You’ve just completed a long-distance hike where you enjoyed some of the most exciting days of your life. Now you are back home and it suddenly hits you – it’s all over. Gone are the days of solitude, being connected with nature, and wearing your hiking backpack.
Welcome back to the stressful world of responsibilities. This sudden change may lead to a decrease in motivation and a loss of interest in what you used to enjoy. You might be feeling lost, without a sense of purpose, and nostalgic. This is called ‘’post-trail depression’’ and nearly every hiker goes through it upon returning home. But, some tips may help you fight the negative post-hike feelings.
What Causes Post Trail Depression
According to Cory Nyamora, an endurance sports coach and licensed clinical psychologist, the feelings of depression are expected in the post-hike period. It has been proven many times that nature improves our mental health. Those who go on long hikes become accustomed to being connected with nature daily. Such an abrupt change from daily exercise to a sedentary lifestyle does your brain and your body no good. There are several reasons why you are experiencing post-hike depression symptoms:
Responsibilities and Financial Factors
For months, you used to spend days reconnecting with nature. Your life was directed toward one huge goal. Now you have different tasks and problems to solve. You might have difficulty finding a job. You may be struggling to make ends meet. There may also be unfinished tasks or dependents to care for. Hiking life is not without struggle, but choosing a hiking thermos and what hiking sunglasses to get will seem much simpler than the numerous obligations of the ‘’real world’’.
Your mood might go up and down since you are not getting the same amount of endorphins from hiking all day. You will become less active, especially if you have an office-bound job. This means you will not be burning the same amount of calories so you should adopt a reasonable diet. Staying mobile is not an option if you are returning home because of an injury. The transition from hiking all day to not moving most of the day can be very frustrating, making you experience the symptoms of post-trail depression.
Family/Friendship Transition & Personal Factors
Your friends and family might be giving you all their love and support, but the people you experienced the good and the bad sides of hiking are no longer within walking distance. Your loved ones may not be able to fully comprehend the post-hike depression you are dealing with now, which may give you hard times. Also, you will likely look at the world differently after having spent so long in the wild and may crave trying out some of the best hikes in the world. All these transitions may make you feel like a puzzle piece that no longer fits in the old picture.
How To Deal With Post Trail Depression
Becoming aware that the transition may be difficult is the first step to overcoming post-hike depression. It is important to know that it may take several months to readjust, so give yourself plenty of time. In the meantime, you could take some steps advised by thru-hikers to relieve the negative feelings:
- Most hikers say that one thing that helps enormously is staying in touch with their fellow hikers. The full-time hiking lifestyle can make you feel isolated off-trail, according to Nyamora. That is why it is essential to surround yourself with people who truly get the feeling you’re dealing with. For many, this means being connected to their trail family and talking about those great days in your backpacking sleeping bags.
- According to a hiker who has done the PCT and the John Muir Trail, seeing her hiking shoes made her feel bad once she was not able to walk all day. Her advice is not dwelling on the past and avoiding things that may remind you of your trip.
- Many thru-hikers start new creative projects once they come back home. Taking up a new hobby also helps with the symptoms of post-hike depression. For example, taking up photography using a hiking camera may help you stay observant of what’s happening around you, just like when you’re on the trail. Besides, creating a project to edit when you get back home can occupy your thoughts once post-trail depression hits you.
- Exercising will give you feel-good endorphins, keeping both your body and your mind feeling good. Staying active is the best distraction since it contributes to your overall health. Hit the gym, take up yoga, rock climbing, or paddling, or go for a run a few days a week. If that doesn’t seem to help, you could always put on a hiking shirt and go on a day hike.
- Having a goal can significantly ease the symptoms of post-hike depression. This could be anything from a career change and more education, to planning a hike or buying new water shoes for hiking. Keeping your mind distracted and excited is one of the best ways to battle the negative post-hike feelings.
- You may be thinking you are ready for a new hike but your body most likely needs some rest. Instead of trying to do a longer hike once again, try shorter hiking routes or even day hikes. There are many great hiking trails in the USA. Such trips may help you experience the excitement without being too hard on your body.
Globo Surf Overview
Long-distance hikes may be the most amazing days of your life. However, the truth is you must eventually return home where things are a lot more hectic. Most hikers experience the negative feelings of ‘’post-trail depression’’.
But, doing certain things can make it easier to cope with them, such as reconnecting to your trail family, exercising, or keeping yourself focused on a new goal. It is important to keep trying out new methods until you find what suits you best.
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- How to Ward Off Post Trail Depression, youradventurecoach.com