Parks Are Essential

March 26, 2020 by Brea Schmidt

My Mental Health Needs To Get Some Air

The anxiety came yesterday.

I had been saying to several people how surprised I was that it hadn’t snuck up on me yet during a time of such uncertainty… but yesterday it happened.

Maybe it was that one article I read.

Or that potential scenario I created in my head.

Or that uncomfortable nugget of news I heard from a neighbor.

Or the worry I felt over what this means for me as a business owner.

The reality is — while I know that it’s my responsibility to stay informed on the recommendations and mandates from authority as we navigate this thing to help protect all of our physical health — I am realizing that it’s going to be just as important for me to take care of my own mental health during this time of change and uncertainty.

Because while I am trying to come up with a schedule for my kids to maintain some sort of semblance of normalcy for THEM — this is also a great opportunity for me to have non-negotiable time in my daily schedule to use my tools to keep my mental health strong during a time that can be so triggering.

Many of you know that I named The Thinking Branch after this branch I used to go to when I was little. It was a place to which I retreated when I wanted to be alone, get centered, and just sit in the quiet of nature. Because nature IS — and has always been — a source of peace and comfort for me. And now is not a time to abandon that.

So today — I got OUTSIDE.

I gathered sticks with my kids and marveled at the different-colored rocks they were so proud to find.

Tomorrow I might grab a book and read it on my back porch.

And the next day I might throw a meditation in my headphones and sit on my back steps and feel the calm.

And after that maybe it’s a journal session on a blanket in my yard.

Because the reality is — life just feels strange right now. I don’t know how to feel. I’m looking to the experts on how my family and I should act day-to-day. I KNOW I have to give myself grace while committing to doing things that allow me to find some sort of center, pause and peace in the midst of all it.

And while “getting out of the house” looks a little different now … it’s not taking the kids to a playground, or a Saturday-morning soccer game, or a family day at the zoo … it CAN be a trip to my back porch or back yard or a safe-social-distancing trip to a park — to simply take some time to recenter. To calm my mind. To find the pause.

And ultimately, make sure my mental health is a priority too.


Brea Schmidt is a Pittsburgh-based speaker, photographer, and Iris-Award nominated writer who aims to generate authentic conversation about motherhood and daily life on her blog, The Thinking Branch Follow along with her messages of positivity and perspective on Facebook and Instagram .

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The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy believes that being outdoors and in the parks are a wonderful outlet if the stress and anxiety of the current situation is weighing heavily on you and your loved ones. Be sure to spend time outdoors to help decompress; explore a new trail, listen to the birds; read a book; play catch with your children. Be sure to follow all social distancing recommendations from the CDC and avoid surfaces where the virus can live such as handrails and playground equipment. And be sure to wash your hands when you get home.