Have any of you been feeling cooped up during this COVID-19 epidemic? If so, then you are not alone. I have always been one to be out and about, never sitting still long enough to allow myself to become bored. The only thing that would keep me from being active would be if somehow everything came to a halt and I was forced to stay inside.
This pandemic flipped my daily routines and limited the places that I could go and the people that I could see. It completely shifted the paradigm of what our daily lives look like in America. The changes were enough to fill me with anxiety as to how I could keep from going bananas in my tiny apartment (mind you, shared with a fiancé and a German Shepherd that compete for who is the loudest). Luckily for me and the two above, the outdoors could not be fully shut down.
Research conducted by Stanford University suggests that time spent outdoors has a positive impact on your mental health. Reducing anxiety and boosting your mood, improved cognitive functioning, memory, ability to focus and creativity are all benefits that have been linked to spending time in nature (Bratman, Daily, Levy and Gross, 2015). Therefore, it has been essential for me to budget a portion of my day to God’s creation.
First, little bit of backstory: My fiancé and I LOVE to travel. It has always seemed that we are more often in other states than we are in our own apartment! While travel restrictions due to the pandemic have put cross-nation adventures on hold, we have recently discovered the abundance of outdoor activities in our own backyard of Waco, Texas.
We have traveled to Cameron Park, home of some of the best mountain biking trails in central Texas. We have visited Tonkawa Falls in Crawford Texas, where my fiancé and I like to boulder on the 15-foot-high limestone walls. We have also done our fair bit of time at Lake Belton and Lake Whitney, where the sunsets on the water rival the great masterpieces of Michelangelo. But most importantly, these day trips have transported us to the sense of normalcy that we have all been striving for in these trying times.
Taking day trips like the ones described above is something that everyone can. If this interests you, it is important to keep some practical tips in mind. Before taking your trip, make sure to pack enough water and snacks to avoid having to stop in a store. Try not to use public restrooms, but if needed be sure to wear your mask properly over mouth and nose, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water and always keep hand sanitiser with you. I suggest bringing your own chairs or blanket to sit on rather than sitting on a park bench. My fiancé and I have purchased a small battery- operated fan as well as sunscreen in order to protect ourselves from the heat and sun. It is also important to choose your routes carefully when outdoors by starting earlier in the day and to upholding social distancing by remaining 6 feet apart from others.
Maybe the most important thing about the outdoors is summed up by Dr. Lynne Kostiuk, a registered psychologist. “Nature goes at a completely different pace than what we’ve created for ourselves nowadays,” she says. “It slows us down, lets us pay attention to different things, and let go of others. It gives us a chance to just enjoy ‘being’. (Lumino, 2020) Let’s face it: The world around us has been turbulent at best.
We could all use the little down and perspective that only nature can provide us to be reminded that this too shall pass.
Bratman, G., Daily, G., Levy, B. and Gross, J., 2015. The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, pp.41-50. Luminohealth.sunlife.ca. 2020. Lumino. [online] Available at:
<https://luminohealth.sunlife.ca/s/article/Why-being-outside-is-good-for-your- mental-health?language=en_US> [Accessed 10 July 2020].
Waco-texas.com. 2020. Cameron Park, Points Of Interest – Parks & Recreation – City Of Waco, Texas. [online] Available at: <https://www.waco-texas.com/cms- parksandrecreation/page.aspx?id=311#gsc.tab=0> [Accessed 10 July 2020].
Author: Hannah Sykora (@HannahSykora1) i
Bio: Hannah is currently a graduate student at the University of Texas at Tyler, where she is studying to become an Occupational Therapist. Hannah enjoys her passions of travel and being with family as often as time allows.