COVID-19 is an emotional roller coaster. It brings many emotions out in all who are involved. These emotions have such control over us during this time and can include anger, disbelief, optimism and acceptance.

One way to deal with these emotions for some can be exercise. Getting out and exercising can be a great tool to relax your mind and help your overall mental health during a time of uncertainty.

The Allegheny River Trail has been a God send to many. This trail has been busy since March as it is a resource for us to get out and remain safe from others during such uncertain times. I myself have used the trail more in the past 4 months than I ever had previously. Exercise was the outlet I needed to keep my emotions in check.

Life changed for me and many others in March; it took a very unexpected turn. The first thing that I decided was to be safe, to keep my family safe and to surely not make anyone else feel unsafe. I kept away from others, I wear my mask in public, and I have over-used my share of Purell and Clorox Wipes. The trail allowed me to maintain that safety. Walking with friends after a month of being alone, we still walked far apart and maintained a safe distance.

To be screamed at on the trail in recent days, has been something that a lot of people have had to deal with. Being accused of not following CDC guidelines is something that a lot of people take to heart and quite possibly allows the emotion of anger to come out. I have walked many miles on that trail and I have never felt unsafe or concerned that guidelines weren’t being followed. There are mask wearers and people without them. I speak to all who pass whether with a wave or a hello. I remain on the opposite side of the trail at all times and follow in a single file line when walking with more than one person.

Thus to be shouted at the other day that I was being unsafe stung like a slap in the face.

Many articles by the CDC as well as Americanhiking.com state that wearing masks while walking/running/biking, etc. isn’t necessary as long as you are keeping a safe distance. You’re not close to the person long enough. The CDC itself states that, “Maintain 6 feet apart as MUCH AS POSSIBLE in areas that may lead to close contact with others.”

While maintaining a safe distance is sensible, stopping your ride/walk/run to take down your mask and yell at others is not — the aerosols engendered by such shouting are far more likely to infect than passing another quickly outdoors at a distance of a few feet.

Safety comes first and kindness second. If you come across someone you feel is putting your safety at risk, by all means point out the risk, but do so with courtesy, kindness and compassion. This virus stresses us all, the last thing we need is for that stress to be multiplied by the unkindness of strangers. If you find yourself becoming stressed in circumstances where others with good reason feel safe, consider that your stress may be unreasonably self-induced and find more secluded spaces, rather than inflicting your stress on others.

(Jennifer Baldwin lives in Allegany.)

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