Healing Hikes.

Nature. It cured me.

My journey through anxiety has been encompassed by a larger journey…one of self-discovery through the wilderness.

My greatest healing happened deep in the woods, away from people, technology, and the chaos of busy life.

I fondly call these experiences my healing hikes.

Rewind 20 years. One might find me playing in the woods that was adjacent to my best friend’s house. I would be playing outside, regardless of the weather extremes. I remember watching the thermometer in our cozy Ohio kitchen, staring until the number went from 9 degrees to 10 degrees. The rule was you could play outside when temps reached double digits.

Nature has always been my safe space. When I was in the height of my panic attacks, I would often escape the environment by running outside. Grocery store meltdown? Quickly escape outside. Stuck in line at the DMV? Gracefully (or not) power walk out the door. Stuck in a stifling conference of 500 people? Get up and run to the parking lot. The end goal of my escape plan was to seek comfort in my true home: nature.

Being outside has always been a source of joy, but that joy became exponential as I realized the impact that wilderness had on my panic.

I started hiking with Kemp and it grew to be a large part of our life. We have been in our “explore” phase for almost 3 years. I keep a journal of every hike/camping trip/kayak trip we take. It has become a precious item in our home. It is a book of reflection, memories, and lessons learned. So far, we have hiked almost 300 miles together.

I believe hiking is a lot like anxiety. Hear me out. When you start hiking at a new trailhead, the path is foreign and new. Your heart races as you get accustomed to the new pace. Your breathing increases to compensate for this increased demand. You focus on the path directly in front of your feet so you don’t trip and fall, creating tunnel vision. However, after a few minutes on the trail, you sink into the pace of hiking. Your heart rate and breathing regulate as you adapt. You look up from your feet and gaze at the beautiful periphery. Sounds a lot like riding the wave of anxiety, right?

Hiking taught me to push through moments of discomfort and trust my body.

There is a program called “Walk off the War” and it is geared towards Vets dealing with PTSD. They are guided on hikes and taught to rewire the overstimulated mind. It is the same concept with anxiety.

Nature helps me rewire that hyper-responsive sympathetic nervous system that my body LOVES to use and abuse.

 

What activities have helped you overcome mental illness?

Love and light.

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At the highest point in Georgia!

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Our morning view from a bed and breakfast called “The Len Foote Hike Inn” in North Georgia

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Sitting on the top of Mount Yonah in North Georgia. The Rangers use this mountain for training…it was tough.

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Hiking and climbing our way around southern Cali

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Cloudland Canyon in Georgia

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4 thoughts on “Healing Hikes.

  1. I’ve not been on a good hike in a long time. I really need to again. There’s not much place to hike here but I do love being just by myself, one and alone in nature. It’s definitely a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just detach. It’s like you become one with your surroundings.

    As for me? Well there’s always that and my other favorite outlet is, as I’ve mentioned before, tattoos. I got my 4th this past Saturday and while it was probably the most intense tattoo I’ve gotten (in both duration and pain level) I was definitely in my Zen and in the process it really challenged my depression-induced negative thinking patterns. It was like seeing the light for the first time. Then there’s music. I love playing guitar, bagpipe and singing. I find when I cannot express myself in spoken word I can do so in song easily. I don’t have the best voice (though I can carry a tune fairly well) but it definitely is a great stress reliever.

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  2. There is so much natural beauty in the world. I’m currently trying to push my anxiety by doing new things, so this time we did a small coastal walk to a place called magic point. The track was muddy and all kinds of aweful, and my mind kept reminding me of that. But once I realised how focused I was on the negatives, I tried to let myself open up to the experience of being where I was. Was really beautiful (once we got out of the mud).

    For myself, I think the ocean and scuba diving is my version of your hiking. It has helped me heal so much and has also given me things to look forward to (so many great diving destinations around the world).

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  3. Nice pics. I’m headed to GA tomorrow, and I’m going to miss my 5k Race tomorrow evening because of the trip. So now I have some places to go hike while I’m gone. Thanks!

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