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  1. #1
    Registered User TNjed's Avatar
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    Default Anxiety on the trail

    When I was a young man I could throw everything in a sack and be gone for any amount of time in the woods, as I was pretty much raised in the woods. But, as i started getting older, I started to experience anxiety on the trail. Nothing has ever happened to me on the trail, so I'm not sure where this problem is coming from. The only way I can describe it would be that its like a panic attack, and I feel like I've just got to get the hell out of there. Like I say, I have done multiple days on the trail at a time, hiked all over, hunted , fished, and pretty much been outside my whole life, so I'm at a loss as to figuring this out. So my question is, does anyone else experience this? And, if so, what did you do to remedy it? I've tried shorter trips, less miles, all that, it is getting better, but I want it back to the way it used to be. I love the trail, the good, the bad, the aching feet and shoulders, everything. I feel like part of me is dwindling away and its harming the rest of my life I feel. Anybody got anything?
    can't never did

  2. #2
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    Xanax worked for me

  3. #3
    Registered User TNjed's Avatar
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    I tried valium, but it kind of leaves me weak feeling
    can't never did

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    Are you hiking alone? It could be that your just lonely and that's making you anxious... I know I feel it a bit the first few days each time I go out alone for some time after I've spent months in the grind of modern life with constant stimuli. I came to this conclusion when I realized the anxiety only came on when stopping for the night not when hiking or occupied with other activities.

    I find the best cure is just to think about what got you out there in the first place... and it gets easier the more you get used to being out there again just as your experiencing with your less committed hikes.

  5. #5

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    I think as we get a little older, we also realize the things that could go wrong - accidents, serious illness, illness of someone at home - and we know how serious that "could" be. I think that makes us worry more - having more family responsibility. I know I used to be a little more "carefree" before I had a child to worry about.

    One thing I have tried to do is to tell my family that if something does happen to me on the trail, that I was doing the thing I wanted to do, and I was happy doing it. I try to take all precautions for safety, and then I have to "let it go" so to speak. If I have problems sleeping (from anxiety), I will take something to help me sleep (Benedryl has the added attraction that it helps with allergy problems, is over the counter, and also relieves any itching from bites or poison ivy). Once I'm asleep, I pretty much sleep thru the night and wake up feeling "OK" about everything.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for raising this, I experience substantial anxiety when hiking long distances, I still remember the first time I felt it, about 10am the day I hiked north from Atkins, VA back in 1995...man, it hit me like a truck, my first real panic attack. It has happened since and I have noticed some trends with it. I might add that under no circumstances have I ever taken medication to deal with it, but everyone needs to make that decision for themselves. These days I am more open to taking something, particulary around getting to sleep, but I haven't as of yet. I must also say, like most anxiety issues, they always pass.

    I can 100% identify with your 'I need to get the hell outta here' feeling, it's happened to me dozens of times, and a few times I did get out of there, in some cases it was the end of my hike, in other cases it passed. For me, nothing cures anxiety better than confidence and sunshine, thankfully I can control one of those things! What I have noticed with anxiety attacks is that they are at their worst when I'm starting a trip, some people get cold feet, others get a little nervous, I'm nearly paralyzed in some cases. I expect this and I plan for it to occur, so when it does arrive, and it will...I'm already waiting for it and it doesn't catch me by surprise - this in itself helps alot I find.

    However, sitting in your tent in the rain going through an anxiety attack? That's gonna be a long night if you don't have some strategies. I would explore some breathing patterns or other activites that calm you down. Distractions are worthwhile, a book, game or whatever, I would not deal with this by drinking alcohol or taking strong drugs, ultimately this will make it worse next time and it's just a temporary fix. A sleeping pill might be a good idea however. I agree with Dilliard about it coming on when stopped for the day, for me that's 90% of anxiety attacks...sitting around camp doing nothing. For me that's dangerous.

    It's funny cause for many years I've been told that I'm hiking too far, that I can't be having fun cause I hiking 25 mile days, etc...And I always laugh, my discomfort is not in hiking 25-30 mile days, my discomfort in sitting around camp at 4pm going stircrazy. I start walking, everything usually falls into place. But let it be known, anxiety is like nothing else...it can literally paralyze a person mentally to the point where they cannot function, make a decision, even speak sometimes, it's not talked about enough openly.

    Put a hiker on an exposed ridge, in 30 mph winds during a rainstorm, 9 miles from a shelter, now throw in a serious panic attack...that's a rough situation to get though. But like most things, experience helps quite a bit. For me, anxiety usually departs on day 3-4 of a hike, the first day being the worst, then tapering off. By day 4 it's like, "oh yeah this again, hiking for a month, I remember this" I would love to hear other peoples stories as well!

    Thanks again for raising this.

  7. #7
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    I had a bad panic attack 2 years ago in CT. 2nd day on the trail out of Salisbury. Left the trail and my wife picked me up. Felt like ***** leaving the trail. Come to find out 2 days later I had a serious medical problem come up. Have not hiked since then until now. 2 weeks ago I went on a 3 day with my friend and had a great time! Rained for 2 days, met lots of Thru-hikers and broke my toe! Can't wait to go back out in October! So maybe having someone with me helped not having one. Also knowing what my medical condition is helps too.

  8. #8
    Registered User TNjed's Avatar
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    yeah its not the hiking at all that bothers me, in fact thats the part that is soothing, the rhythm maybe you know. Thank y'all so much, I was beginning to feel really bad about myself, like I'd lost a piece of me, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one and this isn't all together uncommon. I was talking to my girlfriend on beauty spot the other day about this. I was telling her that I think it is the lack of stimuli. I am a chef and work 60- 70 hours a week pretty regular, and then when I come home its water the garden, water the bonsai, cut the grass, cook dinner, feed and play with the dog. Same for everyone I guess. I guess the abrupt stop of all that leaves me with a strange feeling of what the hell am I supposed to do when I get to camp. I was going to take a frisbee or something but I forgot it.
    can't never did

  9. #9

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    I had a year-long bout with panic attacks years ago; never heard of them before so I was clueless what was happening. When a doc told me he suspected panic attacks I felt a little embarressed. So I just worked on it myself, never took any medication -- it's against my constitution. I still have little attacks today, but few and far between. Would recommend meditation over medication any day.

    If your panic attacks are anything like mine they are accompanied by heart palpatations and very weak feeling, especially in the legs and an overwhelming sense of doom. I would have never guess that such pronounced physical symptoms would be possible in a non-physical malady.

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    Everyone is different but I get stressed after months of working in my job. When I go to the trail I get a feeling of peace and relaxation. To me it is a "de-stress" condition to be hiking.

  11. #11
    Registered User TNjed's Avatar
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    Yep, real weak feeling, tired, sick to my stomach, even a little dizzy at times, I've even thrown up at times, for NO reason, I just feel like ****!!, I've got to bail. I'm really glad I asked about this
    can't never did

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trailweaver View Post
    I think as we get a little older, we also realize the things that could go wrong - accidents, serious illness, illness of someone at home - and we know how serious that "could" be. I think that makes us worry more - having more family responsibility. I know I used to be a little more "carefree" before I had a child to worry about.

    One thing I have tried to do is to tell my family that if something does happen to me on the trail, that I was doing the thing I wanted to do, and I was happy doing it. I try to take all precautions for safety, and then I have to "let it go" so to speak. If I have problems sleeping (from anxiety), I will take something to help me sleep (Benedryl has the added attraction that it helps with allergy problems, is over the counter, and also relieves any itching from bites or poison ivy). Once I'm asleep, I pretty much sleep thru the night and wake up feeling "OK" about everything.
    Quote Originally Posted by jbwood5 View Post
    Everyone is different but I get stressed after months of working in my job. When I go to the trail I get a feeling of peace and relaxation. To me it is a "de-stress" condition to be hiking.
    I'm not arguing with you'll, but there's a world of difference between an anxiety/panic attack vs. stress. It is an actual malady, separate from simple stress. http://www.medicinenet.com/panic_disorder/article.htm

    In my case I never had a panic attack during a stressful situation and I've had my fair share of stress in the Navy. It always came about all of a sudden out of no where. Many times were just when I was relaxed laying around. However, I handle stress really good and in my job that was a necessity and, I believe, a very good reason for me to get a handle on this vice drugging up.

  13. #13
    Registered User TNjed's Avatar
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    stress is a rainstorm, anxiety/panic attack hits you like a ton of bricks while you're laughing with your friend
    can't never did

  14. #14

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    Could be related to a medical condition - might be worth having it checked out by professionals. I'm not a doctor, but I play one on the internet...
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  15. #15

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    I always keep Ray Jardine's solution to everything in the back of my mind: Just keep moving. So if I'm lonely or feeling uneasy, Just keep moving. Cold? Just keep moving. Insufficient gear for the weather? Just keep moving.

    Also, a journal helps me a lot. I can write in my journal as if I'm talking to someone and I feel a lot less lonely. I solo hiked the entire PCT and didn't join a group of other people and hiked outside the herd and my journal was one way I was able to deal with the kind of loneliness that might lead one's mind to start thinking things that could lead to a panicked feeling.

    The only time I get really panicky is at high altitude. I just do not like the high passes in the Sierras. I get up there and it feels like I'm on Mars and I'm the only living thing in all the world and I get a panic feeling in my soul. The only thing I can think is, "I gotta get outta here." It runs through my head like a screaming train. Get outta here now! I've tried really hard to like the high sierra but I just don't like it at all. So now I try to accept that this is how I feel up there and I just remind myself to keep moving until I get to the trees where I will usually perk up, feel like the black cloud of doom is lifting and feel happy again. Happy enough to hug the trees!
    Some knew me as Piper, others as just Diane.
    I hiked the PCT: Mexico to Mt. Shasta, 2008. Santa Barbara to Canada, 2009.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    I'm not arguing with you'll, but there's a world of difference between an anxiety/panic attack vs. stress. It is an actual malady, separate from simple stress. http://www.medicinenet.com/panic_disorder/article.htm

    In my case I never had a panic attack during a stressful situation and I've had my fair share of stress in the Navy. It always came about all of a sudden out of no where. Many times were just when I was relaxed laying around. However, I handle stress really good and in my job that was a necessity and, I believe, a very good reason for me to get a handle on this vice drugging up.
    Thanks for the info. I had no idea. It seems like a brain malfunction.... perhaps like psychosis?

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNjed View Post
    yeah its not the hiking at all that bothers me, in fact thats the part that is soothing, the rhythm maybe you know. Thank y'all so much, I was beginning to feel really bad about myself, like I'd lost a piece of me, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one and this isn't all together uncommon. I was talking to my girlfriend on beauty spot the other day about this. I was telling her that I think it is the lack of stimuli. I am a chef and work 60- 70 hours a week pretty regular, and then when I come home its water the garden, water the bonsai, cut the grass, cook dinner, feed and play with the dog. Same for everyone I guess. I guess the abrupt stop of all that leaves me with a strange feeling of what the hell am I supposed to do when I get to camp. I was going to take a frisbee or something but I forgot it.
    Might need to simplify your life some, work less, ect. I have been getting rid of things for years, and now I barely own anything, and love it. Everything we have requires maintenance, replacement, so own less and have more time for yourself. I am waiting on a company to call me for a pretty good job, so I go hiking at local parks every other day or so, tweaking my gear setup, getting in workouts, ect. I live in Smyrna, which isn't too far from you. Long Hunter and Stones River Battlefield have a few cool trails. The battlefield really only has one that interconnects, it is close to my house though, so I generally go there.

    I wouldn't even work this job if I didn't have a huge amount of student loans to pay off, I would probably barely work, as I don't spend a lot and prefer my time to be my own.

  18. #18

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    Anxiety-panic really plays on the mind, once you've them you are constantly wondering when and where the next one will come. You have to face those fears, embrace the panic and know that it will soon pass. The more a person can accomplish this the sooner they will eventually go away or at worse when you feel them coming on you can talk yourself out of them with positive thoughts.
    Don't Die Before You've Had A Chance To Live!

  19. #19
    Section Hiker, 625 miles & counting mooseboy's Avatar
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    I've never had a full-fledged panic attack on the trail, in fact I'd never had real ones until a few weeks ago (in my own apt., and my own city) which took me totally by surprise. I thought

    However, in the past, I've had some moments on the AT that came close to anxiety or panic. As others here have experienced, mine were almost ALWAYS when I was settling down for the evening or sitting around a shelter or campsite doing nothing. Usually this was during the first 3 days of a long hike. While doing the actual hiking, I've felt a lot of discomfort, hunger, slight dehydration at times, but never the level of anxiety I would sometimes feel while simply waiting around a shelter for night to fall. Ray Jardine's mantra of "just keep moving" would certainly seem to apply here.

    The hiking felt good; it was the resting that brought on the problems. Most annoying of all the symptoms was my lack of appetite, since I'd been exerting myself heavily and needed to keep fueling my body, but eating during these times was like force-feeding. However, I found that shortly after eating, even with no appetite, I'd start to feel better again. Don't know if the food connection works for other folks, but I've had some success with it. I personally feel it's best to avoid medication while hiking unless absolutely necessary (not counting Ibuprofen, of course).
    --There is always more uphill.

  20. #20
    Registered User jabroni's Avatar
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    I have dealt with panic/anxiety attacks for over 20 years. I deal with it by focusing my mind elsewhere until it passes. It took awhile to master this, but this method usually works within 15 minutes, but sometimes can take longer. It certainly helps to understand what it is and that itself can calm you down. If it happens during the night I take a sleeping pill and read until I can fall asleep.

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