Hope in the Time of Corona

In the future, we will talk about where we were when quarantine hit, and the world shut down due to COVID-19. My crew (or should I say my zoo?) was in Mammoth Cave National Park. Instead of camping there for a week to explore the area and tour the caves, as intended, we ended up hunkering down for five weeks just outside the entrance to the park at a mom-and-pop campground that accepted us with open arms (in a socially distancing kind of way, of course). 

Photo by Paolo Bendandi/Courtesy of Unsplash

Due to the shut down, we never went in the caves, and we used the time to figure out how travel would look for us in 2020. I scrolled Instagram and my camping apps non-stop to find out where everyone was going. It was a hectic time, and many of us travelers felt frantic and confused. People were organizing open driveways to park, if needed, some travelers were being told to “go home,” and others were securing longer term stays, as we chose. Campgrounds we had booked months back began cancelling on us in other states; there were days we battled for refunds to help ease the financial burden of the unexpected while knowing those campgrounds were hurting financially too. We had it a lot better than many others, and gratitude is what we clung to. 

We remained very grateful—one of the four pillars to a happy, healthy life—but there was this trickling sense of hopelessness threatening to consume me some days; a fading hope for what we had planned this year and for everyone else figuring out the “new normal.” When would I see my family again? Would we be able to cross into high-risk states? Should we? I’ve always been a planner, and while full-time travel life has certainly helped me go with the flow a lot more, I’m still the gal who relishes looking forward to a yummy meal, a planned hike with friends, or our next national park adventure around the corner. To be honest, sometimes looking forward to an upcoming event is sweeter than the actual event, and this is coming from someone who teaches mindfulness and being present for a living!

Hope is not an ambiguous idea that we have no control over. Hope is a vital piece of our pathway to a healthier mind. Mental health conditions are the leading cause of disability worldwide, and at least 50% of adults will develop some type of mental illness in their lifetime. Sadly, the stigma of mental illness persists today and, no doubt, affects our ability to recover and heal. But progressive practitioners are changing the conversation and looking at mental health as a presence of wellness rather than an absence. It all starts with hope. Hope drives recovery, just as it drives our daily lives and our sense of peace and happiness. 

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

So, what does hope look like in 2020 and how has it affected your well-being? I challenge you to consider that question in a way that might shed light on an area of your life that needs more support. After hunkering down for many weeks in both Kentucky and Michigan, we started to plan our safe travels. I remember tearing up with joy, because it felt so good to have something on the calendar to look forward to again. We learned that Sleeping Bear Dunes in northern Michigan re-opened as the NPS began finding manageable ways to allow people into these special places. That was our main destination in Michigan, so we were elated to be able to climb the dunes like I did as a child. We need nature now more than ever. Nature is proven to help reduce stress hormones like cortisol. Humans need consistent, good sleep, and getting fresh air while moving our bodies is a fabulous way to support healthier sleep.

In case you did not know, it’s a big election year; we’re in a global pandemic; joblessness, financial strains, and political/social justice issues top the charts when people are asked about their daily concerns. I urge you to find hope in small, daily ways. Put something on your calendar this week that exists just for you. Get out the map and plan a national park hike or visit one of the hundreds of national park historic sites in the next month if possible. Hope weaves into our stress resiliency by lifting our spirits in hectic times. Do not wait for it to show up. Build it up in meaningful ways and support others’ hopes whenever possible.

Header photo by Aleksandr Ledogorov/Courtesy of Unsplash

Mental health and wellness are Kayla Fanning’s passions, and she strongly believes our environment and culture play the largest role in holistic well-being. She helps organizations and humans build happier, healthier lives so they can thrive and not just survive. Nature is where she resets and finds balance.


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