Nature and Healing Anxiety

I grew up outdoors. My parents started taking me hiking and backpacking when I was very young. I began learning to ski at age 4. I have spent many days wandering the Cascades, the Chuckanuts, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and so on. Since I was a child, I have felt comfortable in the wilderness.

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But now, my anxiety has been creeping up. Slowly and then all at once, as they say. The thing about this chronic anxiety (at least, what I’m experiencing) is that it slowly becomes more and more generalized. I used to be somewhat afraid of heights. Now I become anxious while on bridges, in skyscrapers, in planes, atop cliffs, on mountains, and while hiking. I used to be somewhat claustrophobic. Now I become anxious while riding buses, flying in planes, taking elevators, standing in crowds, entering small classrooms, and attending events.

My anxiety ranges from fleeting thoughts such as “This is making me a little nervous” and “What if something bad happens?” to full-on panic attacks, during which I shake uncontrollably, feel that I cannot breathe, experience sweaty palms and a racing heart, and feel disconnected with reality. I understand that a panic attack won’t kill me, but the intense rush of adrenaline is exhausting and the fear can be paralyzing.

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I wish anxiety and fear did not impact my ability to be outdoors. But they have.

There are some things I can do to feel more “safe”: bring along someone I trust, choose an easy destination, venture somewhere familiar, et cetera. But often I engage in the easiest and laziest form of protection: avoidance.

Ironically, I believe with all my heart that nature has healing powers beyond what humans can even hope to understand. The trees, streams, and clouds have always calmed me and eased my mind. And yet, I am avoiding what I love so I feel safe. Where does this fear come from? What am I afraid of? I am addressing these issues in therapy, but I feel unhappy without snowy mountains and alpine lakes to create a backdrop for my summer. Many of my happiest memories have taken place in the wilderness.

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For now, I can continue to face and challenge my fears without inflicting too much stress on myself. I hope I will crave the outdoors for the rest of my life. I won’t let this stop me. The more time I spend in nature, the more comfortable I will become. Right?

This will get better. Right?

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7 thoughts on “Nature and Healing Anxiety

  1. Welcome back Kari!!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    You’re so right about nature’s healing power! Do not let go of Nature and YES things will get better! Believe it, Receive it!!! ๐Ÿ’ž

  2. Things WILL get better!

    And I totally agree that nature is so healing and amazing.

    You’ll get through this.

    And yes, the more time you spend, the more comfortable you will be. One of my biggest regrets is letting the anxiety consume me to the point where after avoiding lots of small things all the time, I came to a point where I just avoided everything. You have to keep fighting. And you will come out so strong, resilient and amazing, with perspectives and appreciation of life that many people will never be able to experience. โค sending love and good thoughts your way!

    • Thank you so much for your positive outlook on this ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s draining to keep facing the things that make me afraid day after day, and can only hope that I will really start to feel better eventually.

      I can understand avoiding to the point of basically dropping out of life altogether. Sometimes it feels like we have to do that to survive! But really we’re just making it worse for ourselves…

      • It’s absolutely draining to keep facing your fears every day. It’s freaking exhausting, grueling, and tiring… But it will absolutely be worth it. But also don’t get down on yourself on those days you feel like you can’t. You’ll get to where you want to be ๐Ÿ™‚

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