How nature has helped a young person to manage anxiety and anger

12 Jan 2023

Case study – Morgan Barry

Swansea and Neath Port Talbot Young Person’s woodland wellbeing project

I have struggled with speech and communication my whole life. I was a late talker and only learnt to speak when I was four years old and then for many years only used one-word answers like ‘yeah’ and ‘no’. Because of this, I was bullied at school and found it hard to fit in. It is still difficult for me to express myself fully, but I am very open about talking about my experiences. I suffer from anxiety, depression, and on occasion I have anger issues. The worse my mental health got, the more I stopped doing things that I enjoyed when I was younger like sports and exercise.

I was referred to Coed Lleol’s Woodland Wellbeing Project through the Sunflower Lounge Project, which supports young people who are in care or have experienced being in care in Wales. I joined this programme to get me out of the house, help with my anxiety, and to help me to feel more comfortable in group settings.

At the beginning, I felt anxious about being around a new group of people and travelling there by bus. I was able to attend the first session because my support worker came with me. I was nervous to chat to new people, but the project officers and staff made me feel comfortable and welcomed.

During the 6 week project, we did lots of different activities. I learned survival skills like how to light a fire correctly, how to feather wood using a knife safely, and shelter building. We foraged and made a ‘heal all balm’ and mocktails with ingredients we found. I also learnt how to cook over a campfire - we made chocolate damper bread and Welsh cakes. We improved our mindfulness through activities like nature walks and journalling, happa zome art, and leaf rubbings. As it got closer to Christmas, we made natural bath salts with essential oils and put them inside a Christmas bauble to give as a gift to someone.

Being part of this project has helped to distract me from my mental health struggles. I spend a lot of time alone at home which can get me down. Coming here has made me feel so much better - I don’t feel as lonely. I don’t have to feel depressed when I’m here in nature. I feel more understood when I’m talking to people here. It has improved my concentration and I am able to focus more time on a task. Being part of this group, and doing activities, means that I’m distracted and not thinking about my problems.

The group is very supportive, normally when I try something and I don’t do it right, it triggers my anger but here, even though it can be stressful, I don’t get angry like I would on my own. I have the support of everyone around. It’s a safe place to try out new things. I act different, it’s like I’m a different person here. I’m more in control of how I feel around the other participants. When my anger rises at home I just flip straight away but here it’s important for me to be a positive role model around the younger boys. I am now able to attend without my support worker and I am more confident walking up to the group at the beginning of the session for a chat. 

After each session, I have a positive outlook for the rest of the day. I’m distracted from my mental health and motivated to try new things. I used to be really sporty when I was younger and took part in loads of different sports but when my mental health got too bad I stopped it. Last week, I went to the gym and was able to jog for 10 minutes on the treadmill. I was so surprised! I even ran a bit more after that! I started a diet to be healthier and I’ve signed up to do the couch to 5k.

This project has helped me feel more relaxed and positive and being in nature does the same. This project has been amazing. I want to continue to spend time in nature and I’m going to look at some other projects that Coed Lleol offer.