Escape to Which Mountain?

After a particularly bad bout of anxiety or depression, I often cycle back to a quiet, peaceful phase. My mind has gone quiet this past week as I’ve been trying to recenter, refocus, and realign to a point of feeling harmonious once again. This shows itself in many forms; sometimes it’s going out with girlfriends, sometimes it’s bingeing a new show, but most often it is escaping into the natural world.

I am so addicted to technology. I don’t love that I am. After all, I came of age in the last bygone era of kids who didn’t have cell phones in high school. It was a golden time that I often am so grateful to have known. Yet, here I am now, checking my phone as often as possible, watching television at night, often while also playing a game, refreshing Twitter, and texting. It’s such a bad habit. I understand this, I know this, but I do it anyway. I’ll make attempts to disconnect and almost always find my way back to the hungry and waiting headlines of the internet.

As someone who is highly empathic (often to a dangerous degree) and highly sensitive (again, to an almost damaging point), this information overload is often too much for my system. And I think it is for a lot of people. Especially in this uncertain time of terrifying politics and the amount of pain and suffering we are exposed to online. Being so interconnected is not without merit, but it is also not without consequence. We humans simply aren’t designed to process human suffering, or the sheer amount of information that crowds a newsfeed, at such a rate.

I think it greatly contributes to my mental health issues some days, which research has confirmed again and again to be possible.

Therefore, I often find I’ll wake up and have a desperate, deep need to escape and unplug. Escape from the information, escape from the bombardment, by escaping into nature. This has been increasing in urgency over the past week, and explains why I’ve been going outside a LOT.

But I awoke this weekend with a need for more. My nerves were rattled, clanging at me to go find some clean, pine-scented air and take in lungful after lungful. I sprang out of bed at 6:30 and got everything packed up and ready before waking my husband and telling him the plan for the day. We were all going to the woods to smell some damn trees.

It was glorious. We hiked, we sweat, we laughed and breathed. My mind, which had gone quiet as far as writing goes, opened in a way it hadn’t in awhile, this post writing itself as I hefted my out-of-shape self up a steep hiking trail. Moving my body, feeling the sun on my neck and basking in the glow of a spontaneous memory-making day trip with my family, felt like the first great choice I’d made for myself in awhile.

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I know I can’t be the only person who feels this way, who needs this type of disconnection from the tech and everyday world, because these natural places are becoming more and more crowded. More and more inundated with people happy to put their phones away (no Wi-Fi in the woods? Oh well!) and just be. Allow themselves to be humbled by gargantuan trees that have existed long before we did. To be awed by the silence found under a canopy of branches. To be centered by the scents and sensations that can only be found when you open your eyes and lungs and pay attention.

As a mom, I want to ensure my son is outside as much as possible and learns these lessons that nature has to offer. That he doesn’t fall into the habits that I’ve fallen into. I fear he is at a far greater risk of doing so because he’s growing up in a time where technology is ubiquitous and dominant. I did spend most of my childhood outside and I still have these habits as adult. The kind of habits that have me lazing on the couch and looking at NatGeo’s Instagram instead of experiencing the natural world for myself.

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Having the role and responsibility of teaching and exposing my son to all that this great world has to offer, is forcing me to examine these habits of mine that just aren’t good. For him, myself or our family. That doesn’t mean we will only ever play in the dirt, eat quinoa and denounce technology. There is immense fun and value to be found in spending lazy days at home, bonding over movies and pizza (also, hello, I write online and find so much benefit in doing so).

But it does mean that I am striving to find the balance of those two worlds, both for myself and my kiddo. That I am conscious of the dark pull that social media has over me. That I know moving around and experiencing the world in its natural form acts as a balm to so many stressors for me. And that the dirt must be a priority as often as our hands can find it.

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