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Column: Battling burn-out with a hike

Learning how to use the forest to escape from the stress of life in the city.

As most people prepared their gear for a long weekend camping trip or a few days of lounging around in the solace of an air-conditioned home last weekend, I tied my apron tighter and prepped myself for a weekend full of work at a café in Calgary. 

Working two jobs keeps you busy. Burn-out is not something talked about nearly enough, but I believe it is felt very deeply by many people within our community. 

Personally, my burn-out often goes unacknowledged by myself. Each week, I push myself even further to take on more shifts, regardless of how many 16-hour days I’ve already punched that week, telling myself I don’t feel the exhaustion that is bound to set in. 

After a while, life just becomes work. My apartment goes unswept, my clothes unwashed, and my friends unseen. I slowly retreat into a pattern of work and sleep, losing all energy to partake in the activities that bring me joy and fill my life with happiness. 

Naturally, it begins to feel like a long and dark tunnel with no light at the end. 

These weeks are the toughest to find the motivation to put my best foot forward. To kick my recent funk, I decided to literally step forward and treat myself to an impromptu hike in Canmore on Monday, after finishing a long shift serving coffee to hundreds of tired Calgarians. 

Hiking has always been one of my favourite pastimes. Lacing up my boots and filling my hydro pack with water completely fills me with excitement. My camera as my only companion, the quiet trails help clear my mind. 

Although my Monday evening hike only lasted three hours, it ignited a spark that my nearly dim fire needed. Being outside in the quiet, listening to the wind whistling through the trees, and enjoying the calm of being completely alone and away from city life reminds me that life is out there – you just have to step away from work and go find it. 

Before crossing a coursing river, I splashed in the ice-cold water, allowing my arms and face a brief reprieve from the over 30-degree Celsius day. The chilly water brought a smile to my face as I watched the clear mountain water trickle through my fingers. 

To top the day off, I stumbled across over 20 whitetail deer frolicking around the forest. I stood a safe distance away and watched in wonderment as the creatures jumped about and slowly grazed on the dry grass. 

Breathing in the clean mountain air one last time, I drove back to Calgary, slightly more prepared for another week of non-stop work. While on the road, I remind myself to escape to the trees more often, treating myself to a much-needed, mind-clearing day, to help me reset from the daily stresses of general life.

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