ALISO VIEJO, Calif. – A walk in the park is supposed to be easy but these days even something simple as lacing up your shoes and stepping outside can be riddled with anxiety.
Karla Amador normally spends a lot of time exploring trails. A few years ago, she co-founded the organization 52 Hike Challenge and says there are many benefits to getting outdoors.
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“I mean, it’s scientifically proven that being outside helps with, you know, anxiety and depression," she said.
Unfortunately, options for where to go are dwindling. After large crowds continued to gather at trailheads and beaches in March, L.A. County shut many of them down. Hiking trails in the city of LA are closed as well.
The National Park Service also closed their trails in LA County and is restricting access to sites in Ventura. In a statement, they said, “We're advising all visitors to follow Stay At Home orders and not travel to seek recreation.”
To make sure you’re following the rules, Amador suggests you check with your local parks regularly.
“We need nature but at the same time, we need to practice, you know, whatever is going to be in the best interest of everyone involved," Amador said.
And that means practicing social distancing, which she says can actually be more difficult on hiking trails. “Sometimes these are single track trails," she pointed out, "so it’s really hard to not be super close to someone.”
Walking in your neighborhood, she says, allows you space to cross the street or step aside and let others pass as a safer distance.
If you can’t walk in your neighborhood or don’t feel comfortable doing so, Amador still suggests you get outside, even if it’s only on your balcony or your backyard.
“And just sit and breath for 15 minutes," she suggested. "Do a meditation. Take a book outside. Those little things can make the big difference between having a super stressful day and just taking that time out to decompress.”
She also says this is a good to time to educate yourself. 52 Hikes has been holding online seminars to get people ready for whenever they have their next adventure. And they will. For now, though, she says, all we can do is be present and patient.
“There’s these paths in life," Amador said. "Right now we’re in a valley, right? We’re in a valley and eventually things will be great again.”
And when they are, nature will be there ready to welcome us back with all its splendor.