With everything going on in the world right now, it’s hard to focus.
From COVID-19 to the nationwide protests, it seems like the lives we had before are a thing of the past. To combat the stress, anxiety and anger that we all may be feeling in the wake of these events, consider going outside.
Being outdoors has always been something people turn to for respite. Since practically the beginning of time, getting out in nature has been a way to escape life’s endless hustle and bustle. Nothing really compares to the feeling of being out in the wilderness, experiencing our planet in its most visceral form. From breathtaking views to challenging climbs, nature has so much to offer.
Jonathan Stahl, assistant director of adventure programs and experiential learning at WSU’s University Recreation, said that with more stress present in our lives, being in nature is essential.
“Spending time in nature reduces stress and enhances our mental, emotional and physical well-being,” Stahl said. “Many activities outside with social distance are low risk, enjoyable ways of spending our time.”
Matt Wagner, coordinator of outdoor programs at WSU’s Outdoor Recreation Center, said that being outside provides a welcome change of environment from daily routines.
“I think that doing anything that can break up your routine is good for maintaining productivity and quality of life,” Wagner said. “The change of environment from my living room to Wawawai County Park on the Snake River is significant to say the least.”
When you adventure outdoors, you get to see things you otherwise might not see. Even if you go to a place you are already familiar with, no trip is the same twice. You might see some wildlife you’ve never seen before or find a new trail to explore. Whether you are hiking, biking, fishing or climbing, there is always something new to be experienced outside.
Of course, you don’t need to be summiting mountains or sending it up multi-pitch walls to have a good experience outside. In fact, sometimes it can be more rewarding to pursue more low-risk outdoor activities such as going on walks or bike rides. When you are not as concerned with getting to the top of a mountain or falling off a cliff, you can spend more time mindfully enjoying all that nature has to offer.
If your outdoor expertise is limited, Wagner said there are many opportunities for beginners.
“Go on a picnic. Take a walk around your neighborhood or local park,” Wagner said. “Sure, I’ll be excited to take my next trip into the mountains, but I’ve really felt that the time spent locally with loved ones has been just as valuable for recharging and managing stress.”
Stahl said right now isn’t necessarily a time to achieve crazy outdoor goals anyway.
“I’ve traded some of my normal spring pursuits like backcountry skiing and sea kayaking for lower risk, closer-to-home activities like birding, gardening, and running,” Stahl said. “This isn’t the time to go after lofty objectives where we’re stretching our limits.”
Wondering where to start? Wherever you are, there are likely numerous websites with information on outdoor recreation. If there are outdoor stores open in your area, they will have maps and guidebooks which can give you an idea of where to go. If you are in Pullman, Kamiak Butte or Moscow Mountain are close and offer great hikes for all ages. Sunnyside Park is also a great area for more low-key activities.
Getting outside makes us feel so much more connected with nature. I have recently found myself craving the feeling of being outdoors more than ever. It’s a great way to relieve stress, and besides, it’s fun! So what are you waiting for? Get outside — but please keep practicing social distancing!