De-stress this Holiday Season with Nature
By Grant Lucas
HO HO HO! Oh No! It is hard to believe that we are already heading into the Holiday Season. What should be one of the most joyous times of the year can become one of the most stressful as we try to have a “Hallmark” Holiday Season full of great food, good company, and beautiful gifts.
Sadly, reports of high incidences of depression, anger, and suicide appear in our news feeds regularly during the last two months of the year. Many of us are in a constant state of anxiety about creating a unachievably wonderful holiday. In addition, some of us find ourselves lonely and disconnected from others in what is supposed to be a time of fellowship with family and friends. A time of celebration becomes a stressful chore.
So, how can nature help us deal with the Holiday challenges? Studies show that time spent in nature lowers our blood pressure, reduces stress levels measured by cortisol, improves concentration, and enhances creativity. These changes can help us combat the impacts of holiday stress. I hear many people say they don’t have time to spend in nature; after all, lack of time is why they are so stressed. I disagree; the busier you are, the more you need time in nature. Just as a financial advisor will tell you to pay yourself first to build savings rather than waiting to see what is left at the end of the month; you should spend time in nature before undertaking all your other activities to achieve the benefits nature has to offer instead of waiting until everything else is done. I don’t know of anyone who would not benefit from lower stress, more concentration, and improved creativity as they plan and manage their holiday activities.
For those who suffer from loneliness around the holidays, spending time in nature can help us destress our situation, and joining groups studying nature or simply enjoying it can reduce isolation. Another holiday option is to volunteer. The Cibolo Center for Conservation and most of the non-profits in Kendall County greatly need volunteers throughout the year, allowing us to help others and connect with those with similar interests. The Cibolo offers year-round volunteer opportunities for folks of all ages. While these may not be a complete solution, they can help us connect with others and reduce our isolation.
Now is the time to get started as we prepare for the holidays. When was the last time you spent slow time in nature, looking at the colors, listening to the birds and wind, feeling the texture of the ground under your feet and the leaves on a tree, and enjoying the smells of the more-than-human world? These are available at the Cibolo Center for Conservation and other local parks. I encourage you to spend time in nature this holiday season and turn the annual holiday chore into a true celebration.
In closing, I know that for some of us, nature is not enough to help us deal with our mental health situations. While The Association of Forest Therapy’s motto is “The Forest is the Therapist, and the Guide opens the Door,” some issues require immediate, professional care. If you are dealing with sadness or depression that has lasted a while or are thinking of taking your own life, immediately reach out to a licensed therapist or call the “988” suicide prevention line.
Please practice self-care this Holiday Season, you are essential and valuable, and I look forward to seeing you on the trail. Additionally, the Cibolo offers monthly Wellness Walks. Check out November’s offerings:
- Saturday, Nov. 12th at Herff Farm at 10 am: click here to register.
- Sunday, Nov. 13th at the Cibolo Nature Center at 9 am: click here to register.
Grant Lucas is a certified Forest Therapy guide and offers monthly Wellness walks at the Cibolo. Contact Stephanie Regets at email@example.com if you are interested in volunteering, and/or visit www.cibolo.org/volunteer to learn more about our programs.