Stressed? Go outside.

Michael Martinez

Enchanted Rock, Pedernales Falls, Pace Bend Park and McKinney Falls are only a handful of the dozens of camping sites around Austin. These places offer an opportunity to relax, reconnect and revitalize.

Not only are there camping sites throughout the Austin area, but they’re also made accessible by the University of Texas’s Outdoor Rental Program. This program allows students to rent camping necessities ranging from tents to sleeping bags to stoves. An effective way to boost mental health, RecSports needs to advertise this program in partnership with the Counseling and Mental Health Center. Through informational tabling and website reminders, the CMHC and RecSports can highlight their Outdoor Rental Program as a viable option in combating mental illness.

Because of the high-stress environment and city setting the University of Texas offers, the mental health of students is often at risk. A study on city living found people in densely populated environments are 39 percent more likely to develop mood disorders and 21 percent more likely to develop anxiety. Students living near the University of Texas in Austin are especially vulnerable to these effects.

According to a Spring 2017 study, more than forty percent of students attending the University of Texas reported experiencing above-average stress. Almost half of the students reported feeling consistently tired and fatigued. Without the opportunity to escape the tedious routines of college, it’s difficult for students to find time for their mental health.

Fortunately, the benefits of the outdoors are especially relevant to overworked college students. A 2018 study correlates outdoor experiences with decreased blood pressure, decreased cortisol levels and an increased sense of well-being. “Whenever I go camping,” said Erica McCormick, Plan II, and environmental science junior, “I always feel refreshed and rejuvenated.”

Spending time in nature is listed on the CMHC’s self care page. However, no resources are listed to assist students in this pursuit. The RecSports Outdoor Rental program offers students a unique opportunity to not only improve mental health but escape the triggers that cause them. A partnership between the two would give students the resources to take personal steps in securing their mental health.

“I never even knew UT offered camping supplies,” said government sophomore Foster Staff.  “Me and my friends have been trying to organize a camping trip for months.” Whether students want to appreciate the outdoors or improve their well-being, RecSports and the CMHC could better establish the relationship between the two.

“It’s easy to lose myself in my commitments and problems,” said advertising junior Blake Tyndall. “In nature, I separate myself from all those worries and find time for myself.”

Finding time for yourself is integral to maintaining mental health. Next time you have some free time, stop by RecSports, rent out a hammock and smell life’s roses — literally.

Martinez is a Plan II and government junior from Austin.