5 Ways to Cope With Anxiety in the Outdoors

April 11, 2017

cope with anxiety

Every sound, every move, rustling of the bushes, I could hear EVERYTHING. My brain would not shut off. Sleep was impossible. Why do this ever again? It is miserable so what is the point?!  How do I cope with anxiety?!

River rafting in Jackson Hole is an experience of a lifetime. Unless you don’t sleep for two days and the whole thing is ruined by your idiotic brain. cope with anxiety

Due to anxiety I COULD NOT sleep in a tent. I mean we are talking not one minute of unconscious sleep.

On the river I could barely grasp what was going on! My mind was so slow and foggy. Anything actually making it through to my emotions was just panic. I had never been rafting before. “These bumps are scary! I could die! People die doing this?! WHY AM I DOING THIS?!”


cope with anxiety
I look happy. I was panicking. And tired.

I wish so much that I could enjoy what was happening around me. I mean it was beautiful.  I have always loved looking at and sitting in nature. Comfortably. Everyone else was having fun, and I knew deep down that I sort of enjoy this type of thing, but something was preventing me from actually loving it.

Have you ever wanted to enjoy certain things in life, but been prevented in doing so because of anxiety?

Anxiety became worse when I had a kid. My husband wanted to start camping with him and I DID NOT. I knew I would be up all night in an uncomfortable tent thinking, “Is he breathing? Is my husband going to roll over on him and squish him? He is going to get eaten by a mountain lion! He will find a cliff and fall off I know it!”

So why even bother? There was no way I could muster up the ability to go camping with the anxiety that plagued me. I wanted to enjoy the outdoors and all that it offers, but on some level it made me miserable. So why even try?


We all know fresh air and the outdoors are beneficial in the life of you and your family. There are many reasons and statistics  depicting the good that going outside can do for people. I knew that and I knew I loved nature on some level.  I did not want to deprive my kids and fun loving husband of something they might love because of my fears.

So it is time to suck it up.

Ways to Cope with Anxiety in the Outdoors:

1. Prepare for Comfort

Comfort really goes a long long way in helping subdue anxiety. On our most recent camping trip to Moab I brought a queen size air mattress, down pillows, every blanket I own, and sleeping pills. Lots and lots of sleeping pills. My husband teased me a little bit, but hey if it helps me camp then he can just shhhh.

This also means comfort in food. We are all better off well fed, so prepare for that even if it means knowing there is a restaurant 20 minutes away from your campsite. Heck, we’ve done it. Sometimes a hot meal cooked by someone else is exactly what you need for a comfortable nights sleep and a great day the next day.

If a camper is what you need to be comfortable, and you decide being outdoors is important in your life, then get the camper! There are many used you can find on the internet for pretty cheap. Even a pop up tent trailer may be the way to go, which I am thinking we will take this turn eventually.

2. Familiarize Yourself with your Sleeping Environment

cope with anxiety
This is me in the morning of no sleep in a tent

Routine and familiar settings help curb anxiety. Have you ever noticed that with kids? The unknown is what scares people. If you spend a little time playing with your kids in your tent you are familiarizing yourself with that environment.

This has been the biggest thing for me that helps me sleep at night. Spending time in my tent during the day to familiarize myself with wherever I am sleeping helps me relax a little bit more when it comes time to sleep. Sounds odd, but it works.

This could also mean camping in the same place the first few times. Routine is comfortable, the unknown is not. You don’t have to stick to the same place every time, but maybe just the first two times you go camping or hiking. Then move up from there.

3. Get Medicated

This may not be for everyone, but it definitely helped me not only cope with anxiety but start to overcome anxiety. Getting medicated helped me to find my passions and personality that was hidden behind the wall of anxiety. I go more into detail on this topic in Why Anxiety Medication is a Good Choice.

Some people are more holistic and prefer natural means. I go into detail on that as well, but I think going outside is about as natural as it gets. Sometimes we just need a little help. I still get nervous and sometimes can’t sleep even on medication, but those times are few. The meds just help me control it better.

4. Invite Friends

cope with anxiety
Luckily I have friends that like to camp

More people will also add to your comfort level. It’s way more fun to go with your friends anyway lets be honest.

5. Have a Gun with a Lock Available or Bear Spray

This isn’t for everyone either. This might add to some anxiety for some people. In my case, part of my anxiety is that we will come across a bear or mountain cat. It happens all the time in Idaho (where I lived for 7 years) so it became a real concern for me. My husband has a pistol with a lock on the trigger so my kids cannot accidentally shoot it if they find it. It gives me a little peace knowing we would have a way to defend ourselves if we needed to.

In the news in Idaho a man was cross country skiing with his dog when a mountain lion was stalking them. He had on his person some bear spray that he used to get rid of the animal. If you’re not into guns at all then try some bear spray. It is a little less dramatic, but still a way to defend yourself and your family.


Do you have anymore tips that help you cope with anxiety in the outdoors or just in general? Comment and let me know!

Contact me if you would like to share your story on how you cope with anxiety!

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By Rachel

I am a young mom who thrives on life in the outdoors. I have lived in Utah, Idaho, and Cozumel Mexico. In my travels I have learned many things that I would like to share with others.