Stress levels are elevated in Richland County, and the solution to de-stressing and relaxing may be as simple as a weekend away in nature.
According to the Richland County 2016 Health Assessment, 31 percent of adults reported not getting enough sleep nearly every day in the past two or more weeks. Twenty-four percent reported regularly feeling fatigued or having no energy, and 22 percent reported feeling worried, tense or anxious on a regular basis. 19 percent reported high stress levels.
Only 12 percent of adults reported feeling healthy and full of energy.
The stress of balancing a work and home life, staying active, being healthy, making family time and managing all other aspects of life can be intense, and at times, overwhelming. These numbers clearly illustrate that. And no one knows how stressful life can be better than Heather Pauley.
Heather Pauley is a working mother and the wife of Lexington Police Chief Brett Pauley. She has two very active, involved children. Her family’s jobs, activities and traveling sports schedules keep her busy, but she has found her stress relief through camping.
And she's on to something. According to an April 2019 Science Daily study, simply being outdoors relieves stress. Even just spending 20 minutes out in nature will lower stress hormone levels. There’s something about being in nature that relaxes people.
Camping takes being out in nature one step further. When people camp, they are generally more active than they would be at home. Exercise lowers stress levels, and it also combats a sedentary lifestyle, which has negative physical and mental effects.
Camping typically includes activities like hiking and swimming, outdoor games like volleyball or playing catch, and even something as simple as shuffleboard. These activities get people out in nature, help you unplug from those daily stressors and from technology, and get you moving.
Tent camping is not required to get these benefits. The Pauleys have a camper at Pleasant Hill throughout the summer and fall. Heather affectionately referred to their style of camping as “glamping.”
Even with the luxuries of a camper, Heather experiences the benefits of stress relief while being in nature.
The Pauleys started camping six years ago. “Before we started camping a lot we would take our boat out on the water for a day every so often,” Pauley said. “One day, we thought about how much fun it would be to stay out for a whole weekend. Ever since then, we’ve been hooked.”
Pauley’s favorite things about camping are centered around her family.
“It’s a whole weekend of family time with the kids,” she said. “It promotes togetherness. In a camper, the kids don’t have seperate rooms they can off to and sit on their phones. It’s one room, or we’re outside, boating or sitting around a campfire telling stories, and we’re spending really quality time together.”
The family’s busy schedules during the week also make for relaxation and stress relief while camping on the weekends.
“Since we’ve started camping, the biggest thing I notice is looking forward to the weekend,” said Pauley. “Once we get down there, we know it’s time to relax, de-stress and enjoy ourselves. It really energizes us for another busy week."
She said the biggest relief for her is the mental aspect of camping. “We have stressful lives, and when we’re camping, we don’t have everything going on around us anymore.”
Pauley recommends camping to anyone that needs to de-stress, re-energize and spend quality time with family members.
“It’s a place and time to get away with friends and family, get away from life’s hustle and bustle, and really enjoy the people around you.”