I’m an anxious person. I’ve known that for a long time.
Back in highschool I started noticing that I was worrying about things I knew were small. They paralyzed me. Tossing and turning in bed all night mulling over small criticisms, thinking about what people thought of me for hours, comparing myself to others and crying all night because I didn’t feel like I would ever measure up to them.
When I went to University it just about ruined me.
I became scared of myself. Scared of my own anxiety. Everything at that age is harder than ever before. I was away from home, the expense of school made the stakes to do well that much greater, it was easy to stay in and watch Netflix all day so that’s what I did. Leaving the computer screen became a chore and staying up all night with a mind that raced became routine.
I’m a pretty spiritual person so when I was drained of my faith in University it led me to cling to people that were wrong for me. When I wasn’t relying on others to keep me occupied, I was consumed by my phone. That’s a battle I still fight today.
Then life sent me to the mountains.
The first time I went, I didn’t really hike. My SO and I went for the photos. The trip was exciting because we were seeing all of these cool places that our favourite grammers had photographed but it was completely unfulfilling for me. I left with photos of places that I didn’t really work hard to get to and the effects of social media became real. I was always comparing myself to photographers that had 5-10 years more experience than I had and I knew I never intended to be a photographer professionally. So why the heck was I worrying about it? I still don’t know the answer. But I knew that wasn’t the life I wanted.
It was the next time, in 2016, that changed me. I had a new job working for an event company across Canada and it sent me to Calgary. I was anxious before I went as I always am before I travel (I’ve never been able to shake that completely). I was worrying about what camera equipment I had and how I was going to fit all of the experiences into only a few days. I thought I didn’t like hiking at the time but decided to get myself some solid gear and tackle some big ones anyways with a couple friends.
So I did it. Twin Falls, Tower of Babel, and Mount Bourgeau. They were monstrous hikes for a newbie. I was huffing and puffing with no time to pick up my camera or my phone and found myself consumed by deep conversations with the people around me. I felt my anxiety subsiding. Within the trees where service was scarce, silence was abundant and the inclines were steep as hell, I felt something new. I almost want to call it peace. With a bit of gratitude, maybe.
There’s something spiritual about nature. No one cares about you out there.
The mountains speak their own language. Every sunrise brings a new day with a million more opportunities. It was in the deep forest on the mountain side where I discovered the ability to be alone with my own thoughts and enjoy them. I had an independent purpose on those hikes that I controlled. Sometimes to get to the top, sometimes to get there fast. During each hike I thought about something deeper than the photos, school worries, or what my friends were doing.
I found what my soul was begging me for and it led me to quiet places of reflection and understanding in the dirt.
The utter focus of reaching a summit for sunrise actually quieted my anxiety. Nature saved me from overwhelm. Instead of worrying if I would make it, I just made it. I suddenly expected so much more of my heart. I discovered that my value came from my actions and my words in person, not my image online.
Not to mention, my body thanked me for all the exercise. At home, I’d be sitting around twiddling my thumbs dwelling on what everyone else was doing- but in the outdoors, I was sweaty, determined, with extra rosy cheeks, I was thankful and I was content with exactly where I was in life. Finally.
This post was written in partnership with Live Out There, an outdoor apparel company set on sending folks like you on incredible adventures with all of the right gear.