If you are having trouble sleeping, focusing, or are feeling anxious, you are not alone.
In a recent national poll, 77% of American women and 66% of men surveyed reported feeling increased personal stress. Worries about the possibility of getting sick, potentially losing a job or business, and managing finances, paired with the new tensions and challenges of sheltering in place, it’s no surprise that we are feeling overwhelmed.
As we navigate this new normal where life seems to change every day, we’ve never been more grateful for the grounding power of nature. While going for a walk won’t fix all of these issues, we know that getting outside and taking in some fresh air can help reduce stress and allow you to reflect, relax, and reset.
In April we are recognizing two different observances that have never felt so well aligned: Earth Day, on the 22nd, and Stress Awareness Month. These days remind us that we have a responsibility to take care of nature and, if we do, nature will take care of us.
According to Dr. Laurie Cammon, lead physician for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s Parks Rx Program, one of the best ways to keep ourselves healthy is to spend time being active in nature. But this doesn’t mean you have to go far from home.
“Our local parks are a wonderful way to get out and spend time in nature, as long as you maintain social distancing and avoid park benches, picnic tables, and play structures and, as always, practice good hand washing with soap and water,” says Dr. Cammon. “You can walk, run, hike, or just enjoy being outside and getting some fresh air. And, even if you can’t get out to the park, going outside in your own yard or opening a window and listening to the wind in the leaves of the trees for just 30 minutes each day will help you be healthier and feel better.”
Cammon also notes how getting outdoors can help children feel happier, more confident, more attentive, less anxious, and can even help them perform better on their school work. And for those who cannot leave their homes, there are still ways to connect with nature by spending time with plants or animals inside, as well as countless online resources to help explore nature without leaving the house (check out the Open Space Authority's list of virtual nature programs!).
“Making time in the day to connect with nature in whatever way you can will help improve your physical and mental health and will help you and your family get through this very challenging time,” says Dr. Cammon.
There is no better time to appreciate all that nature provides us, and not just the immediate mental and physical health benefits of being outdoors. Open spaces clean our air, filter our water, protect us from storms, and provide essential land to grow our food.
Here in Santa Clara Valley, the recently protected North Coyote Valley Conservation Area is a perfect example of the diverse mix of benefits nature provides. To celebrate and thank the Earth this month, we invite you to engage with us to heal nature through the visioning of this newly preserved landscape. Learn more about Coyote Valley, and help us give back for all that nature has given to us.