Imposing peaks, unknown wildlife, poison ivy… there’s a variety of factors that can contribute to feeling uncomfortable in the wilderness. Even if you are used to spending time outdoors, a new environment or changing conditions can throw you off.
I’m speaking from experience on this one, I’ve found myself feeling uncomfortably low on the food chain anytime I’ve been in shark populated waters. I have a tremendous respect and admiration for sharks but I’ve also got an active imagination, and shark attack stories – those stick with you. Logically, I know sharks are not hanging out down there just waiting to take a sample out of me but some small part of my mind screams at me that it does happen and that I can in fact be next. We don’t often feel like prey in the modern age and I think we’ve forgotten how to deal with it. Our primal fears once served a very important purpose but now that most of us live in protective shelters with basic needs met, we’re no longer used to them. So when these fears sneak up on us they can be a shock to the system and ruin a good time. But connecting with nature has never been more crucial for our well-being. So what should we do?
Educate yourself about the potential hazards in the area, this could be anything from landslides to jellyfish. Learn the best practices to avoid conflict or risk. For example, if black bears live in the area you’re camping, you want to hang your food up high between two trees or put it in a bear bin (if available).
Take a course. Whether it be first-aid, advanced swimming lessons, avalanche skills training – whatever will give you the confidence that you can handle a situation and mitigate risks. Just knowing that (and of course, having the right gear with you) will keep your mind at ease.
Many indigenous cultures perform ceremonies and rituals before entering wild places or travelling through a new area. While I can’t personally speak to their importance, I think the act of taking the time to honour where you are can give you a positive connection and set a respectful tone. Whatever that may mean to you, if it is stopping to reflect at the trailhead or having a moment of meditation before getting in the water, try it out.
If you start to get anxious, calm that fight or flight mode down with some deep breathing. It is okay to sit in your discomfort for awhile, it will pass. Reel in your imagination when it wants to run off on worst-case scenarios by coming back to your breath and focusing on long inhales and slow exhales. Try to accept that we can never be fully in control of everything and make the most of your experience.
Take care of it:
Because what makes a place feel more like home than looking after it?
We want to hear from you! How do you calm anxieties or fears in the wilderness?