If there’s one thing we know, it’s that heading outside is a game-changer. That was true before a global pandemic was declared, and if anything, it’s gotten more important since people worldwide were placed under stay-home orders.
While staying home does not necessarily mean staying inside, some of us don’t live in places with plenty of outdoor space, like Alaska. Instead, you might be balancing cramped quarters and crowded city streets with trying to get a breath of fresh air.
It’s easy to say “just get outside any way you can.” We know that any time outside is better than no time outside, no matter where you are. But how can you make it the best situation possible during this crazy time? We turned to a few past guests of the Humans Outside Podcast, experts in the value of heading outside both in and out of a pandemic, for how they’re integrating the outdoors today.
Here’s what they said.
1. Listen to yourself and appreciate your connection to home
Tired of staying home? Erin Kirkland, Alaska travel expert and guest (Episode 9), knows the feeling. By now she’s usually well into her pre-summer Alaska adventures, she said, bouncing from one destination to the next. But now that everything’s canceled, well …
But, still, she never expected to appreciate her connection to home quite as much as she has.
“What I wasn’t expecting was how connected I feel to home,” she said. “I have been outside almost every day in my yard clearing out garden beds, trimming raspberry canes, fussing about with my woodpile and chopping kindling; and I even built a compost area in the yard,” she told us. “We still go on walks in local parks (I am hitting as many as I can to help families find ways for fun beyond playgrounds), but a lot of my focus is on ourselves, our wellbeing.”
Her advice, she said, is to “give yourself some grace to appreciate how much this situation affects our mental and emotional health. Stay active, but don’t let others’ activities dictate yours. You do you.”
2. Help kids balance screen time with staying active.
Corie Weathers, a licensed counselor and our guest on (Episode 18), said she’s working hard to balance her teen sons’ desire to stay connected with their friends via social media and screen time, and the need to get outside into fresh air.
“We are planning to camp in the backyard — like a full out version of it,” she said. “Most of us as parents have let our kids have more screen time than we are comfortable with. Now that this lifestyle of quarantine is extending, [we] are having to force them outside through family bike rides and walks. While I still want to be considerate that screens are their only means of social connection (especially teens), it is time for me to rebalance my role as a parent and their daily routine even if it means I have to be the bad guy.”
3. Look around to discover something new.
At his new home in Utah, hunter and Mule Deer conservation advocate J.J. Hinton (Episode 13), is taking the time to learn about foraging in the region — and he suggests others try the same as a springtime outdoor activity, so as long as you’re careful and use the help of experts as your guide.
“As the weather warms, we’ll be shifting to foraging season. The morel mushrooms are just starting to emerge here in UT at lower elevations. The oyster mushrooms are out according to reports as well,” he said “I’d recommend checking Facebook groups for mushroom hunters in your state. Seemingly every state has a group of experts willing to help you with identification (just take ample photos of the top, stem, and gills). As always with fungi, if you are not 100% sure, eat a small amount to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction. Even edible mushrooms may cause intestinal distress for some people.”
4. Find that inner child
“I’ve been watching how my kids reacted to all of the new changes this pandemic has brought on and one of the things that strikes me is that despite the restrictions, they’re still able to find awe and wonder and beauty in the world that’s right in front of them,” she said. “For advice on getting outside during this time, I’d say to tap into your inner child and explore what’s right outside your front steps.”
That means getting outside anywhere you can, she said.
“So it might mean exploring your backyard or strolling in the alley behind your home or creating a rooftop garden or finding deserted fire access trails, but we can all still enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer us during this time,” she said.
5. Make it a habit.
“It doesn’t need to be detailed but general guidelines and routines help immensely,” he said. “Whatever you do, stick with it and keep moving!”
He said he’s been adding 20 to 30 minutes of meditation each morning an an hour of outside time — running, yardwork, walks, anything — each day. He’s also adding some simple movement to his work time.
“Every time I pee during the work hours, I do 10 push-ups and 10 squats. This has equated to 50-60 each per day,” he said. “Not only is it great exercise, it also gets my heart rate up slightly forces me to break-up my day and monotony of working from home.”