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How I’m Learning to Adventure With My Kids

The great outdoors used to be the one place that could quickly quell my anxiety—until I had kids. Here’s how I’m finding my way back.

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an anxious person. And I don’t just mean that I worry—that’s a normal (if not somewhat useless) human emotion. I mean that, when I’m deep in the throes of anxiety, I experience both physical manifestations, such as labored breathing, sweating, and shaking, as well as all-consuming irrational thoughts. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. It’s debilitating, frustrating, and—as I’ve discovered—manageable with the right tools. 

It took years of cognitive behavioral therapy, in addition to meditation and yoga practices, to develop a suite of coping mechanisms that could consistently bring me back to myself. But these strategies are not always perfect. I’ve failed to call on them during many anxious moments—and most of all, in the years since I became a mother, with worries that seem to multiply with every passing day. 

See also: How to Jump-Start Your Kids’ Yoga Practice

It was only recently, as my youngest approached her first birthday and I struggled through lingering postpartum sadness and anxiety, that I realized that I had almost completely abandoned what was arguably the most important tool in my arsenal—the great outdoors. 

Prior to having kids, I often found solace on long hikes through the Colorado mountains, my dogs by my side. Chilly nights spent sleeping in a tent under a canopy of trees provided distance not just from my day-to-day life, but the anxious thoughts that played on a loop in my mind. Sure, the anxiety was there, but it was overpowered by the beauty, the stillness, and the peace I found in my surroundings.  

I want to get back out there, to rediscover my sense of adventure. And I want the kids to find theirs, too. I’ve always wanted my family to be one that camps, hikes, climbs, paddles—all the things I was happy to do when I was untethered that now feel, to be honest, quite dangerous. My anxious mind lists all the things that could go wrong—an endless litany that can quickly spiral if I’m not mindful to stop it. 

More: Dial Down Anxiety With This Stress-Busting Sequence

Luckily, there’s another instrument I can call on: preparation. And my go-to source for finding everything I need to raise adventurous kids is just a click away at Outside. I’ve long been a fan of the brand’s Active Families content, but now, as an Outside+ member, I receive an annual subscription to the magazine, plus access to exclusive content, so I can find the best kid-friendly adventure destinations, all the gear I could possibly need, and a gentle reminder that it’s OK for kids to feel uncomfortable. This might not completely alleviate my anxieties about somehow getting stranded in the wilderness with two toddlers—that’s where my mindfulness practice comes in—but it’s a start. 

And that’s not all the anxiety-relieving features I get with my Outside+ membership. While I may not be quite ready to head to the backcountry, when I do, I’ll feel safer with Gaia GPS in my pocket. As a premium member, I can download trail maps to my phone so I will always know where we are, even while chasing a toddler through the forest. 

Join Outside+ today and get all this and more of what you need to become a better version of yourself: live yoga and meditation classes from YJ, healthy recipes and meal plans from Clean Eating and Vegetarian Times, gear reviews from Backpacker, Climbing, and Ski, subscription boxes from Cairn, travel ideas from National Parks Trips and more. 

See also: Do This “Rock Star” Meditation With Kids to Help Them Relieve Stress

Erin Skarda is Yoga Journal’s Digital Director.