10 Suggestions for Staying Safe and Sane Outdoors During COVID-19

By: Martianne Stanger

“Stay home!”

I keep hearing and seeing these words everywhere during this time of the crazy COVID-19 virus and its fallout.

As anyone who has been reading my posts here at Signature Moms for any length of time might have gleaned, the great outdoors nourishes me. Being cooped up in my house or confined to my family’s relatively small yard for too long wreaks havoc on both my physical and emotional well being. I know I need to be prudent, but I also believe that getting outside for exercise, fresh air, and sunshine is key to healthy living—even during this time of pandemic.

So, out I go. But I do not do so with complete disregard for the times in which we are living.

Instead, I adapt my typical outdoor excursions with 10 guidelines for staying safe and sane:

1. Explore what’s out your front door

Many days, I simply walk out my front door and along the roads and areas near to our home. Local neighborhood roads and the woods and irrigation ditches that edge them tend to be less popular than established parks and recreation areas, so now is a prime time to explore them.

2. Stay regional

Sometimes the mental health of my family and I calls for a change of scenery. When this happens, we try to stay as local as we can, hopping into our minivan to hit a trail within 30 minutes of our home. For, most certainly, there are beautiful spots further afield, but, now is not a time for unnecessary long-distance driving and exploring. There are plenty of local areas to explore.

3. Choose less-popular trails and greenspaces

Caution tape has been wound around playgrounds for weeks and more and more parks and beaches are closing by the day, it seems.

Why?

Because with so many people out of school and work—and social distancing guidelines and directives having shuttered up other things—people are finally getting outside. Sadly, however, they are all too often congregating at the same locations.

Thus, it is a good idea to choose off-peak times for getting outside and to find off-the-beaten track trails and greenspaces. It can also be wise to drive on by any parking lot that seems overly full, selecting another location instead.

4. Check websites and Facebook pages before heading out

Our family has been finding that a trail or park that is open one day closes suddenly the next. Thus, to avoid the frustration of driving up to a closed parking lot or trailhead, I have now taken to checking the websites and Facebook pages of favorite conservation groups and towns before heading out.

Let me save you some trouble in doing so by letting you know that, as of this writing, Audubon properties, beach-side state parks, Duxbury beach, Plymouth recreational areas, and more have all been closed for the time being.

5. Go to the bathroom before departure

In order to help avoid the spread of COVID-19, parks and trailheads that remain open often have their bathrooms closed. Thus, it is a good idea to go to the bathroom right before leaving your house and, also, to keep a children’s potty seat lined with a plastic bag in your car in case of emergencies. That way, your children can relieve themselves if they must.

6. Keep a plastic bag handy for trash

Many parks and recreational areas have long encouraged a carry in, carry out policy, but, now, even those that once offered trash cans as a convenience are removing them. Keeping a stash of recyclable plastic shopping bags in your car can certainly come in handy for collecting your own trash and getting it home to your own bin.

7. Avoid high-risk outdoor activities

Basketball, frisbee, flag football, and the like are all no-go’s lately and, at least for my kids, just walking can get boring. Thus, some of my children are prone to becoming extra daring when out in the woods. I keep reminding them—and myself—that we can adventure, but we also need to avoid taking excess risks. Now is not a time to land ourselves in an ER taxing already taxed medical staff nor is it a time to give first responders any extra work to attend to.

Exercise is vital. Daring do is not.

8. Practice good hand hygiene and don’t touch your face

The CDC has stated that one sound defense against COVID-19—and so many other things— is washing your hands for 20 seconds with good, old-fashioned soap and water and another is not touching your face.

The latter can be a hard habit for some to break, so if it is for you, a mask or bandana wrapped can help, so can a strong smelling scent on your hands.

For the former (washing hands) since many public bathrooms are closed and even when they are not, you may not wish to use them, it is wise to use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in it after touching things outside and before reaching to re-enter vehicles and homes.

9. Distance, but don’t forget to smile or wave

As with any public space, when you’re out on trails and in parks, keeping distance from others outside your immediate family is important at this unprecedented time, so do cross to the other side of a trail or space as need be, announce you are coming when heading around a sharp turn, etc. However, do also remember we are all human and connection of some sort can be healing. Smile, wave, say hello at a distance. Be kind, considerate, and encouraging. That can do wonders for the spirit!

10. If you have any symptoms, wait

As much as I love getting outside—and, especially, being in the woods or near water—I know that now is not the time to dismiss symptoms as “probably allergies,” “just a cold,” “been eating and sleeping poorly,” etc.

In the interest of keeping everyone as safe and sane as possible, if you’ve been feeling physically off, simply wait to see how things do or don’t develop before heading out.

I hope that these 10 guidelines can help you enjoy outdoor fun with prudence and delight during this crazy time in history!


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