Experiencing the Outdoors With Anxiety and Depression

I have ventured into the outdoors throughout the past few years. I have grown accustomed to trekking on trails, climbing up cliffs, and sleeping in tents. But I wasn’t always that way. For a long time, I never thought I was good enough to spend time outdoors for numerous different reasons.

Anxiety kept me from going because of everything that could go wrong. The overthinking. The catastrophizing. Planning for all the dangerous outcomes of what could happen when I venture in the wilderness. The bear attacks. The broken bones. The getting lost. The exposure.

My depression told me how I didn’t belong there. I would never be good enough to participate. That I should hide inside and stay safe. That that world wasn’t for me. That I was a fool for stepping out there.

IMG_9085I thought the outdoors only belong to those who thrive in it. The ones the kick butt at outdoor adventure sports. The ones that look good in the right outfits. The ones that have the money to spend on the right gear. The ones that have a natural ability. The ones that know they belong.

I didn’t think it was meant for the ones that quiver. The ones that second guess. The ones that aren’t sure what they are doing. The ones that don’t have the right gear or the right amount of money. The ones that don’t have the right look. The ones that are hesitant.

This is how I lived. That the outdoors weren’t meant for people like me. That there was only one type of person that could enjoy the outdoors and I wasn’t part of it. I believed it for so long that this thought process kept me from doing things that I was longing to do.

After a few years of finally venturing into the wilderness, I learned that the outdoors was meant for everyone. It was meant for the ones that wanted to go out there. It’s for the ones that want to enjoy nature. It’s for the ones that want to be there.

There isn’t only one way to enjoy nature. You don’t have to be in the backcountry to enjoy the outdoors. You don’t have to climb the highest mountains. You can glamp. You can car camp. You can hike in your backyard. It doesn’t make you less worthy of the outdoors, just because you can’t do the most intense activities.

I hiked 18 miles in a day, but that doesn’t give me more of a right to enjoy the outdoors than someone who can only hike 3 miles in a day. It’s so easy to hide from things that we don’t think we deserve. And I don’t want outdoors to be one of them for people. Because I’ve been there.

When I started rock climbing, it was terrifying. Not just because the act of rock climbing itself is scary, but because I didn’t think I deserved to rock climb. When I started climbing, and to this day, I can only do easier climbs. Now for a long time, I thought this made me less worthy of being at a crag and taking up space. Now I show up and do my best. I still struggle at times, but I do my best to have fun and enjoy climbing in my own way. I may never climb in Yosetime, but I can still enjoy local crags. That doesn’t make me less.

It’s so easy to compare yourself to others. TO make yourself feel less because of things that others can do and you cannot. But that doesn’t matter in the outdoors. The outdoors doesn’t care how talented you are. The outdoors doesn’t judge you from enjoying it in the way you want to enjoy it. The outdoors doesn’t think less of you because of where you are going or what you are wearing. The outdoors just wants to share with you.

It wasn’t easy for me to get to this point of believing that concept – that the outdoors was meant for everyone. I was terrified for a very long time. It basically took someone holding my hand and bringing me out there to show me. It took me being uncomfortable and doing things anyway. It took me trying, and failing, then trying again to figure out what works best for me. It took me being miserable at times to figure out what I needed. It took moments of high anxiety and panic attacks to figure out how to cope. It took mornings pushing myself out of my bed to do activities I didn’t think I had the energy for. It took time. It took patience.

This may be a foreign concept for some – not feeling like you deserve to be somewhere. I understand that it sounds dramatic to some, but to the people that experience that feeling is so real and goes to your core. My “undeserving feeling” stems from my anxiety and depression. Yours may stem from something else, but I think it’s important to push through it.

Never bring yourself down because you aren’t an adventure rockstar. That you only ski the easiest routes. That you never hiked a 4,000 footer. That you will never complete an ultra marathon. If you are enjoying yourself in the outdoors, then own that. Be proud of it. Relish in it. Because the outdoors is meant for everyone.

7 thoughts on “Experiencing the Outdoors With Anxiety and Depression”

  1. I love the outdoors! I’m glad you’ve been able to push through and enjoy nature outside. I do know anxiety can make it hard to enjoy nature (or anything) simply because, in my case, sometimes I’ve been so anxious and stuck in my head that I couldn’t notice the trees and sky. And when I did, I just couldn’t enjoy them. I’ve had to push through too. Thanks for your post. Take care!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautifully written and I am sure so many relate I know I can but pushing through and beginning to love outdoors has been my way of keeping the depression at bay …. Here’s to us all continuing to enjoy all what our beautiful outdoor world has to offer 🐾🍁🍂🌾

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh my dear Watson! I too suffer from anxiety and depression. . . I feel your pain like you wouldn’t believe. Lately, I have reached a new level though I must say. . . scared to death to go to the grocery store, subway, walmart, or any place really. Its like a constant battle in my head. You might try listening to Mark Manson’s audiobook on amazon called The Subtle Art of not Giving a f&%^. It is really good! Hugs! You are not alone and I wish I could go hike with you, but that scares me too:) HAHA!!

    Liked by 2 people

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