IEA Affiliate Week: Taking Care of Yourself, Even Outdoors, Can be a Challenge by Kyle Hannon

Kyle Hannon
Kyle Hannon

Hope you are staying well. I’m Kyle Hannon from Filibuster Press, an Indiana Evaluation Association member, and I’m working hard to avoid pandemic illness while providing content to organizations that need it.  In this new abnormal of working during a pandemic, it has become increasingly important to stay healthy. But it has also become more difficult to stay healthy because we are trying to stay socially distant.

In educating us about the spread and impact of the COVID-19 virus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains that people with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk for severe illness from the disease. One of the underlying medical conditions is obesity.

So, sitting around a computer all day, when our only activity is clicking between Zoom meetings, is not good for us. The CDC advises that staying active is one of the best ways to keep our bodies and minds healthy. Get out there and enjoy nature. Take a walk. Take a run. Ride a bike.

But wait. As soon as you step onto a trail, you are going to discover that many other people had the same idea.

In a recent webinar, The Rails to Trails Conservancy reported that trail use increased 200% due to the pandemic. In Indiana, where I live, the Department of Natural Resources reported that trail use in March more than doubled over last year.

Hiking trails can be narrow, making a 6-foot social distance impossible. Popular recreational trails for walking, running, and biking can also make safe social distance challenging. One of my friends refers to it as playing “Frogger,” like the old video game.

When you can’t stay distant, say the federal, state, and local guidelines, wear a mask. Running is hard enough without a face covering. I see a few people on the trail with masks. Many have no face coverings at all. But some have found the same solution I use.

Cool Trick:

I wear a bandanna around my neck. If I approach people, I pull it up over my mouth and nose. I may look like I’m going to rob a stagecoach, but I believe it helps. And I think other people appreciate it.

Rad Resource:

Bandana for not, if you want to run, Runners World offers these tips for avoiding virus spread.  

Stay safe and stay healthy.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Indiana Evaluation Association (IEA) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from IEA members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

6 thoughts on “IEA Affiliate Week: Taking Care of Yourself, Even Outdoors, Can be a Challenge by Kyle Hannon”

  1. Hi Kyle,

    My name is Kirsten and I am a primary teacher in British Columbia, Canada. I am currently in the process of completing my Professional Master’s of Education, and have been exploring different blog posts. I found yours quite relevant and interesting during these unpredictable times. The cases are definitely on the rise here right now, and it is becoming more and more difficult to stay healthy.

    Balancing work and health during these times has been challenging. I have found with teaching we are continuing to use online strategies more and more, which can be useful, but also is not great for our health. I find my body is physically becoming sore daily from being in front of the computer, and my mind is equally taking a hit. As you mentioned trying to get outside can be challenging as everyone has the same idea. One thing I have been trying to do more of is getting out and going for a walk around the school’s neighbourhood on my lunch break. This way I am able to get out of the building and clear my mind. It has been helping so far. I also find that there are less people out during that time as many people are at work themselves. In the evenings I find that everyone and their dog is out for a walk. I try to avoid this time and work around the busy hours.

    I am fortunate to live near some beautiful forest trails, but I know many others that are located in the city are not as fortunate and it has been increasingly difficult for people to exercise unless they are fully masked up. I like your idea of using a bandana! I might have to try it myself.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Kirsten

    1. Good tips, Kirsten.
      I think it helps to just get out and walk around the building people work in or the neighborhood they live in if they can’t get out to the forests. I was just talking to my son this weekend, reminding him of the importance of getting out and moving.
      And if you can schedule your walk for when it is not as crowded, all the better.

      Take care,
      Kyle

  2. Veronica Huggard

    Hi Kyle-

    Thank you for gently reminding the importance of self care through physical and mental health; as a teacher I can never understate the importance of taking time to eat healthy, sleep well and exercise daily to my colleagues and students.

    I am not surprised by the surge in people getting outside during the pandemic. I live in Teslin, Yukon, (population 400 people, about 2 hours from the capital city of Whitehorse), and the abundance of nature is one of the many reasons I love my home. We are very fortunate in the Yukon to have access to unique landscapes and ecosystems, with beautiful flora and fauna to boast!

    However, as the Yukon temporarily shut down this summer, a lot of people had more time on their hands than expected; trying to find anything to allow for more recreation became extremely difficult. Bikes, boats, ATVs, and other items were instantly bought up! (See:
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/electronic-bike-sales-surging-yukon-retailers-1.5698174). People were clearly getting out and taking full advantage of the wonderful locations across the Territory to hike, walk, bike, run, fish, hunt, camp and explore.

    That being said, there became a connected increase in negative disturbances to these wonderful Yukon locations. Garbage, trail braiding from not using the main trail, and disturbing wildlife during critical times such as affecting migrating birds, or hiking on trails where Dall Sheep were raising their kids, were all brought up in the local news and social media. Also, the local First Nations became quite enraged when their land on their Traditional Territories was being used by people without permission, or leaving garbage behind. (The Yukon is home to 14 First Nation Groups).

    We are lucky enough that our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Brendan Hanley, always encourages and promotes physical health and mental health through getting outside. That being said, Yukoners are still feeling like their mental health is decreasing. A local study done this summer found that 52.4% of Yukoners claimed that their mental health was ‘somewhat worse or much worse’ compared to before the Pandemic Hit. (See: https://www.whitehorsestar.com/News/covid-19-taking-a-toll-on-mental-health)

    With our daylight slipping away (we usually have 21 hours or more June 21st, which becomes 5.5 hours of daylight by December 21st), and the temperatures decreasing, a lot of people will be forced inside.

    This, paired with the drug and alcohol problems in the Territory are a recipe for disaster. A 2016 study found that Yukoners drink more, smoke more and die sooner than the average Canadian (see: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/yukon-health-report-hanley-substance-abuse-1.3588517). I worry that this will hinder people from taking initiative on their mental and physical health, but also translate these tendencies to their children, and possibly my students.

    That being said, I cannot stress enough what I call my TRIANGLE OF AWESOME: eat healthy home made meals every day, exercise at least 30 minutes of medium to high intensity 5-7 times a week), and sleep at least 8 hours a night. This formula has helped me through dark Yukon winters and stressful work situations. When I find myself exhausted or cranky, I reflect on what I am missing in my triangle, and make actions to remedy that area.

    I also think that it is about people starting small with their exercise! Find a friend, grab your skis or walking shoes, and head out for a half hour at first, building stamina from there. And more importantly, take advantage of that sunlight! Exercising releases healthy endorphins, which are natural feel happy drugs.

    Lastly, I think we also need to really check in with our relations and connections. See how people are doing, and listen intently and genuinely. Help shovel a neighbour’s driveway, send a Christmas card to people who you haven’t been able to visit because of the COVID lockdowns, and really slow down and be in the moment.

    As we brace for what is predicted to be a colder than usual Yukon winter, I hope that people can find time and space to do something daily for themselves to unwind and relax, and to get physical!

    Thanks again for your article, and please let me know what you think, or have any insight or comments on my response!

    Best,

    Veronica

    1. I really enjoyed your reply, Veronica. Thanks for sharing about life in the Yukon.

      And thanks for sharing your TRIANGLE OF AWESOME. That’s great! Except, in my case it’s not an equilateral triangle. The sleep leg is more like 6 or 7, and not very restful. Working on it.

      In Indiana, too, our natural areas have felt the impact of more people discovering them. I’m sorry this has happened to the First Nations. People should not be infringing on private property, especially if they are leaving trash.

      I’m trying to figure out how to encourage more people to discover the healthy aspects, physical and mental, of our natural areas while “training” them to be good stewards. People are being exposed to our parks and preserves for the first time. They are not familiar with the concepts of packing out trash and basic trail maintenance (not cutting switchbacks). I don’t blame them too much, because they just don’t know.

      We need to build the trail capacity before we irreparably damage what we have now. If we can mange the balance properly, it will be better in the long run.

      Take care,
      Kyle

  3. Hi Kyle,
    Your article was a great summery of why it’s so important to take care of ourselves during this pandemic within organizations. During this pandemic, it can be a challenge to stay healthy both physically and mentally due to the safety measures of this pandemic, but you empathize how important it is that we do so. You made a great point how it’s so easy to be sitting all day infront of screen, and how unhealthy this can become, potentially leading to other health issues such as obesity. As you stated, it’s important for us to take that break to keep our bodies and minds healthy, whether it’s walking or bike riding, or anything really to get us outside for fresh air. I love the idea you provided – wear a bandana around your neck should you end up running into someone you can easily pull it up. Great idea and I think this is important. The pandemic has its guidelines, but that shouldn’t stop us for the continuation of keeping ourselves healthy. We need to adapt and find ways that we can keep healthy and keep safe at the same time.
    How can we encourage this for our students? Do you have any suggestions to keep our youth healthy? Mental health has been something that is on the rise due to the pandemic as they don’t feel socially connected like they used to. Do you have suggestions on some ways students can do this in a safe manner and still be able to build that rapport with friends? How can we change up programming in schools to reflect healthy living with safety measures still in place?

    Looking forward to hearing from you!
    Emily

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Emily.
      Basically, I agree that some form of movement is helpful for both mental and physical health. I hesitate to offer suggestions for curriculum because that is not my field. But what if students, instead of being handed items to pass (which is not healthy) got up and walked in small groups to see the items and learn about them. If it can be done outdoors, all the better. Of course, it’s getting cold in Indiana.
      What if students customize their mask, following guidelines and lesson plans, and explain the design and how it relates to the lesson. That can make the masks for of a fun tool than a burden.

Leave a Reply to Emily Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.