Years from now, as I look back on the spring of 2020, I’ll likely recall flickers of my own anxiety and panic attacks triggered by coronavirus and the pandemic our world was facing. Even though heartache and hurt were natural feelings shared by the majority of us, I’ll remember the simple, beautiful, calming moments experienced at home, outside. Specifically, I’ll remember how connecting to nature carried me through one of the most stressful times in my life.
I know I’m far from alone. It’s plain to see that our current circumstances have significantly increased our appreciation for the things we may have previously overlooked—namely, nature, which offers moments of tranquil reflection that have the power to relieve stress and banish, or at least lessen, those intense feelings of anxiety.
As we all look to adhere to social distancing guidelines, we know that it’s not necessary to congregate in large numbers at a park or beach. I have found plenty of peace and natural beauty in and around my own neighborhood. Whenever I run or go for a walk, I now focus on the fresh green grass just starting to grow in our yards. The birds singing, blissfully unaware of what’s going on in the world. The cool rain droplets dotting my face. The spring flowers that are beginning to bloom.
The Calming Force of Nature
Nature is a scientifically proven balm for mental health struggles. Whether you’re facing PTSD or panic that’s been worsened by this trying situation, your isolation has led to depression or perhaps you’re experiencing serious anxiety for the first time in your life, nature is a way to gently improve your outlook and mental well-being. A walk, hike or bike ride in a natural area or right outside your front door is just the thing to pull you through this challenge.
With more time at home these days, this can also translate to more time spent in nature. You can even appreciate nature in your own backyard and observe what you see: the newly-budding trees. The robin in the bird bath. The windchimes dancing in the breeze.
This period in our history has been understandably difficult, but it may also leave good things in its wake. One of those things could very well be a newfound gratitude toward Mother Nature. She has certainly been helpful to many of us during this time. It is time to think about what we can do to give back to the earth.
As the world takes a necessary pause from our normal routine, it has afforded us an opportunity to determine what parts of that old routine we don’t want to return to and what we want to replace them with. In addition to spending time in nature, it’s the perfect opportunity to consider more sustainable practices that we can all add to our daily routines. There are so many things we all can and will do, and it’s OK to start small.
Take shorter showers, or fewer ones if we’re staying home more. Learn the proper recycling rules in your city. Drive less. Walk and bike more. Organize volunteer, clean-up days at parks when social distancing guidelines have been relaxed. Purchase clothing and other items made up of more sustainable materials. Plant a pollinator-friendly garden in your backyard.
This is only scratching the surface. We have only begun to reconnect with Mother Nature and learn more about ourselves and what we are capable of, because of this global pandemic.
Remember, if you’re dealing with mental health hurdles, you don’t need to take on everything right now. If all you can muster today is shutting off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth, it’s a win—a small, sustainable win.
You just gave back to the earth, and that’s something you can feel good about. As many people are saying currently, we’re all in this together. Let’s support nature and each other as best we can and look forward to brighter days.