Which reduces fears, worries and anxieties.
The support and encouragement of those around them improves their experience and helps them overcome phobias, improve social confidence, and build positive memories.
3 – A new way of thinking
By going through new experiences, children can develop a new way of thinking.
For example – a child abseiling for the first time has probably never thought about how to abseil before. In the build-up, they may nervous and worried about falling. Yet with the help of Activity Instructors and those around them, the child will learn about the equipment, how the ropes work, and will take on important information. This makes them focus on how to abseil rather than worrying about whether they can or not, reducing anxiety.
Also, overcoming outdoor activity fears can develop resilience and mental toughness whilst creating positive memories, reducing anxiety in the future.
4 – An increase in confidence and independence
There is often a huge sense of accomplishment and excitement during outdoor activities which improves confidence and self-belief.
Completing an activity teaches a child that they are competent and good enough to do it, acting as an inspiration to attempt other goals. Feelings of self-doubt are overcome and replaced with perseverance – improving confidence and lowing levels of anxiety.
Many children also feel a sense of independence. This could be because they become open to doing activities and exercises that we may not regularly do. An effect of this is a freshly engaged mind and fresh determination.
5 – Different stimulation
Being outdoors doing activates provides different and new stimuli. By embracing them, children can increase their ability to be in unfamiliar places. Seeing, smelling, hearing and doing new things becomes less overwhelming, and the idea of somewhere ‘new’ doesn’t seem as daunting.
6 – A connection with others
A sense of belonging and community can form between children when in an unfamiliar environment. The process of doing new activities together connects children, especially when several of the group are anxious.
This shared feeling of anxiety is what bonds children who have just met, and they can quickly form a team or friendship.
7 – Acquiring new skills
By doing outdoor activities, children can learn skills whilst improving general coordination and motor skills. In the long run, this improves self-confidence and allows them to see themselves in a positive light.
Anxiety reduces as they build confidence and experience different ways to learn and succeed.
8 – Reduced stress
It is well documented that stress and fatigue, caused by any number of things, can contribute to anxiety. A stressed child could struggle to deal with their feelings, so anxiety grows.
Outdoor activities help overcome phobias such as heights, encourage socialising and offer positive life experiences, reducing stress and lowing anxiety levels.
9 – A feeling of responsibility and control
As listed above, children can have anxiety because of what they are going through at that moment in time. Giving them the responsibility and control over the situation helps reduce fears.
During outdoor activity sessions, the children always feel in control of their own actions. A child may be encouraged to take part, but it is ultimately their decision if they do or not. Subconsciously this reduces anxiety as they always feel in control and make their own decisions.
10 – An improvement in mental health
As previously mentioned, anxiety can have an impact on mental health and vice versa. We have another news piece focusing on how breaks at an adventure centre can improve mental health and therefore help with anxiety.
At the Calvert Trust Exmoor centre, we often meet anxious children who do not think they will enjoy their stay or are worried about doing certain outdoor activities.
Then they have a wonderful time and love every activity. The children conquer their fears and leave with a positive mindset.
If nothing else, children spending time with family or friends causes them to relax and enjoy the experience, helping them to understand anxiety and developing their skills to get past their worries in other settings.
We provide outdoor activities in a safe environment, with trained instructors who really get to know the children, which also helps with anxiety.
It is not unusual to feel anxious when you are in an unfamiliar setting and situation. It is an entirely acceptable feeling, no matter what your age or who you are.
It is important to remember, if you do feel these emotions, they do not have to remain with you throughout your adventure break. There are small but helpful things you can do to improve how you perceive your new situation.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are dedicated to providing accessible breaks for everyone to enjoy, from school residentials to holidays for people with disabilities. We want to make sure that every one of our guests has the best experience possible, so have created this blog to help you.
Who Can Benefit From This Advice?
We have created these tips for everyone to try if they are ever feeling anxious when they are away from home.
If you are an independent adult on an accessible adventure break, we hope you can refer to this blog to help you if you are feeling unsure.
If you are a carer or a parent with a child of any age, who is about to embark on a residential adventure, we hope we can help you with ideas on how to alleviate their feelings of anxiety.
Accept How You Are Feeling
It is ok to feel a bit on edge when you are away from home, even if you are only down the road! It is a feeling that can primarily occur when your usual daily routines have had to change for the duration of your trip.
Begin by identifying the feelings of unease and accepting them for what they are. It is important to remind yourself that it is completely fine and natural to feel this way when you are away from what you know.
Talk To Someone About How you Feel
Once you have accepted how you currently feel, let someone else know. Whether they are:
• A staff member, such as an instructor
• A family member
• A friend you have gone on the adventure break with
• A teacher
• A carer
You never know, they may feel similar and appreciate that you have confided in them! You can talk about what you love back at home and how they might also like it if they ever come to visit.
It may break the ice for those you do not know so well too.
Remember You Can Call Home
Living in the 21st-century means you are never too far from home! With mobile phones, social media, Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp, staying in touch couldn’t be easier.
If you would like to ring home and talk about things, go for it! There is no shame in letting your nearest and dearest know about how you are doing. They will be able to see the situation from the outside and remind you of all the amazing reasons you wanted to go in the first place.
Talking to your family members will reassure your anxiety that everything back home is ok and you aren’t missing out on anything. Their jolly voices will let you know they are happy and healthy.
Put Things Into Perspective
Once you have accepted and communicated how you feel, it is time to try and gently shift your perspective on the experience.
You feel anxious, and that is completely acceptable. And it is also ok to feel worried but still want to make the most of your opportunity away from home.
Think about the initial reasons why you wanted to come. What activities did you want to try? Were they as you expected them to be? How did it feel to do them? What highlights will you share when you get back home?
Record Your Feelings
Noting down your feelings can be as effective as talking for some people.
You could think about:
• What were the highlights of the day? You could break down the day into morning, afternoon and evening and reflect what you enjoyed the most at each point.
• What challenges did you face today?
• How could the situation be different next time?
Good or bad, it is all acceptable to note down!
Perhaps you will revisit your thoughts in your journal, or perhaps you won’t, it doesn’t matter! Similar to talking, it is just good to get the feelings out in the open so you can move forward and take each day as it comes.
Try to Be Social, Even If You May Not Feel Like It
When you feel uncomfortable, the idea of talking with new people can feel incredibly daunting.
If you are on a trip without company from home, or with people you do not know so well, it is essential to ensure you do not isolate yourself, especially if you are not in the most positive of mind frames.
By socialising, it will feel like a massive achievement in itself and may instantly lift your mood. Many adventure breaks have social areas for guests to interact with. Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we have numerous social areas for our guests to relax in including, The Barn bar, the games room and our stunning courtyard for warmer weather.
You never know who you are going to meet, so try your best to keep an open mind even though this is easier said than done. You may make a friend for life, all starting with a simple hello!
Keep Social Goals Attainable
If you are a shy person, keep your social goals small and achievable, so you don’t feel too overwhelmed. Try meeting one person, to begin with. Listening is an admirable trait in people, so try this at first and see where you go!
Get Out Your Comfort Zone
When you feel like you miss home, try and reflect back to why you wanted to go on your adventure break and the activities you envisioned yourself trying. Speak to your instructor about your feelings, so they can encourage and reassure you to try all the experiences you thought you would try before you felt anxious on the trip.
Bring Familiar Things With You
Bringing something special to you from home is a popular thing to do.
It could be a much-loved photo, a cuddly toy, some sweet treats or a cushion. Anything that brings you comfort, don’t be afraid to take it with you.
For parent or carers whose children are going on a residential trip away, why not ask your child what they would like to take with them? Take a look at our blog on how to get your child excited for a residential trip for some other handy hints and tips!
Have you ever felt homesick when you were on an adventure break? What helped you? We would love to know! Why not let us know on our social media channels?
Tips for Choosing an Accessible Activity Holiday
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are dedicated to providing accessible holidays for everyone to enjoy. With this in mind, we have selected some hints and tips to help you choose your dream activity break.
Research What the Provider Means By the Term ‘Accessible’
When choosing an accessible holiday, it is essential to make sure the holiday provider is fully equipped to meet all your requirements.
Where a provider describes themselves as ‘accessible’, you may need to enquire into what facilities they have and if they are relevant to what you need.
One idea might be to check that showering facilities are fitted with any further aids needed. For example, a simple one would be a shower without a step.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, when we use the term accessible, we mean that our activities and accommodation are fully accessible, no matter the needs. We are equipped with specialist facilities which means we can ensure that all our guests are fully catered for, and all requirements are met.
Our accommodation is built to ensure all our guests receive ultimate comfort when staying with us and a selection of our bedrooms feature h-track ceiling hoists. We also provide other rooms with mobile hoists.
Please take a look at our accessibility statement for more information about our site facilities.
Consider the Location and the Activities You Would Like to Try
What you achieve on your holiday will likely depend on where the site is located and what is available in the area.
Perhaps you would like to try water-based activities? Would you prefer to be a travelling distance to the sea? Are you keen to learn some bushcraft skills? These desires need to be taken into consideration and locations chosen accordingly.
Our accessible site in Exmoor is situated in the perfect part of the country for a variety of activities. To name a few, they include :
• Water-based activities such as canoeing and sailing on the stunning Wistlandpound Reservoir
• Accessible cycling
• Abseiling and climbing in our indoor and outdoor facilities
• Equestrian sports in our indoor and outdoor arenas
• Swimming in our indoor heated pool or relax in our Jacuzzi
We are also in partnership with Surf South West and the Wave Project, based in the beautiful surf village of Croyde. This fantastic opportunity allows us to offer our guests one to one surfing lessons!
And don’t worry about the weather, we have a selection of rainy day activities for our guests to try, meaning that typical English drizzle will never get in the way of a fun-filled accessible activity break with us!
Ensure the Site Has a Focus on Providing High-Quality Staff
So much of an activity break is dependent on the joy and expertise provided by the instructors and staff at the site.
Making sure the site promotes professionalism and invests in employees with the skills required to ensure the safety of guests amongst their staff is essential.
Here at Calvert Trust Exmoor, we are dedicated to safeguarding the welfare of children, young people, vulnerable adults and our staff.
To ensure this, our staff must comply with the following:
• Provide two satisfactory references
• Complete a satisfactory check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (previously names the CRB check)
• Complete a probationary period of at least three months
All our staff are fully qualified and have received specialised training. We like to allocate one continuous staff member to the activity group for the duration of the stay. This is so you can form a trusting relationship which ensures all needs are met so you can get the most out of your time with us!
Consider Your Leisure Time
After a busy day of activities, you may need a relaxing place to sit and unwind and to take some time out for yourself.
At our site, we have a selection of places for both socialising and relaxing. You can choose to hang out in:
• The Barn bar and games room
• The TV room
• The sensory room
• Our conservatory and dining rooms
• Our lovely courtyard garden
Looking into other little extras provided by the activity site, such as Wi-Fi, may also be worth researching, especially if you would like to contact home to tell everyone about your achievements!
At Calvert Trust Exmoor, our Wi-Fi is free and is available in Reception, the Barn Bar, the Acland Room and the Courtyard.
Think About if You Would Like a Fully Inclusive Stay
Consider what food requirements you need for your stay. For example, would you need meals supplied?
Furthermore, would you prefer everything to be onsite? Our accessible site in Exmoor provides a fully inclusive experience. The total price will include:
• All activities
• Food and drink
• The use of the swimming pool
• The use of the sensory room
• Evening entertainment
Some of our apartments are also complete with a kitchen. We can cater for a variety of circumstances such as residential trips, families and individuals. We also provide an onsite shop which can help out with any forgotten necessities, so you needn’t unnecessarily leave the site!
Check Reviews and Testimonies
It is always best to do your research before committing to a holiday! We would recommend taking the time to read the company’s reviews and testimonies on their website.
If you would like to know more about our guests’ experiences, take a look at our guest stories. Here you can see how the Calvert experience has provided accessible holidays for so many different guests, families, residentials and groups.
Hopefully, we have provided you with some helpful advice so you can book your next holiday!
If you have any other handy hints and tips, we would love to hear from you on our social media channels!
We are proud providers of charity holidays for the disabled in Devon and are committed to ensuring all our guests can achieve what they want on their stay. If you would like to know about the breaks we offer, we would love to chat with you! Please feel free to contact us on 01598 763221 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five Benefits of Surfing for People with a Disability
Surfing is a highly active sport that requires the focus of both mind and body. Here at the Calvert Trust Exmoor, we believe everyone should have a chance to experience and enjoy such a fun sport. Our accessible site is idyllically located near the beautiful North Devon coastal village of Croyde, where we offer surfing as an offsite activity. We are in proud partnership with both Surf South West and the Wave Project and are excited to include surfing into our current list of accessible activities. The lessons will be a step above our regular sessions, and instead of having ten people to one instructor, one to one sessions will be available for our guests.
A dedicated charity to surf therapy, an impressive 2239 young people have been involved in Wave Project courses to date. The Wave Project believes that surfing can help children and adults with disabilities, mainly by improving their feelings of anxiousness through surfing. In this article, we would like to explore how surfing benefits those who attend the sessions.
Surf Therapy Research
As a relatively recent breakthrough, surf therapy has not been thoroughly researched. However, there have been a couple of examples such as the University of Rhode Island’s study on the ‘Benefits of Surfing for Children with Disabilities: A Pilot Study’ in 2012. The study discusses how limited participation in physical activities has a wide range of adverse effects, including increased obesity and secondary health problems down the line. It also touches on the psychological impact of not completing activities for people with a disability. Our article will go on to discuss its findings on why surfing should be used to combat this.
The Wave Project also produces a yearly evaluation, which is based on the completion of questionnaires answered by participants before and after they attend a surf session, focussing on feelings of self-belief. It also advocates that providing people with disabilities the access to complete exciting and challenging activities should be wholeheartedly encouraged for both the positive mental and physical implications it can have, as our article will explore.
It Can Improve Physical Fitness
Surfing is widely acknowledged as an intense form of exercise which involves healthy levels of aerobic activity. The 2012 study by the University of Rhode Island found that overall, surfing improved the physical wellbeing of the participants, especially in terms of their upper-body strength and their levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. The reference to cardiorespiratory fitness is especially relevant to children who have physical disabilities, as it is understood that it is generally relatively low compared to those children who do not have disabilities. As a result, the study suggests that surfing is beneficial for the physical improvement for those who have disabilities.
It Offers Dedicated One to One Time
An essential part of the surf therapy sessions at the Wave Project is to ensure each attendee is looked after in a one to one environment. Where this arrangement understandably assists in health and safety precautions, it also helps to form trusting relationships between the attendees and the dedicated volunteers. One to one time with the Wave Project volunteers has been described as one of the most meaningful parts of the experience by the children who attend the surf therapy sessions with the charity. The surf therapy experience can feel enriched due to the high level of interactive instructing devoted to the children. Furthermore, it can limit distractions as outside pressures are contained in a one to one environment. This set up also encourages attendees to rely on themselves to achieve the activity under the supervision of volunteers. As a result, it may enhance feelings of independence due to the encouragement while being in a stable and committed environment.
It Provides Social Inclusion
The 2018 Wave Project Evaluation also emphasises the feeling of social inclusion which has emerged from the network of people attending the sessions. It is a sense of community that not only applies to the participants who complete the therapy but also their parents, carers and the volunteers. Some of the volunteers initially participated at the Wave Project as attendees themselves and with this empathy in mind, have successfully created an incredibly welcoming and understanding environment. Furthermore, because of the energetic nature of the activity, the friendship between instructor and child can blossom, and children don’t feel as distant as they may do in a school environment, for example.
It Supports Feelings of Confidence and Self Belief
Both research by the University of Rhode Island and the 2018 Wave Project Evaluation suggests how taking part in an organised activity has the ability to improve self-esteem. The Wave Project Evaluation in particular, found that the relationship formed between child and volunteer encouraged the sense of belonging, and therefore produced the feeling of acceptance. These feelings are incredibly important in improving a person’s self-esteem and personal perception. By sparking these feelings towards oneself, confidence can improve, and the desire to challenge oneself is boosted.
It Provides a Challenging but Fun Experience
Surfing is a truly unique sport, and teaches so many skills including balance, as well as furthering water knowledge. The Wave project discloses different stories in their Report, which emphasises the fascination and pride participants feel when completing a session. One parent from Devon describes how their child goes to school feeling elated by the fact they surf and other classmates are not familiar with the sport.
For inspiration on accessible holidays in Devon, take a look at the dedicated adventure breaks we provide. If your child is already attending an activity break, and you would like some guidance on how to get your child excited for a residential trip, take a look at our blog!
Going on holiday is an exciting time for all! If you are planning to travel with a person who has special needs, you may feel like travelling greater distances can come with challenges. Here at the Calvert Trust Exmoor, we feel that holidays for people with disabilities should be made achievable wherever possible. If you are planning a getaway with a family member or a friend who have special needs, we have some tips you can take to ensure a smoother journey!
Have Back-Up Plans and Precautions
As you would expect, planning well in advance and pre-planning any unexpected situations are hugely beneficial when trying to organise travel. Discussing all issues beforehand with all necessary participants is a must as you can decipher any vital problems with travelling and accommodate around them. Therefore, make sure you know what to do in the incident of an emotional breakdown. By having a plan in place, you will spend less time worrying about what could go wrong and more confident in managing emergencies.
One of the most important aspects to consider is how you will cope if a medical emergency occurs. If you require medical attention, how will you do this, and what will be your course of action? It is good to note down any special needs or medical conditions. This may include contacts, care plan and their history.
Secondly, ensuring you have all the required medical documents for travel is vital. It may be that you need individual confirmations of their condition and any equipment while on the move. A Doctor’s letter is top of the list. If travelling abroad, you could try to get hold of the document in the language of the country you are visiting, if necessary. Secondly, a copy of any prescriptions, also in both languages. Any medical insurance documents are essential, alongside the number for the emergency medical helpline.
Before you embark on your adventure, it is essential to think about the condition your passenger may be coping with and how travelling may affect them and in what way. For example, will an alteration in noise and sensation affect your passenger? If so, you need to deliberate how you can ease this change in scenery for the comfort of the traveller.
The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard
The sunflower lanyard was initially launched at Gatwick Airport and is now endorsed by the majority of railway companies, airports, NHS locations and supermarkets across the UK. The sunflower lanyard is a form of communication for people with disabilities that are not noticeably clear to signal that assistance may be necessary. It is a useful thing to have, and we would recommend its use while travelling, especially on public transport.
Talking to companies you plan to travel with is essential. Each section further in the article will go into further detail on this topic.
Tips for Car Journeys
If you are travelling by vehicle, you may need to look into what modifications you need to include for a disabled traveller. As previously mentioned, preparation is key, especially with any behavioural issues. Ensure you have a simple piece of paper with a list of medicines, contact details for medical support and any other information. Make sure to check out where the accessibility service stations are allocated on your route and ensure all comfort and stress relievers are packed in the car, just in case!
Tips for Travelling by Train
Inform stations if you, or someone with you, are travelling with a disability so they can help you on your arrival. It is also essential to note down any platform changes and where accessible toilets will be located in the station. You should be able to find this out when you inform the company. If you are travelling with a child, show them pictures to familiarise them with what the journey will entail. If possible, avoiding the heaviest hours of traffic should reduce the stress of the journey for all involved! Ensure all comfort blankets and toys have been packed too in case of an upset. If you happen to come across a friendly member of staff who is happy to talk about the journey, this can also help to ease any anxiety.
Tips for Travelling by Plane
Firstly, contacting the airline is a must. You can explain the needs of passenger travelling. Any procedures in the case of an emergency and the equipment necessary to accompany the individual onboard can be confirmed. Obtaining written permission from the correct medical professional is essential and needs to be with the guardian at all times. This should be used to ensure that equipment and medication can be taken on the flight. Before the flight, make sure to explain the small size of toilets, so the person is aware of the circumstances before the experience. Once you are at the airport, heading over to the appropriate airport staff is essential to help a smooth check-in.
Hopefully, we have eased some concerns you may have when trying to plan travel arrangements with an individual with special needs. For more inspiration on where to visit on your next holiday, take a look at our blog on Six of the Top Accessible National Trust Sites in Devon.