Every day different people encounter challenging situations and hardships which can be so traumatic to the point of leading them to mental breakdowns such as depression, anxiety or PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder). Take, for instance, everything happening around us. With the Coronavirus changing our everyday lives and losing our loved ones daily, it can be too much to take in. Being isolated or locked down can also take a toll on one’s mental health. Trauma and stress are disorders that need to be taken seriously.
In some recent research studies, it was found that 31% of young people in the UK had gone through some type of trauma in their childhood. Of those, one in four met PTSD criteria. Organisations like the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and Childline have become pivotal in helping children who have been exposed to trauma through abuse and any other means come to terms with it and heal. Others like Barclays and Lidl who fund these efforts through sponsorships are making a great difference in keeping these charities running. You can also contribute to NSPCC and Childline; browse through offermate.co.uk/lidl/ for more information.
After a mental illness diagnosis, you find yourself not the same. From panic attacks and sleep disorders to memory impairments and anger or aggression, your body just doesn’t function in the same way it used to anymore. Unfortunately, some people take to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with their symptoms, but many a-times, they end up creating greater issues of addiction. Some end up committing suicide; in 2023, Mental Health Statistics mentioned that 80-90% of those who commit suicide will be suffering from mental illness. The road to recovery may take some therapy and treatment over a period of time, but nature is said to help shorten that duration to restoration.
Disconnecting yourself from your usual environment can help you forget traumatic events, especially when you go out into the wilderness or camp out regularly. When you have PTSD, your body is somewhat stuck in overdrive. Being outdoors will aid in your healing. It would be good to set out on a camping trip or a hike where you can be around nature. Prepare yourself adequately for the experience; take the correct gear, pack according to the weather and activities around where you’re headed, make sure you have all you need so that you don’t amplify your symptoms should you forget something. Any supermarket like Aldi or Tesco is a good place to start to check for equipment you might need on your trip. Amazon is also helpful, plus you can refer to the campsite’s website for ideas on what else to bring.
Let’s see how camping and the outdoors can help you with PTSD.
Resetting your body clock
Nature has proven to be quite effective in healing internally and externally, as proven by testimonies of many ex-militants in a study conducted by the University of Michigan. Working long hours and getting minimal sleep caused them anxiety and stress, which in turn led to PTSD.
Camping allowed them to move away from a world of stress. Spending time in and with nature over a week or so reset the body clock and shifted their sleeping timetable about two hours back. Getting more sunlight and less electrical light from computers and gadgets was helpful in resetting the body clock. This meant getting more sleep, thus helping with mood improvement and stress alleviation.
Nature provides peace and tranquillity
Sometimes when you suffer from PTSD you experience a lot of startled responses. Going away to a quiet place helps you rediscover yourself as nature’s peaceful chants surround you. Take walks, bird-watch or hike through trails. Doing these things is where the medicinal power of nature lies.
Nature reduces stress levels
In 2014, the journal of Environment and Behaviour published a study that was conducted to test the theory that seeing trees helps to reduce stress levels. After subjecting 160 participants to a stress test and then showing them videos of trees with various dense cover, 149 of them reported relief thereafter.
Being in nature and seeing trees and all the other greenery around yields much better results for stress relief than seeing images.
Nature and relaxation
PTSD attacks three areas of our being, which are: focus, attention, and memory. The healing power of nature helps revitalise these aspects. When you are outdoors, you are exposed to clean and less polluted air than in the city. Because of this, you take in clean air and oxygen. Feeding your brain clean oxygen helps you relax. Through this, you can gain your focus back and also improve your attention and memory.
Camping does more for your health
Walking around, hiking in different terrains, fishing, or swimming in a river – all of these activities are great exercise and help to stretch your muscles as you unwind. Exercise will also help you to get some fresh air, relax your body, decrease stress, and regain memory and focus.
Being in the sun not only gives you a healthy skin glow, but it helps to boost your vitamin D intake, which in turn aids the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. All 3 minerals are vital for healthy teeth and bones.
When you prepare for such an adventure, you obviously pack food being cognizant of shelf life or how long you can keep it fresh. It’s best to take dry foods, cans, and meat that you can easily barbecue. Food somehow tastes much better when prepared outside over a grill or a campfire. It also has less oils and fats cooked this way, hence the notion that it’s healthier. Snacking on different nuts and fruits is also beneficial.
If you feel that you might need to reset and unwind, let out some steam, release some stress; do yourself a favour, try the outdoors for nature’s healing and energising powers.