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Relieve stress by getting back to nature

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We walked out with our luggage because the road was too muddy for the chiva to drive it.

Recession anxiety—we probably all have it. Sometimes we deal with it by indulging in comfort food or inexpensive fast food. Sometimes we escape to the movies or read a book. We eliminate vacations. What we may not do is look at our actions to assess them. What’s good for our physical and mental health and what is not?

I started reading ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder’ by Richard Louv on my Panama trip. He talks about the growing obsession with order in housing developments with rules (no tree houses allowed), about overly-structured lives and unwillingness to leave air-conditioned buildings. He says direct exposure to nature is essential for physical and emotional health.

Nature awakens our senses and helps take away the feelings of containment and isolation
The book advocates wandering in natural landscapes for therapy and restoration and cites research that shows how strongly and positively people react to open, grassy landscapes, scattered stands of trees, meadows, water, winding trails and elevated views.

Jerry Hirschberg, founding director of Nissan Design International, the Japanese auto company’s design center in America, said the Japanese recognized Americans’ creativity comes from our freedom and physical space and mental space.

I spent three Panamanian days with my two daughters and son-in-law living with no electricity, an outhouse, an outdoor shower. Walking was our only mode of travel. The days were filled with hikes, conversations, and observations. We all helped prepare meals cooked on a propane-powered stove. We got 10-12 hours of sleep each night. This area is rain forest so rain moved through several times each day and night pinging off the tin roof.

We then spent three days in Panama City, population three million. We did wonderful things—museums, walking tours, eating at a fish market and a day on an island beach. My Minnesota daughter, a forester living on the river bordering Canada, and I both thought the rain forest time was the highlight of the trip. It was a therapeutic escape because we had no deadlines or demands; we had nature and one another.

Nature awakens our senses and gives us perspective about our lives and our organizations. Find nature in evening walks, in weekend jaunts to a park, in work outside. Preparing meals from scratch, particularly if you can use local produce, is another sweet connection to nature. Nature refreshes and gives perspective to return to work.


“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson

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