I think if you know me, it comes as no surprise that I struggle with anxiety. However, this past winter, my anxiety gremlin turned into the questioning of safety and I found myself hiding more and more, leaving the house less and less.
Anxiety is an odd one for me, as it starts with almost a welcoming feeling – ‘Here, put your brain to work on this’, ‘you’re needed, who else will worry about this?’, but once in the grips of anxiety, it takes over my life. I didn’t want to leave my home, I didn’t want to take care of myself. For months I lived like this until I got up the nerve to go to the Doctor. I went hoping that there was something chemically wrong with me – hopes of a thyroid issue, a b12 issue, anything. But when the bloodwork came back, I was perfectly healthy, and because of the way our health system work, my doctor wasn’t able to help me, other than to tell me to cut back on coffee and to call the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that is available to me through Ian’s work. Sigh. Like it wasn’t difficult enough just making a call to my regular doctor, someone I’ve known for over 20 years.
I had every intention of calling the EAP, but I never did get up the nerve. I would not recommend going it alone. In fact, I think not calling was the wrong decision for me, but alas, it is what I chose to do at the time.
Instead, I started walking. I didn’t want to – in fact, my body sometimes screamed at me for going out and about on my own, but I did it anyway. Little walks just down the street to this little pond. As these walks grew in length, so did my confidence. And slowly my mind began to settle back into its normal rhythm. The anxiety is still there, but now it’s just an echo reminding me of difficult times, rather than a full scream.
Some studies have shown that there is an over a 12% decrease in cortisol, a hormone that shows up when you are under stress when you go for a walk in nature (Nature and Forest Therapy.org), other’s have shown an increase in short-term memory after spending time in a forest/natural area (Business Insider “Why Spending More Time Outside is Health”). For me, I can say that both have been true. Getting outside, moving my body and regulating my breath has been part of my routine, and with this habit came a calmer and more productive mind.
This habit wasn’t an easy one to pick up. Often, even now I have moments of dread when I first tie up my walking shoes, where I can easily talk myself out of even leaving the house if I let myself, but by creating my own objectives/goals/motivation, walking outside, in nature, has become part of my every-day routine.
Creating walking goals has been my greatest motivation in walking daily. On days where the fear, stress, and anxiety may just be too much, having little daily goals is enough to at least get me to walk out the door. There are 2 apps that I rely on to create these goals, they are:
- Map My Walk This app will help you track your speed and your distance, and it also occasionally has little challenges. I’m currently participating in 1019 in 2019, where my goal is to walk 1019km this calendar year. I’m known to brag that I’m in the top 8% of the 230,000 people participating!
- StepBet When a little more motivation is needed, I’ll put a little skin in the game and bet on myself in StepBet! For $40 USD, you get 6 weeks of step goals, and at the end of the bet, if you met your goals you split the pot between all others that finish the bet. It isn’t much money that you ‘win’, but the $40 is too much for me to pass up, and I am for sure not losing out on that!
When we moved, both Ian and I found ourselves in unfamiliar territory. There are actual farms across the street from us! And while I used to think I would enjoy the country, this move has awakened a love of the city in me. Luckily, living up here means we get the bonus of both worlds! Finding new walks, however, was a little difficult.
- Google Maps In all seriousness, some of the best walks have been found, by just scrolling around in Google Maps. New to us ponds, forested areas, and trails were all found by poking around in Maps.
- All Trails I was newly introduced to this app. With users rating walks on difficulty and allowing for them to comment, All Trails has been helpful in locating places we wanted to explore.
I work from home, often I’m on my own for my walks, but finding ways to be with someone during my walks OR feeling like I am, has had a great calming effect on me.
- An Actual Walking Buddy: This summer, my walking buddy has mostly been my husband and partner in crime. Then one night we were talking about all the walks we’ve taken, and our friends were jealous! So, we started and WhatsApp Group so we were able to post when/where we’d be walking, ask if anyone wanted to join us & post photos (to spark more jealously ;P). Having a buddy not only gives you someone to talk to while out and about, having a buddy can keep you consistent! Who wants to let their friend down, when you have a walk scheduled?
- Podcasts: Now that I am on my own again during the days, my walking buddies have become my 2 fav podcasts:
- The Balanced Life with Robin Long all about clean living, living a balanced life & what you don’t do, because we can’t do it all. Robin and her guests bring such motivations, life tips and more.
- Beyond the Weight with Henny and Sandy, 2 friends chatting about life, travel and living a healthy life through eating well, running and more. Feels like you are just sitting down for coffee with your best friends!
While walking didn’t cure my anxiety, it did give me time away from the catastrophizing thoughts, time to breathe, and time to connect to my body, my thoughts, and when we go together, my husband.
How do you deal with the anxious moments in your life? Comment below with your go-tos to provoke calm in your day to day life!
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