Flowers, plants, and trees have brought me a renewed sense of peace throughout the last year. I have marveled at the evolution of the seasons in the blooms and blossoms. I have wondered at new growth and change. Nature is my anti-anxiety medicine.
When anxiety rushes through me, I tense up. I lose my patience with my sons. I get caught in a cycle of negative thoughts. I feel like I am losing myself. I panic, and I need an outlet to “break the stress cycle,” as Dr. Emily Nagoski says. In the last year, I have found that outlet, and it is nature. Well, nature plus exercise.
Almost two years ago, my family and I moved off Highland Road to a cute house. After a couple of months, I was walking around our neighborhood and saw an interesting path at a dead end. I walked through the magical cut-through into the wondrous LSU Hilltop Arboretum. I was floored. I lived next to this? I had been to the Arboretum once before for a Baton Rouge Parents photo shoot, actually, and I completely adored it. It’s a hidden gem with a walking trail, but also plenty of opportunities to get off the pebbled path.
Once I discovered our proximity to the verdant paradise, I rushed home to bring my two boys, ages eight and five at the time, to our new magical forest. They romped in the bamboo and hiked down a secret path. We took turns reading the placards next to trees and bushes, identifying the names of all the flora. Little did I know on these first few trips that this would become our retreat during quarantine and my antidote during times of fear and stress.
Throughout the pandemic, the boys and I would go to the Arboretum frequently, sometimes twice a day. We observed the seasons change as flowers came and went. The boys befriended turtles and worms as they meandered through the paths. I, however, found the arboretum as a sanctuary of peace and calm, a positive alternative to doom scrolling.
Even as life around us improved and slid into a slight return to normalcy, I maintained my routine of nature walks. Sometimes these walks are combined with jogs to an upbeat playlist. Most days, my walks are medium intensity to podcasts that make me think and laugh. I make my own pace and escape for some quality time.
An added bonus is that my horticultural knowledge has increased. I track which plants and flowers are blooming, and I anticipate the changes. I capture my walks by taking pictures and sharing on Instagram. Through this, my mom and I often have conversations about flowers and trees.
Yes, exercise is great for the body and for the mind. For me, exercise in a beautiful environment is the absolute best for my body, mind, soul, and spirit. I connect with myself, with God, and with nature on these walks. I have found my tonic for health and relaxation. Thank you, LSU Hilltop Arboretum, for your conservation and manicured land that have blessed me and my family in so many ways.
My prescription for when life overwhelms you:
- Step One: Find an inspiring spot near you.
- Step Two: Go on a walk.
- Step Three: Listen to a podcast or music that you love.
- Step Four: Take pictures of any pretty flower or tree that stands out.