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Escaping Anxiety in the Outdoors

Woods in early spring, photo credit: Pat Mingarelli

[Originally published March 27, 2020, as Want A Great Way to Free Your Anxiety?]

How does one do it? How do you break free from your anxiety at a time like this? Staying inside with the TV on to a news channel or constantly looking at your phone will only build one’s anxiety.

Well, what did Jesus do when stress and anxiety built up around Him? He headed to nature.

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Jesus and Anxiety

The Gospels tell us that after Jesus learned that his cousin John the Baptist died, he wanted to be alone. But instead of finding time alone, the crowds pressed in on him. They wanted to hear from him, and they wanted to receive healings. Jesus met their needs. But after a long day of preaching the people were hungry. When Jesus saw they had no food, he met that need too and fed the 5000.

What a long and stressful day that must have been for him.

The Gospel of Matthew records what je did next:

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. Matthew 14:22-23

Wow! When Jesus needed time to de-stress and pray, he headed to nature. The Gospel of Luke says Jesus frequently visited nature,

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. Luke 5:16

Ministry puts a lot of stress on someone and Jesus in human form most likely felt stress. Being wise, he knew how to get rid of it and went to the outdoors and prayed.

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Head to the Outdoors to Break Free From Anxiety

Today, health experts and government authorities tell us we need to “social distance.” The outside is a great place to exercise social distancing and, as Jesus shows us, it makes for a great place to free yourself from anxiety.

The latest research shows that getting outside relieves anxiety by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. Even spending a short amount of time outside helps.

Ways to De-stress Outside

  1. Go for a hike. Walking reduces stress. Being in nature reduces stress. Combine the two for an enjoyable outdoor experience and a great way to release your anxiety.
  2. Go for a walk. If you can’t get to an area of untamed nature, walking anywhere outside reduces stress. This includes walking in your own neighborhood or at a local park.
  3. Take the dog for a walk. This gives us the same benefits of going for a walk, and just being with our pets helps lower our stress. Petting animals also lowers cortisol levels, so make sure you stop and pet the dog while you walk.
  4. Grow a Garden. This is the perfect time of year to start a flower or vegetable garden. Spending time in a garden reduces stress.
  5. Go for a bike ride. Bike riding is a good way to exercise. It gives us a feeling of freedom and it keeps us at distance from others.
  6. Bring your Bible and pray

Shane Sharp, a Northern Illinois University sociologist who has studied prayer, points out that people can manage negative emotions through prayer. Sharp says,

People, when they pray, it makes salient in their minds that God loves and cares for them.

God does care for us and calls us to pray just as Jesus did. Philippians 4:6-7 says,

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So, both the Bible and science tell us that getting outside and praying reduces stress. And best of all, Jesus serves as our example. Let’s take that expert advice and get outside and pray. What a great way to free your anxiety!

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Written by Pat Mingarelli

Hi. My name is Pat Mingarelli. I am an award-winning nature photographer with a unique kind of creation ministry. As an outdoor photographer I’ve spent countless hours observing God’s hand in creation. I’ve learned that God speaks to us through His creation and the creation speaks to us about God. You find me at TheCreationSpeaks.com

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