Because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Virginia has closed our schools for the rest of the academic year, our favorite social events have been cancelled and many of us are now working from home. We are all busy creating new schedules for our families to accommodate these drastic changes that, hopefully, keep our emotional stability in check.
Have you considered blocking out time for your family to get back to nature? The beauty of exploring the great outdoors is that it not only provides us with physical and mental wellness opportunities, but also plenty of safe ways to practice social distancing to keep your family safe and healthy.
So how do we get started?
1. Pick a “sit spot.”
Your spot can be under a tree in the backyard, on the bank of the Potomac or next to your apartment’s rooftop garden. Make the spot yours, and get to know it. The birds. The trees. The animals. Becoming familiar with a special spot can reduce your sense of isolation, and keeping a journal will allow you to track your emotional progress. Encourage children to build a fort or tree house near your “sit spot” to build creativity and problem-solving skills.
2. Raining? Choose a world-watching window.
When you can’t go outside, bring the outside in. Find a window and and set yourself to look outward as you engage in your normal activities for the day. You can be working on your laptop, reading a book, crafting or engaging in yoga practice. Facing yourself toward nature is designed to induce feelings of deep relaxation. It will take you away from you inward-facing world making you more productive and alleviate stress.
Air and light pollution is down and the stars have come out to play! Living so close to a major city, Alexandrians are not always lucky enough to be able to see the stars. But if you have looked up over the past few weeks, you would have realized that if you wanted to stargaze: Now is the time. Teach your children about constellations. We recommend downloading the SkyView app. It will allow you to point your device at the sky to identify stars, constellations and even planets. If you’re really feeling adventurous, be sure to watch for asteroid 1998 OR2’s close approach to Earth on April 29th. (Don't worry! She won't be coming close enough to create any chaos here on Earth!)
No nature activity list would be complete without a hiking trip. But it is important to avoid popular, local trails to maintain social distancing. Below is a slideshow of our recommendations.
Be sure to pack a lunch and water. If you’re hiking with children, planning ahead with toys will make the hike more fun for them (and more relaxing for you). Try hats, toy swords and walkie talkies. In addition to the health benefits of this type of exercise, hiking trips can create beautiful bonding moments for couples, friends and families.
5. Go backyard/deck/rooftop camping.
Borrow a tent and surprise your family with an impromptu camping trip! Make s’mores, play flashlight tag, make shadow puppets on the tent wall. They can even go “hunting” inside for provisions. No kids? A few blankets and a bottle of wine will make this camping trip a romantic night to remember. In the morning, use binoculars to watch birds or practice your photography skills. In addition to this being a memory that will last forever, promoting relationship building for your family, unplugging from the digital world for the night will greatly reduce your stress levels.