The call of the wild

Hey nature & mental well-being, sorry I missed your call

Layla Kadri // Columnist

As a university student, I can relate to stress pretty well. I pretty much add a spoonful of stress into my morning coffee every day. I understand the hectic world of balancing five courses, volunteer work, multiple meetings for multiple collectives and events every week, and of course a job.

I have been in Capilano University’s Outdoor Recreation Management (OREC) program since September 2016. The program runs straight through four semesters and so my cohort and I will be finishing this December. Recently, one of our teachers asked how our last semester was going. The class flooded with groans, scoffs and dismay.

Our cohort used to share funny memes of people stressing about school and university life. While there were times when some of them were applicable, overall, we had it easier than most programs. In OREC, we tend to have classes not just outside of classrooms, but also off campus. Whether we were on a field trip to Deep Cove Kayak, the salmon hatchery, Squamish, or our teacher simply decided to have class in the forest – we were outdoors and away from the constraints and stress of an indoor classroom.

In our final semester, our courses seem to be more traditionally academic. We don’t have any more field trips or hikes during class time, we have massive amounts of business concepts and research, and of course, that looming stress of what to do when we graduate. Suddenly, my calendar is over owing and my morning stress coffee has turned into a morning, afternoon and late-night ritual.

You would think that the writer of a nature therapy column would have no problems in getting sufficient and immersive time with the wild, but for the past two months, I’ve been missing the call.

I kept telling myself the workload wasn’t the problem and that it was my own productiveness. I kept putting so much time into my work that I didn’t have any left to actually be outdoors. While I recognized that, I told myself it would just be until I graduated, and then I could have my life back.

This past weekend, after a stressful assignment that I wasn’t getting anywhere with, my good friend Luke stole me away to Porteau Cove for a mini camping trip. Rather than be excited, I found myself anxious about the assignment deadline. My mind was wandering back to the city as we drove towards Squamish.

That night on the beach, while sitting in silence to the waves, the sweet smell of a campfire and the warmth of a fleece sweater, I felt my mind release from the tight wind of the last two months. I was reminded of what connecting to nature can bring. How nature therapy can humble you, connect you with the present moment and give you room to heal from pent-up stress.

I saw the shadows of eagles flying above crashing waves, the outline of Anvil Island on the night sky, and the stars peeking out above tree tops. Nature connections can bring about feelings that are inexplicably resonating within ourselves. And during such a chaotic time in our lives, when we’re aiming to gain an education, take opportunities and strive for our futures, it’s easy to forget our mental wellbeing. Despite it all, this is also the time to remind ourselves that connecting with nature can renew us, and heal our stress so that we can continue striving.

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