Social distancing and mask wearing requirements, stay-at-home orders, cancellations of in-person events, alterations in jobs and schooling, and even shortages of common goods (Toilet paper!) are just some of things we’ve experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These new phenomena could profoundly change the way we live. How many times have we heard that we’re experiencing a new normal?
Such changes can produce stress, but most of us are well-acquainted with stress lately. After all, we’re trying to keep ourselves and others safe from a highly contagious disease that can be deadly.
Stress is an insidious condition that affects our mental and physical health. It can contribute to other harmful conditions, such as substance abuse and addiction that could require virtual rehab or other treatment or recovery options.
That’s because people might use alcohol or drugs to cope with the anxiety, fear, depression, uneasiness, and other feelings that stress could produce.
But there are healthier ways to deal with stress that aren’t found in a bottle of pills or liquor. One of these tactics is spending time outdoors, which could …
Give you something to do
Stay-at-home orders may have caused you to lose your job or may have reduced the hours that you work or attend school. You might be bored and anxious but can’t go anywhere because some places are closed or you’re reluctant to go out because you’re afraid of catching the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
You can still do things outside, though. The activities don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. You can walk near your home or spend time at a local park. You might also take a short drive to spend time in the woods, near water, or explore other natural wonders in your area.
Just remember to stay at least six feet away from other people if they don’t live in your household or wear a mask if you can’t. Some places have specific safety requirements, so check your areas’ guidelines before venturing outdoors.
Take you away from technology (at least for a bit)
Are you still working or attending school? If so, there’s a good chance that you might be working and learning online instead of in person.
We’re lucky that such advances allow us to keep up with life. But they might wear on our eyes, bodies, and souls, leading us to believe that our lives are more virtual than real. Getting some fresh air might change that.
Going outside is literally a change of scenery. If you don’t look at your phone or other devices, it can be a welcome respite from technology. Spending time away from technology can help us be more aware of surroundings, improve our sleep, and even help us focus better when we return to other tasks.
Provide a good place to exercise
In some places, the pandemic has closed down gyms and recreational facilities. Other areas have placed restrictions on gyms that limit the number of people who can exercise at a single facility at any one time.
Some people might have more access to recreational opportunities, but may be reluctant to work out among others or spend time at facilities because they don’t want to contract COVID-19.
Exercising outdoors might be a safer way of working out during the pandemic. Epidemiologists believe that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disperses more easily outside. As a consequence, outdoor workouts pose a lesser risk of contagion, especially if exercisers are following other safety guidelines such as masking, frequent handwashing, and social distancing.
Allow you to spend safer, saner time with loved ones
Due to shutdowns and stay-at-home measures, some people have been separated from their loved ones for long periods.
On the other hand, some households have experienced anything but separation during the pandemic. They’re spending more time together than they ever anticipated, which they might find to be a blessing or a curse. (Or both, depending on the situation.)
Outdoor time can help alleviate both situations. People who have been separated might be able to reunite if they gather outside, stay a safe distance from each other, and wear masks. People who live together and need space from each other might be able to find that distance outside.
Keep you connected to your community
Many of us are working, going to school, socializing, and even visiting our doctors online. This means that we might be meeting with people in the digital world more often than those in our real world.
By going outside, we have the opportunity to connect. Such connection might include waving to our neighbor across the street or noticing that a new store or restaurant opened up a few blocks away.
Spending time outdoors in our neighborhoods reminds us that we still have ties to others and that our lives matter. Such views can sustain us when we’re facing situations such as pandemics that can sometimes make us feel that we’re alone or isolated.
While we’re doing everything we can to protect our physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic, our mental health is just as important. Taking precautions and spending time outdoors can reduce stress and help us address other mental health conditions so we can make our new normal a healthier one.
About the author: Pamela Zuber is a writer and editor and Sunshine Behavioral Health who is interested in science, addiction, mental health, human rights, gender issues, and several other topics.
purdue.edu – Adjusting to the New Normal
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Online Rehab and Addiction Treatment
self.com – 12 Outdoor Activities for When You Need to Get out of the House
greatergood.berkeley.edu – Five Reasons to Take a Break from Screens
hsph.harvard.edu – Outside Workouts Safer Than Gyms During COVID-19 Pandemic
ualberta.ca – I’m Worried About My Relationship as We Spend So Much Time Together During the Lockdown. Any Tips on Getting Through This?
starcity.com – What Is Coliving?