Small but kind


We’ve had a few nests of paper wasps at our house over the past 5+ years.  Over the years they’ve started a few nests, small ones off a few cells that they’d sometimes abandon for unknown reasons and sometimes they come back to them. They are small clustered tubes of grey, looking like loose bunches of Sunday newspapers bought from some tiny delivery kid on their weekend paper route around the garden, and turned into a paper mache bouquet.

They meant even more to my partner, spending days in the garden they’d often watch her work as much as she watched them. Once a spider built an elaborate web overnight surrounding their nest, and they watched with patient faces as she deconstructed the web and moved the spider on. 

Over seasons their family grew with the size of the nest. Some summers, tubes were capped with wax as little wasplings grew inside to emerge weeks later. Of a night they sometimes shelter on the flat top of the nest, or crawl in a tube for shelter from wind. 

Recently we had huge storms across the coast. Rain and flooding were intense and the winds were worse. Coming home one morning we noticed that their nest had blown down onto the path in front of our door. A few wasps were at the roof where the best used to be, and a couple more were at the grounded nest. It was easy to read the tragedy with human experience, in their frantic but futile action. We hit a small still from the house and some super glue and easy enough put it back in the position that it fell from. The wasps watched us from the roof or hovered about, but never tried to sing us even as we handled their home for over a minute, with them clinging onto it. It stayed attached and they immediately got back to work replacing wax and trending to anything in the sealed tubes; making repairs to their long-lived home and staring at us,  as they sometimes do, while we work near them.

Then on Friday, in a brief moment, we were out, that all changed

Human neighbours must have had some internal pest control done, and one of them crept over our fence and sprayed the nest with some poison. Then they took off. Years and generations of our considerate neighbours were destroyed by human xenophobia and an inbuilt need for destruction. 

It’s difficult not to think that humanity is the earth’s story case scenario. Too short-sighted and greedy to do anything more than squeeze the last drop of personal gain off their environment in their short lives and too arrogant to stop graffitiing the landscape with boasting of their own greatness.

Sometimes I get weary of hoping that humanity will change. They perform horrors on one another without learning from the past, led by greedy men, or unable to challenge their own ego and empathise with another, praising the genius of the wealthy as if there was a linear relationship between abundant wealth and the ethics of accumulating and hoarding it. 

There will never be a day when we are free from the tyranny of ourselves; but I do hope that a collective consciousness, an ethical understanding, is reached whereby we can continue as something greater than ourselves. Less destructive and more considerate of our place in time. 

There are people that I’d want that for. There are still people that connect me to the species of my birth.

Neurodiversity and Burnout recovery

exercise & mental wellness

In the past I have been an irregular participant of running and hiking, but presently swimming is my go-to exercise. For me exercise is less about physical fitness and  more for quietude; for self reflection and regaining control. When I’m swimming I can’t get overly ambitious. If I swim more vigorously I’ll start gasping for air and my performance drops as my anxiety rises. Swimming laps is both rhythmically monotonous and also holistically stimulating. For a neurodivergent brain such as mine that is a sweet combo. Being regular and repeated there is nothing to distract me. The only thing my brain can do is go along for the ride, which is a great meditation. We’ve covered our breathing Mental Health Monday. 

So what’s with all the swimming? Well at the moment I’m recovering from burnout.  A new job coupled with some personal troubles has led to overload on top of overload until I was scraping the bottom of the barrel.  The first step is realising you have a problem.  The next is dealing with it, and swimming has been one of the ways of combating the anxiety and depression that can come with burnout*.

So what is the broader word on exercise being good for mental health? 

In addition to making me hungry, the Mayo Clinic[1] has some comprehensive advice about exercise balancing out depression and anxiety. I know that when I’m depressed, drumming up motivation for exercise can feel impossible.  Joining a dance class with instructors shouting “Woo!” is not my thing. I learnt early in life that I’m not much of a “woo” person – even at my emotional peak. But exercise doesn’t mean olympic level training, or filming a TikTok of you over exerting in lycra. It can be as simple as walking.  Research from Stanford found walking can increase your creative output by 60%[2].

Any physical activity can be beneficial, including gardening, washing your car, and the covid staple – walking around the block. 

Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms. But smaller amounts of physical activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — may make a difference[1]

[1] Mayo Clinic (2017) Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms 

Probably one of the most promising findings is that regular exercise of any intensity has a protective effect against future depression and is recommended to prevent recurrence of depression[3].  The Black Dog Institutes info sheet on Exercise & Depression has a lot more information[4].

For a lot of us putting our personal needs first is difficult. Advocating for others is a great way for me to trick myself into doing work for my own good. For example, finding time to swim everyday is hard. But when I saw the Laps for Life charity to raise money for youth mental health it was a great way to align a cause that I support with my own needs. So far this month I’ve swum over 10km in 12 days.

Heath in a towel talking to a little toy duck and wearing yellow childres floaties

So in case you find yourself struggling, changing your scene with some light exercise might help you get back on track. As always though, reach out if you are doing it hard. A health professional like your local Dr is a good first port of call, as are friends, family and your support network. 

Let me know what your experience is with exercise and mental wellness.

* never fear we are not going to gloss over the thorny topic of burnout, and the 41 flavours that it takes throughout the neuro-diversi-sphere.  It is a solid topic that deserves its own conversation(s). Just preferably when I’ve had a bit of a repair.


[1] Mayo Clinic (2017) Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms 

[2] May Wong (2014). Stanford study finds walking improves creativity 

[3] Harvey, S. B., Øverland, S., Hatch, S. L., Wessely, S., Mykletun, A., & Hotopf, M. (2018). Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study. American

Journal of Psychiatry, 175(1), 28–36.

[4] Black Dog Institute, Exercise & Depression | Black Dog Institute

[5] Schuch, F. B., Vancampfort, D., Richards, J., Rosenbaum, S., Ward, P. B., & Stubbs, B. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 77, 42–51.

[6] Laps for Life charity fundraiser