Reflect on self-care and wellness while exploring Spokane outdoors | Arts & Entertainment

As the 2022 spring semester continues into its sixth week and midterms approach, stress management becomes increasingly vital. A big part of stress management is knowing when and how to take mental health days — days devoted to resting and relaxing the mind and body — even when we don’t think that we need to. After all, it’s better to take care of yourself now than be forced to take an emergency mental health day later.

Mental health days look different for everyone. For one person, it might look like a day spent watching Netflix in their pajamas for hours. For another, it could be spent listening to their favorite music and taking periodic naps. For yet another, it could be spent doing nothing at all. Anything that allows a person to recharge their mental and emotional batteries can count.

Staying inside is not the only way to relax. A popular and cost-effective method of refreshing oneself is through exercise. According to the American Psychological Association, exercise can decrease levels of cortisol and epinephrine, hormones which cause stress. Luckily enough, the Rudolf Fitness Center on campus offers plenty of equipment for anyone looking to work out.

However, if working out in a gym is not appealing, your exercise could come in the form of a short walk through the nature of the Spokane area.

Consider these Spokane hikes (weather permitting) for your next mental health day:

For the moderately experienced hiker, there is the Antoine Peak Conservation Area Trail. Nine miles long roundtrip and with 732 feet in elevation gain, this trail boasts impressive views of Liberty Lake, Mount Spokane and the Selkirk Mountains. If you’re lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of the area’s local fauna.

Bowl & Pitcher in Riverfront State Park is a short 2.5-mile loop trail with truly impressive views of large basalt formations and the Spokane River. With access to the riverfront and picnic tables, there are plenty of places to stop and take in the scenery.

Iller Creek Conservation Area Trail is a five-mile-long loop trail through beautifully lush forest and a small section of ridgeline with commanding views of the Washington Palouse and the Selkirk Mountains. A popular feature of this trail is the Big Rocks (also known as the Rocks of Sharon), one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in Spokane.

Rimrock Conservation Area Palisades Park Loop Trail is a 2.9-mile beginner trail with very little elevation gain. With an incredible view of the downtown Spokane area and the greater Spokane River Valley, this is a great place to come if you want to see the sights that Spokane has to offer.

For those looking for a more curated natural experience, Manito Park is a public park that offers five separate gardens alongside a conservatory and a duck pond. This small park is a lovely place to relax and spend time with yourself. The park is open from 5:00 am to 11:00 pm daily.

If you don’t want to stray too far from campus, try walking the Centennial Trail. This short, paved trail goes straight from the Rudolf Fitness Center (RFC) into Riverfront Park and the heart of downtown Spokane. If the RFC is too far for your taste, feel free to walk the River Walk Loop Trail behind the Jundt Art Museum instead.

South Hill Bluff offers a wide variety of flat, easily-traversable beginner trails. With multiple trails continuing for 25 miles, you can walk for as long as you feel comfortable.

Unfortunately, seeking out relaxation is not the only important part of a good mental health day. Another vital piece is consciously acknowledging the stressors in your life and planning to resolve them in the future. Set reasonable, achievable goals. This can help make the stressful aspects of life more manageable.

Some commonplace activities can make your rest time less effective and even cause you more stress than before. When preparing a mental health day for yourself, here are a few things to minimize:

  • Time spent on social media: The use of social media can have an array of unwanted effects which can disrupt the relaxation that you are looking for.
  • Overeating unhealthy foods: Eating large amounts of unhealthy foods can lead to mood swings which can also disrupt your mental health day.
  • Sleep deprivation: This can also cause disruptive mood swings.

Whether you are staying on campus and hitting the gym, or taking advantage of a sunny day with a local hike, self-care and wellness days are important to sprinkle into your busy schedule. Taking care of your body starts with mental health.

Gwen Mitchell is a staff writer.