Throughout this year I have tried many ways (some successful and some not) to reduce stress and anxiety. My favorite, by far, is hiking. Spending more time out in nature with my own thoughts has had a huge impact on my life.

In early April I took a solo vacation to Colorado. Yes, solo. Just me and my dog stayed in a cabin in the mountains of Colorado for about a week. I had NEVER spent that much time alone. There wasn’t even cell phone service! That is when I was reminded of how much I loved hiking and being out in nature.

Hiking has given me a big confidence boost. Probably not in the way you would expect. I had developed a serious fear of being alone in remote areas. Prior to my marriage I was in an abusive relationship. In the end, I had to get a restraining order because I feared for my safety. From then until a few years ago, being in an isolated area brought on serious anxiety. So, the idea that I am now hiking and camping alone (with the support of my dog Fernando) makes me feel incredibly strong and independent.

Another way that hiking has changed my life revolves around giving me time to check in with myself. It removes me from all of the distractions in life. It’s just me, Fernando and Mother Nature. This is something I needed tremendously. I was taking on more and more at work and at home but giving myself less and less time to recharge. I was well on my way to a nervous breakdown.

The other big benefit I get from hiking is connecting with nature. Taking time to enjoy the all that Mother Nature provides. The way the light hits the leaves. The sounds of the animals going about their daily duties. Just being present. Almost like a form of meditation. It helps put things into perspective. I know I’m starting to sound a little like a hippie here. Maybe I am a hippie at heart. I’m ok with that.