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nature-calls

Nature Calls

It's getting to me. As much as I love the time with my kids and our new learning adventure, I miss the "me time". We talk a lot about how important community is for our health, but just as important is that time for ourselves. When we lose it, many of us suffer - especially if you're a bit more introverted as I am. 

I keep looking at the hiking posts and the mountains out my window and have the urge to escape. I need to lose myself into the wilderness and reconnect with my true core as I feel myself unraveling a bit. There are anxiety and the lack of sleep. I don't want to do another garage workout. I want to get out in nature and cleanse. I need someone beautiful and serene to come back together.

I'm not alone in this. Many of us need nature to help us feel grounded. Studies have found that there is a connection between spending time in nature and the reductions of symptoms relating to anxiety and depression. Being outdoors has the following benefits:

    • improve your mood
    • reduce feelings of stress or anger
    • help you take time out and feel more relaxed
    • improve your physical health
    • improve your confidence and self-esteem
    • help you be more active
    • help you make new connections
    • provide peer support.

Simply sitting in nature is helpful, but moving through nature is even more beneficial. The act of being surrounded by nature helps to reduce cortisol levels in our bodies, and this alone is so restorative. Cortisol directly affects our HPA axis which regulates our brain and how it handles daily tasks. When cortisol levels are high, there is often a disconnect in the communication between our brains and other parts of our bodies. We feel more pain. We feel anxious and depressed. We store excess belly fat. We get stomach upset. The list goes on and on.

We know that exercise can also help to regulate our cortisol levels as well, but sometimes we just need a rest. It really depends on the type of exercise you're engaging in and how your body is responding to various types of stress. While an intense lifting session or long run might be just what you needed at one point in your life, those more high-intensity exercise sessions can have a negative effect if your body perceives that stress as a threat. So if you're still feeling "off" despite the killer sesh or epic run, then it might be time for a change. Tap into your intuition and your body's needs and make that decision.

For me, after a month of higher-level CrossFit style WODs, my body is asking to slow down. It is craving long, slow hikes in the mountains. It seeks meditation and contemplation on a rock overlooking the world below. It's asking to slow down and restore, and then we can go back to the garage gym workouts. For now, it just wants to simply move without structure or goals. That call for movement is when I know that my body is asking to heal. Right now the healing is more mental, but I also have physical aches and pains that need to be addressed. Moving alone and outdoors (well, I'll bring some time with my kids and husband in there too) will help.

I'm ready to feel better. Deep down I'm excited about the experiences my kids and I will have during this new season, but I'm also grieving the time I used to have to myself when they were at school. We'll find a happy medium eventually - we just need to move in the direction that we're called.

References
https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health/

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