Guest post by Chelle Gluch, BSU Student
Traumatic events, like domestic violence or sexual assault, have lasting effects
on the body and spirit. Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are
common diagnoses following such events. More than six percent of all adults will
experience a major depressive episode in any given year, and PTSD is thought to
affect more than three percent of the general U.S. adult population. How these
numbers correspond with survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault is not
entirely known, but estimates indicate the percentages are much higher. Major
depressive episodes and PTSD are diagnosis that should be handled by a
However, there is much a survivor can do on their own to aid in recovery. Self-care is an essential part of the recovery process. Self-care can be defined as active participation in the enhancement of your life. Self-care is not a manicure here or there or an occasional bubble bath—though these activities both could be part of a self-care routine—rather self-care is attitude, habits and actions that are adopted which refresh, motivate or help you to grow as an individual.
Self-care can take many forms: pampering oneself physically, as in regular bubble baths, manicures, or facials; education, like college courses or community education; regular exercise, like walking, hiking, or swimming. Essentially, any activity or activities that promote your general well-being could be considered self-care.
Spending time in the outdoors is another form of self-care. Nature is a proven healer. There are many studies that indicate that time spent outdoors can improve stress levels, alleviate or lessen symptoms of depression, lower blood pressure, increase mental acuity, lessen anxiety, and among children with learning and conduct disorders it has been shown to have a calming effect. In fact, some studies indicate that nature is such a powerful healer that merely gazing at it through a window can improve one’s perception of health. Many other studies indicate that nature coupled with physical activities like hiking, swimming, or walking are even more efficient at healing than nature alone. Nature as a healer is so commonly accepted that it is spawning a new psychology field—ecopsychology.
Thankfully, the Treasure Valley offers numerous outdoor recreation activities and most are low cost or free. A walk on Boise’s gorgeous Greenbelt is free and available year round. The 25-mile-long trail wanders through many area parks, along a lush riparian habit with abundant wildlife. A day or afternoon spent on the trail is a day well spent. There are many other trail systems in and around Boise. Camel’s Back Park is another great hiking area, as are most areas in the Boise Foothills.
Swimming is another great way to enjoy nature. Lucky Peak and Arrowrock Reservoirs are excellent spots to take a dip, and depending on where you choose to park—many parking lots require a day fee of four or five dollars—are also free.
Arrowrock and Lucky Peak are excellent locations for other outdoor activities as well. Both reservoirs are excellent for bird and wildlife watching, especially in winter. During the difficult winter months eagles congregate around the Arrowrock dam and elk and deer flock to the area in search of food.
Fishing is another favored activity in these locations. Both reservoirs are stocked with fish on a regular basis by Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), as well as containing a healthy population of native fish like Kokanee salmon and trout. If a lack of fishing gear or fishing knowledge is a concern, don’t worry. IDFG has you covered. During the summer months the department sends out colorful “Take Me Fishing” trailers outfitted with knowledgeable volunteers who will loan out equipment and advice.
The outdoor activities noted here are just a small beginning; the Idaho landscape has so much to offer—mountain biking, berry and mushroom hunting, rock hounding, rock climbing, hunting, hot springing, camping. The variety of activities available virtually ensures that there is something that will appeal to everyone.
So, the next time you are down, stressed, or anxious, seek out nature. The sun smiling down on you, from that glorious Idaho sky may be just what you need to remind yourself that all of your needs are important, even something as simple as your mood.