Self-Care Tips from Women of the Outdoors
If you’re heading into the great outdoors for the holiday weekend, it’s worth taking a moment to think ahead. Yes, you need to remember water and sunscreen — but today we’re talking about a different kind of prep: taking a moment to think about how to get the recharge you’re looking for from nature, whether that’s serious adventure, the ultimate digital detox, or just a little change of scenery.
We asked four women from three different countries how they keep themselves happy, healthy, and glowing while encountering new terrain — literally and physically. These impressive ladies shared a few self-care tips while inspiring us to use this weekend to get active and explore.
Packing for success
Photo: Blair Ryan
Jen Hanson, Executive Director of Connected in Motion, works to facilitate and guide outdoor programming to make the backcountry accessible to people with type 1 diabetes. She loves hiking, paddling and surfing in places like the Chilkoot Range in Alaska — but Jen dedicates a lot of time to preparing for adventures and thinking through each step.
Although packing for backcountry exploration requires paring down to the absolute minimum, Jen does a fun activity with her groups where each person decides on a single “luxury” item that they can bring along — something that’s not a “necessity” but would brighten up a rough day on the trail, like a single bag of fancy breakfast tea.
“Mine is always disposable face wipes,” she says. “I’ll sometimes break them out halfway through a trip and share them with the group, and we’ll do a face-wipe competition to see who ends up with the dirtiest wipe. Gross, but it’s the best feeling ever!”
Skin and body care
Kareemah Batts, who founded Adaptive Climbing Group in 2012 after her partial leg amputation, echoes Jen’s passion for a biodegradable face wipe. She uses them to clean her skin and the liner of her prosthesis when she’s climbing, camping, or otherwise venturing outside her home in Brooklyn.
“I also try to keep my skin always in a state of healing and lubrication by using raw shea butter and sometimes bacitracin to heal my skin,” Kareemah adds. “For my face, I do the same, especially in the winter during ice climbing.”
Emily Wilson, a competitive adventurer and educator from New Zealand, can be found getting dropped by a helicopter into remote fiords to do work for the national Department of Conservation. She also makes her own deodorant!
“I mix aloe vera, coconut oil, arrowroot, baking soda and an essential oil like lavender, and I take a little container of that out with me when I venture out on a trip.” So if you’re hiking this weekend, think about which of your favorite scents could inspire a follow-up DIY project that keeps that outdoor vibe going back at home.
The ladies emphasize the value of establishing a sunscreen routine while outside or at home.
“I cover up as best I can with a mineral sunscreen as I’m fair with freckles,” Emily says. “I use pure zinc on my nose and sometimes my lips, as that’s the only thing that will stop them from burning.”
Washing it all off is also important to do — even in the backcountry! Jen looks forward to starting and ending her day by splashing ice-cold water from the nearby river or lake on her face.“
I love having access to cold running streams to wash the day’s sweat, dust, and leftover sunscreen off at the end of a long hike, and I carry a biodegradable or natural shampoo bar with me to help cleanse.”
Thinking outside the box — outdoors or at home
Mental health is a critical component of self-care, and it can feel overwhelming to remember to nourish that part of ourselves along with everything else on a list. But everyone agrees: simple acts can be much more effective than we might realize, even if you’re staying home this weekend.
For Lauren Samuels, a former U.S. ski team racer and full-time graduate student, that means rethinking how multi-tasking and breaks fit into her daily routine.
“Weirdly, brushing my teeth in the shower makes me feel productive while being able to relax — it also lets me take a longer shower!”
Lauren adds that when she’s crammed for time, the outdoors is still her oasis — but it doesn’t have to mean an elaborate, well-planned trip.
“Getting out for a ten-minute walk in the morning air or sitting outside to do my morning studying helps me feel rejuvenated.”
Find screen time breaks
Lauren, Jen, and Kareemah are based in big cities, but their hearts remain in the outdoors. They all acknowledge that disconnecting with technology and connecting with the things that make them happy are really important steps in a healthy routine.
“Doing something outside forces me to step away from the computer, phone or emails and let my mind focus on a trail run or a technical mountain bike trail,” Lauren says. “I also have a heightened appreciation for walk or bike commuting. Living in Seattle has made it easier to walk and bike to pretty much anything I need.”
Kareemah brings all of her experiences outside back to the things she loves the most: sunrises, sunsets, spending time with people she cares about.
“I don’t care if I’m just walking in the woods. I don’t care if I’m on the South Williamsburg pier, sitting on a bench. Being outside is my favorite,” she says. “It’s therapy.”
Going on a solo hike may not sound appealing to an extrovert (and nature can challenge even the most dedicated “type A personality”) but there’s value in outdoor spaces that offer moments of silence and alone time.
Emily describes how knowing herself, and what she needs, can present a paradox of sorts:
“Being a high-achieving, highly strung person I have gravitated towards the outdoors from a young age. It was the place where I could decompress and quiet my active mind or solve problems in my head.
“I love meeting new people, but because so many of my jobs involve lots of people, it is nice sometimes to just be by myself.”
Focusing on the big picture
All of the women we spoke with have a passion for advocacy and action, whether in conservation, diversity and inclusion, building community, or making the outdoors more accessible. It takes resilience to manage all of the energy that goes into these efforts, as Lauren knows from her work on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
“I hope ski racing can become a more diverse sport that is inclusive and welcoming to all, Lauren says. “I also know the reality that diversity and inclusion initiatives will not make noticeable change overnight, or even in a few years.
“There are times when I get exhausted and burnt out, but I take a few steps back, and redirect. I remind myself the work and energy I am putting into these efforts isn’t for me, it’s for the next generation, and that helps me to find the energy to continue the conversation. I get excited by helping others and that keeps my flame burning.”
So if you’re headed outside this weekend, remember to pack reusable water bottles, plan ahead to carry out any trash, stop by a ranger station to learn about endangered flora and fauna and think about how you can get involved, through small steps or big actions, to preserve the outdoors as a haven for us all.