Finding Wellness in the Wilderness
I close my eyes for a second, guided by the feel of the trail beneath my feet. Slowly, as I walk, I unroll the folded piece of paper and open my eyes.
It reads, “It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there’s nothing you can do about them, and why worry about things you do control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized. -Wayne Dyer”
When I look back up, my bare feet have carried me to a vista point where you can see through a clearing in the trees, across a valley and to a distant peak. I stop. Everything is quiet, except my mind. But it is not buzzing in the way that it was before, filled with stressed tension. Instead, the realization of my surroundings makes the knot between my shoulder blades release. Now I’m wondering what it was about my life that made me feel so stressed all the time, when all it really took was stopping and allowing the worry to yield to celebrate the moment.
With finals approaching, I had the opportunity to be a leader on Adventure Outings’ first-ever Weekend Wellness trip. This trip was free for AO participants and funded by the UMatter student mental health program. UMatter is dedicated to providing mental health training and services for the campus community. The focus of the Weekend Wellness trip was to bring Chico State students into the outdoors for a weekend and share in nature through hikes, discussion, meditation, and focused journaling.
Between the stress that the end of the semester brings and the pressures of peers, the weekend of May 5 seemed like the perfect opportunity to take eight students out of Chico and to the AO yurt at Butte Meadows for a weekend.
Being outside is always a stress relief, but the Weekend Wellness trip let me share that feeling with others who have not had the opportunity to feel the contagiously peaceful effect of a field of dandelions or the warmth of a campfire as it spreads so much further than your skin. As a leader, I live for moments when I get to witness someone’s first time sleeping in an open meadow, or hear the awe of the first-time sighting of a shooting star. In discussions of stress, goals, and anxiety, it was powerful to see the way that the students connected through group challenge activities and even more in the way they each opened up in forms of meditation.
The AO yurt is about a mile-and-a-half backpack trek, which was just far enough to ensure that everyone had to leave behind homework and computers and bring just the basics. Outdoor exploration can be used as a healthy way to let go, as opposed to other alternatives that degenerate your body instead of rejuvenating it.
The trip inspired me to want to continue to share these experiences with others, and I hope to be able to coordinate more Wellness Weekend trips in future semesters. While all AO trips offer a chance to get outdoors, focusing on renewing our mental health made the trip even more rewarding.
I refolded the quote I had drawn out of a hat and tucked it into my jacket pocket, vowing to keep it in mind when ever life began to feel like too much, and making an agreement to myself to choose the healthier option, which I know will mean the most to me.