Written by Alexa, photo by Garrett
I know I’m not the only one and it hits each of us differently. This transparency is awkward, but perhaps it will help equip someone someday with hopeful ideas.
When anxiety comes it gets centered on my chest with a heavy pressure right above my heart. It gets into my ribs and creeps up into my throat. It even settles into the muscles in my hands and behind me eyes. My mind follows circular thought patterns; after each loop I return to the same set of thoughts only to forget how I let it go the first time. Repeating without resolve.
I spell out colors. B L U E. Coping strategies to keep moving forward.
I didn’t hike today and that’s okay. Evergreen trees and steep trail inclines always help me alleviate anxiety. I often ache for douglas firs, red cedars and western hemlocks mixed with the smell of dirt and fresh air, using exercise and intentional breathing to work my body until it tires. When I can’t forest bathe, how can I address the visiting anxiety?
Again, we experience and cope with anxiety differently. Without the escape of the outdoors, I breathe. I often utilize essential oils (particularly Frankincense), body scan in savasana, or pray and recognize the presence and closeness of God. I call on close friends to help remind me that it will pass; it’s just visiting, temporary. I turn on Ludovico Einaudi, rest my eyes, and feel the music as deeply as possible.
Anxiety and depression isn’t a common topic in digital discussions about the outdoors. It’s not glamorous and is awkward to address. Even so, it has certainly been a common topic in my real life on the trail. I’ve hiked beside my sister, in tears and gripped by grief and anxiety. I’ve hiked beside Garrett, bubbling up with tension and fear about the future. I’ve hiked by many strangers, quiet and contemplative while processing vicious circular thought patterns. I’ve hiked it out, thought it out and talked it out. Maybe you will too?
Thank you for your empathy and for extending that graciously to others. “We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass