On Getting Outside When You’re Feeling Depressed
Outside's love guide answers your most pressing questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Today, we discuss an argument on peeing, canoe custody after a breakup, and getting outside when depressed.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Welcome to Tough Love. Every other week, we’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at [email protected].
Q: This isn’t really relationship-related, but any tips for getting outside when you’re depressed? It feels exhausting to take a shower, let alone go hiking, but I know I should do it because it would help me.
Oh, hon. I’m so sorry you’re struggling. Try not to worry about big questions like what you “should” be doing—what you should be doing is taking care of yourself, and healing, and that doesn’t always look like what we expect it to. Sometimes the only thing to do when you’re depressed is to focus on the next minute, the next hour. Breath by breath. Don’t let the pressure of possibility discourage you from accomplishing small good things.
Will you humor me? Hang a piece of paper on your wall. Whenever you do one of the following things, draw a star on it. When you have 12 stars, write to me and tell me you did it. I’ll be so proud of you. I’m already proud of you, I promise.
1. Step out your front door and take two slow breaths. Look at the sky.
2. Drink a glass of water.
3. If you’re reading, or scrolling through Instagram, or listening to a podcast, or whatever you’re doing to get through the hours, do it in the fresh air for at least 30 minutes.
4. Walk to the mailbox. If you feel like walking farther, keep walking. If you feel like turning around, turn around.
5. Go to your doctor if you haven’t recently or if your mood has changed. If you have trouble getting there, ask a friend to help.
6. Find a place near your home where you feel comfortable outdoors. It can be a garden, a park, anything. Bring what you need to stay there for a couple hours—something to eat and drink, sunscreen, a sweater—and hang out for as long (or short) a time as you want to.
7. Go there two days in a row, even if you only stay for a few minutes.
8. While you’re there, describe your surroundings out loud. Try to use at least three senses.
10. Touch four rocks.
11. Find a way to bring nature inside. Pick a flower and put it in a vase (or cup) on your table.
12. Make tea. Drink it on the porch.
13. Pet a dog. If you don’t have one, find one.
14. Walk a dog. Notice what the dog notices.
15. Watch a bug for a while.
16. Do something physical outside. It could be going for a hike or jog, but you could also lay out a blanket and stretch or do some yoga poses. The point is to be working with your body, not against it. You deserve to feel good.
17. If you find yourself thinking that you should be doing more—hiking instead of walking, running instead of hiking, sitting on the couch instead of lying in bed—remember that if you want to rest, you can. Resting is part of taking care of yourself.
18. Plant a seedling in a pot or garden. Water it.
19. Go to a farm or farmer’s market and eat something local.
20. Touch five living things. Grass is living. Trees are living. Rivers are living. You’re living. I’m grateful that you are.
Q: I’m a female backpacker and committed to Leave No Trace. Recently I’ve started using a pee rag on multiday trips so I can pack out less toilet paper. Despite explaining that pee is relatively bacteria-free and rinsing my pee rag often, my husband is really grossed out. He hates my pee rag and wants me to stop using it. I wish he’d be more supportive. Any advice?
—Letting My Pee Rag Fly
If you want your wiping habits to be private, keep them private. Why are you and your husband even talking about your pee rag? Why does he know? By opening up a discussion (about bacteria, etc.), you’re agreeing that there’s a discussion to be had—which gives your husband a chance to have a say. Your best bet is to drop the conversation and keep on peeing however you want. As long as your husband’s not bothered by actual sanitary (or olfactory) concerns, then it’s none of his business. But since you know he’s grossed out by the rag, you can help by keeping it relatively discreet. It’s not body shame; it’s just polite.
Q: We bought a very expensive canoe together, and now we’re breaking up. How do you negotiate the custody on that?
—Up the Creek
One of you should buy the other person out. If that’s too stressful, your best bet is to let it go. You can get a new canoe, but you can’t get back the time you wasted on an unhappy relationship.