Friendship and Nature For Stress Relief
Do you turn to nature when life challenges you?
Life, as we all know, is unpredictable and sometimes the challenges come at us so fast that it makes our heads spin. It's been that way for me recently. Over the past few months, I've been laid off, faced challenges with my aging parents, and lost a few friends to cancer. And there is winter. It's not my favorite season even though I live in an area that gets relatively few winter storms. I just prefer warm weather to cold.
Nature has always been my refuge during those times when life gets a little crazy. A few hours spent outside, away from the buzz of cars and crowds, is my answer for relieving stress. In nature I find reminders of the simple things that really matter. The love of family and friends rises to the top of my gratitude list when I escape the madness of the city and spend some quiet, reflective moments surrounded by the beauty of nature. In the absence of honking horns, sirens, and the buzzing of collective voices, I find my center again and, the courage to face the next day with hopeful expectation.
The Blessing of Good Friends
I am blessed to have amazing friends who are always there when I need them. Friends who accept you, as imperfect as you are are, are one of life's treasures. Real friends do that. They give you permission to be vulnerable and let your guard down. They will also stand by and let you figure things out for yourself but they stand close enough to steady you before you fall.
When the challenges of life start to turn into stress, I turn to the two things I can count on to return me to a sense of peace - friends and nature.
A Personal Story of Friendship and Nature
It was an overcast morning here in the city and The Weather Channel was calling for daytime temperatures in the mid 90's with humidity levels reaching 98%. That's tough here on the east coast. It's too tough to pound the pavement looking for work so I called a friend who has a place up in the mountains alongside a creek. "Please, can we go to the creek"? I asked. I only had to ask once. An hour later, we were on the road. That, is friendship.
The cabin is only a couple hours from here but the further we drove, the more dismal the sky began to look. Storm clouds threatened to ruin any thoughts I had of sinking my toes in the mud. I began to think that going to the creek today may not have been such a great idea.
Arriving at the creek
I'm here, many miles away from the noise of the city. There is no phone to ring, no television to bring me bad news, no computer to remind me to submit another resume. Should I feel guilty for running away like this today? No, I just won't do it. I need this.
My friend knows I need this and quickly finds things to do that will take him out of my sight and out of my space. That, is a friend.
The cabin sits back off the road about 300 feet. It is a county road, not well maintained since most of the cabins in the area belong to absentee owners. The creek is another 20 feet away on the other side of the road but you can hear it, if you stand still and listen. I take a few minutes to just stand quietly, taking in the sounds and smells and letting the city stress fall away. This is good.
The Physical Changes of Stress Relief
The rhythm of my breathing has slowed. I am aware of it. The mountain air is warm and quite humid but there is a slight breeze and it washes over me, stripping away the layers of emotions that had begun to tie me up in invisible knots. The creek is singing her own song as she slowly moves around the stones and through the roots of creek bank trees. Today the birds are more quiet than normal but not the crickets. The cricket telegraph loudly proclaims "there is a visitor among us".
Suddenly I am aware that I have not moved. I have been standing alone in front of the cabin, lost in the moment for quite a while. My friend has vanished inside to do some busy work and I am touched by his willingness to drop everything to make this trip and to give me the space I need. I can sense the transformation that is taking place inside me. I am quiet inside and balanced again. Gone are the kaleidoscope-like fragments of anxiety, fear, frustration, and yes, even self pity. After only 20 minutes alone in the middle of almost nowhere, I am whole again. It's time to put these feet in that creek!
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy.” - Sylvia Plath
The Healing Power of Nature
Sitting with my feet in the creek, I dig my toes into the cool mud. It is something I learned to love as a child and it has remained with me all these years. My inner voice is whispering to me, demanding that I acknowledge the feeling of joy that has come with being here. I know with certainty that I have found my center again.
It isn't long before my friend joins me down at the creek. We talk quietly about my needing this trip. My friend admits he takes this beautiful place for granted and rarely stops to just enjoy it anymore. There is always work to be done it seems. But I am awed by the changes I have experienced being here, being still, and being in the moment. It is one of those special moments, shared with a friend, and a magical moment. We have both learned something from this wild and natural place. There is indeed magic and healing power in nature when it is shared with a friend who understands and accepts that you are not perfect; doesn't expect you to be. But this day is perfect.
So it is time to head home and I am ready to face the challenges again. My needs have been filled and I am once again full of hope. I am emotionally, physically, and spiritually whole again. As I turn to leave the bank of the creek, I notice a tree whose trunk is covered by ivy. The image speaks to me. In a dimension beyond my visual ability, the ivy is tugging and pulling at the bark of that tree, reaching for heights it is unsure of. And yet, it appears perfectly still. It seems to whisper to me that... sometimes in the stillness - we reach our greatest heights.
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.
My Favorite Quotes About Friendship and Nature
"A friend is someone who is there for you when he'd rather be anywhere else." - Len Wein
A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down. - Arnold H. Glasow
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” - Rachel Carson,
“I always felt that the great high privilege, relief and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing.” - Katherine Mansfield
“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” - John Lubbock