You would think that spending time outdoors is an ostomates worst nightmare… away from pouch supplies, bathroom facilities and a comfortable space.
To be honest it can be the complete opposite, providing you are organised then there is no reason not to enjoy the great outdoors. Wild-camping in the middle of Dartmoor is an amazing experience, no need to feel self-conscious as there is hardly anyone there. Spending time in the woods cooking around a fire, chilling and listening to nature is a great way to relax and de-stress. You don’t have to climb any mountains or swim any oceans to feel the benefits, start small, something you are comfortable with, a walk to the local shops, a short woodland walk or wander along a canal or river can make a huge difference to your day.
The benefits of getting outdoors are immense, research has proven that just 10 minutes outside can dramatically change your mood and greatly benefit your physical health too. The fresh air, gentle exercise and sunlight are all beneficial and can aid a good nights sleep, I don’t know about you but that’s one thing I can struggle with if I’ve had a duvet day. The absorption of vitamin D can help prevent fight infections, keeping colds and flu at bay, help with weight loss and help combat depression. The fresh air, well it helps energise you, helping you feel motivated and giving that ‘feel good factor’. Then there is ‘brain fog’, that feeling of your brain grinding to a halt, struggling to remember what you went to the kitchen for. My mother always said I had a “brain like a sieve”, I did notice it became worse post surgery and definitely noticeable on those duvet days. Getting outdoors can waken those brain cells, increased oxygen levels and endorphins wakening everything up.
Just those 10 minutes walking to the shops can help beat depression, help ward off colds and flu’s and waken up those brain cells.
If the thought of stepping out the door fills you with dread, the thought that everyone will see your pouch scares you, you may be thinking that people know you have a colostomy. There is no need to panic, there are clothing and support products out there, gentle support belts and underwear designed by ostomates to help ostomates. I still have the odd day where I’m a little more self-conscious about my stoma but have to go out, I work full time. I have a noticeable parastomal hernia but wear a level 3 support belt when I’m outdoors, this helps hide things but not completely. I always carry spare appliances with me, I have a carry pouch from Trio with my ‘spares’, sometimes it will sit in the car as a ‘just in case’ other times I have it on me 24/7. I’ve changed my appliance in the boot of my car before, in the middle of Dartmoor, even halfway up a mountain in Scotland. If anyone asks about it then I see it as a great way to educate. Go with family, a friend or neighbour- If you do find being outdoors frightful then enlist someone. My recovery from surgery was during the winter, I have two dogs that need a lot of exercise, and I mean a lot! A walk in all weathers along a 3.5-mile beach still isn’t enough for them, but it worked wonders for me.
There is no excuse for not getting outdoors, but sometimes we seem to find one… the weather, the cost or think ‘I can’t possibly do that!’ We’re all individual and all deal with our ostomy in different ways, which is rightly so. Set yourself a little goal, in one month you’ll be happily walking 3 miles a day before lunch, remember to start small though. I soon learned where my limit was, yes I did too much. Working 40 hours a week and commuting 26 miles 5 days a week for 7 months was just a little too much.
The important thing is to listen to your body and enjoy the power of nature.