Nature has been proven in multiple studies to relieve stress and increase self-esteem. But like any trip, a hike can also lead to stress. How can we make our stress-relieving nature visit really stress-free?
1- Plan a short day trip and leave enough time for it. It’s not fun if you have to hurry.
2- Check the weather & plan and dress accordingly. Just because it’s raining, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a trail; wear a raincoat and bring a towel and a change of clothing if you think you will get wet. But avoid extreme weather—be aware of thunderstorms with lightening, flash flood warnings, extreme hot or cold, and the like. And know what you like—don’t go if you hate getting rained on, or being hot.
3- Bring water and a snack, rather than planning a cookout. That way you can focus on enjoying your surroundings not food, fire etc.
4- Stick to blazed trails if possible, pick up a map at the Park Center if they have them, and check the blazes against the map. And/or keep a landmark in view, such as a river or peak. Getting lost is pretty stressful!
5- Bring a friend and a cell phone—but be prepared for no cell phone service too.
6- Remember to move slowly and carefully over slippery or rough ground. Surfaces like mossy rocks, wet leaves, mud, and gravel can be slippery or lack traction. Its better to be slow than to turn an ankle.
7- Think about where you are parking and how secure it is: best bet for most people is to leave valuables home or take them with you, rather than leaving them in your car. Travel light, and bring only your driver’s license, a credit card, and some cash, your phone, and your car keys, and then you can carry them with you in a backpack or fanny pack while you are walking.
8- Check for ticks and take a shower or at least wash hands when you get home. Showers will help wash off any bugs that have come home with you, and any irritants like poison ivy, or any other substance that you personally might be allergic to. Some folks are allergic to Queen Anne’s lace, for example.
9- Don’t be a slave to social media. Post if you want, but don’t feel an obligation to document. The goal is getting out there, for you, not for the rest of the world.