Do you ever get those days where it feels like the walls are closing in on you? You’re left with no room to think, let alone breathe, and it all just gets to be too much too fast. This happens to me a lot, especially when I’m under a lot of pressure or when I start overthinking the smallest things (which, let’s face it, happens all the time). When this starts to happen, I find the first chance I can get and take a walk.
My ideal preference is to take walks in the great outdoors. I am fortunate to live in an area with lots of county parks and I generally have my pick of the litter to choose from. It doesn’t have to be a long, time consuming walk or anything. It just has to calm down my nerves. One would think something as mundane and simple as walking would end up being a boring and fruitless venture. I disagree. There is so much more to taking a walk than it would seem.
First things first, I take a little stretch. I reach my arms to the sky and twist like a branch in the wind. Then I do a couple lunges to stretch out my hamstrings, and I am ready to go. Then comes the deep breathing. Have you ever noticed how automatic breathing is? I mean we all know that it’s one of those things that we do without thinking because, well, survival. But when I take the time to visualize my breathing and really focus on slowing it down, it is suddenly a completely different experience. My body begins to relax, inch by inch, until it eventually feels at peace. In my case it’s difficult to do for long periods of time (which is why I have yet to be successful at meditation) but even for just a short while it lessens my anxiety. It is also one of my techniques for regulating myself after panic attacks.
The walking part though, that’s the best part. When I go on a walk, I get my best thinking in. Not the normal kind of thinking I do (which would best be described as “worrying”) but the kind where I can sort out all those loose ideas running around in my head. I use that time, when my body is working hard and my senses are taking in all the new sights and sounds and smells, to really connect with my feelings. Often, when I’m faced with the daily challenges that social interactions bring, I move past rational feelings and emotions and rush straight to panic. My boss raised their voice at me? Time to run to the nearest bathroom and hide for a bit! My friend texted me in a slightly angry tone? I bet they suddenly hate me and I now have to slip into full on depression mode for the rest of the day! I realize I make light of these things, but in actuality they resonate deeper than they seem to. So when I’m walking, it’s the best time to rationally analyze those situations and figure out how to view them.
But let’s be real, not all of us have the time in our days to take a walk in the woods. On days when I simply don’t have that luxury, I instead take a few minutes and walk wherever I am. If I’m at work (I do a lot of standing without moving somedays) I make an effort to stretch at my station and walk around to help others whenever I can. If I’m in class and we get a ten-minute break, I run up a few flights of stairs to get my blood pumping. It may not give me the thinking time I need, but it does prove to be helpful.
Does walking help you? Please let me know if walking or other forms of exercise help you with your anxiety. Over and out my friends.