Could This Be the Secret to Reducing Stress?

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Today was one of those days when I was struggling. I had a bunch of work I needed to get done, I wanted to do a long workout to make up for not working out at all yesterday, I had cooking to do to prep for the next few days and Meadow just wanted to play with me. It’s so easy to write off these kinds of days—and I know all us parents have them—and just assume we will find moments to connect tomorrow.  But, today Meadow was my teacher. We came back from a walk and she said, “Let’s find some pieces of nature, Mommy.”  

So, we did. We went into the front yard. We crawled over rocks, looked under trees, hopped over puddles. At each spot, we collected leaves and sticks, and rocks. We looked at color and texture. We found unusual shapes and unexpected angles. We delighted over a particularly shiny pink-ish pebble. We exclaimed at the brightness of the colors on the leaves. And as we found each treasure we put it in a box.  

Spending that time outdoors with her shifted my entire day. I was reminded, once again of the groundbreaking and amazing work of Pediatrician Nooshin Razani, MD who is prescribing nature to kids as part of her practice. If you haven’t heard of her work, check out this UCSF article or her amazing Ted Talk.  Being in nature helps with anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress and so many other issues that so many children face.  

Particularly, right now in the face of a pandemic, kids and adults alike are facing huge feelings of isolation and overwhelm. My family is very privileged to be able to access nature whenever we want and we talk a lot about how for many kids, that is not an option and we need to work hard to ensure that children in the future all have access to the beauty that surrounds us in California and beyond.  

We finished our collection process with a new sense of ease and smiles. I wasn’t looking at my watch or checking my email. I was just out there observing, seeing, noticing with Meadow.  

We came inside and Meadow carefully arranged each item on a piece of plain white paper with the detailed eye like you would expect to see on reality TV shows with celebrity designers. Each item had a specific place it needed to be placed. As I watched her work, and she consulted me on my thoughts, I couldn’t help but admire the ease she found in creating balance with the objects. The stick bends one way, so she found a leaf that bent the other way. The rock was pointy, so she found something round to balance it.  

It occurred to me that maybe part of the reason that nature relieves stress is because it is by definition, in balance. There is nothing that needs to be changed or switched. Every item in nature is placed exactly as it should be. As we work to destress and declutter our lives, maybe all we really need to do is look outside more often and find the masterpieces in plain sight. 



Nina Meehan is CEO and Founder Bay Area Children's Theatre and the host of the Creative Parenting Podcast. An internationally recognized expert in youth development through the arts, Nina nurtures innovation by fostering creative thinking. She is mom to Toby (13), Robby (10) and Meadow (5).