Ever need to just get away? Do you ever feel like the weight of the world and everything in it is so heavy that you’re constantly fighting off tears? Right now I’m sitting at a picnic table, listening to Radiohead in my campsite typing this. I had to get away and I brought our dog.
Since my Grandpa died nearly two months ago I’ve been an emotional wreck (let’s be real, it started way before that – but now everything is just heightened). Lately, my reactions to situations are abnormally intense. There’s so much energy pulsating through my body that needs to get out – and sometimes it happens in unhealthy ways.
In an effort to work through some of this shit without anymore collateral damage, I changed my surroundings. I knew some fresh air would do me good, it always does. I came to our go-to camp spot: Onion Valley Campground. (Click on the link to check out the photo blog.)
I’m just now learning the fact that I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP). I tend to take on the energy and emotions of the people around me, especially the people I’m closest to. I also have a hard time articulating what I’m feeling because at times I feel so much so intensely. It’s hard to define a single emotion when it feels like every emotion in existence is beating you in a game of Punch Out. And that’s how I’ve felt my whole life. Any time I’m in a confrontational situation or a traumatic event occurs, my mind simply will not allow me to relive it and almost wipes it from my memory as a coping mechanism.
I’m just a girl who’s just spent the majority of her life subconsciously suppressing as much of the uncomfortable stuff as possible. And now, I’m allowing myself to feel it all – the good, the bad and the ugly.
So, how does nature help?
Me, myself and I: The first thing I noticed when I was on the brink of discovering that I am a HSP is that time spent with other people, either one-on-one or in large groups, is always extremely physically exhausting. I require alone time, and a lot of it, to decompress. My “alone time” is as essential as water or air. It is what nourishes me.
Out here by myself I don’t have to worry about absorbing other people’s energy or emotions. I can concentrate on working through my own shit. I’ve been consciously trying to acknowledge my emotions with a deep breath in followed by forcefully exhaling all the air from my lungs. I breathe in then let it go – breath and emotions – literally and symbolically. Sometimes it works, sometimes the emotion is harder to let go of. If I can’t shake it, I work through it by trying to find the origin of the feeling, which is the hardest part for me.
Vitamin D: Our bodies need this essential vitamin to help regulate chemicals that affect our mood. However, we can’t get enough of it through food. You can find a supplement for it or we humans can get it from the sun. Our bodies absorb it through our skin like magic (not magic actually, just science). Studies show a link between low levels of Vitamin D and depression, although they aren’t sure exactly how they are linked yet.
Despite the utter cold here, the sun shines anyways. I can feel it on my face and forearms. It feels like a hug. That feeling alone is helping me find peace within my chaos.
Hiking releases endorphins: It’s science folks, plain and simple. Endorphins are the hormones responsible for making us feel good. A brisk walk through the forest is enough to get em’ flowing and the results are almost instant for me.
Roscoe and I went on three short hikes today, each one about a mile. After each hike, I immediately felt lighter and less stressed. New positive thoughts replaced old negative ones leaving me feel more creative and less self-defecating.
For me, mindful hiking is key. There is more to mindful hiking than one might think, but basically I focus on each step, pay attention to my breath, and take in the surrounding beauty. Doing this shifts my perspective. I am no longer stuck in the downward spiral of worry and fear my mind creates. Rather, I allow myself to be engulfed in my surroundings, fully present.
Fewer distractions: In this day and age, we are constantly bombarded by audible and visual stimuli, we never leave our house without our smartphones, and apps like Facebook keep us connected all the time. We live in a world that holds the skill of multitasking in the highest regard and glorifies “busy”. We are, in a word, overstimulated. (BTW have you liked Wholehearted Hiking on Facebook yet? Ha ha!)
I am learning that overstimulation is something HSPs (myself included) are more sensitive to. The main reason I choose camping was to unplug and give myself a break from the Internet. Out here I’m not responding to texts on my phone while simultaneously playing a game on my iPad with the TV on in the background. I don’t have access to social media, the news, text or phone. With fewer distractions I find it easier to focus my attention on whatever I’m doing. Whether it’s writing, hiking, listening to the wind blow through the trees, or untangling my own feelings – I am able to give it everything I’ve got, free from distractions.
Learning that I am a highly sensitive person was such a breakthrough for me and helped explain so much of myself – yet it’s just the beginning.
What I took away most from this past weekend in the woods were moments of clarity that shined a light on areas of my life I’d overlooked. Nature can be so healing if you let it.
Want more on the subject?
Are you a highly sensitive person? How does being in nature help you? Tell us your story in the comments.