Stressed Out? Go for A Walk!
I am like a lot of people in that my eating habits (and drinking habits…I love my wine!) are very much driven by my emotions. I work out regularly and that really does help keep me on track. Historically if I had a horrible day, I headed to the gym and I then I would feel fantastic! All those great endorphins, not to mention the huge stress release.
However, like most people, COVID tossed my world completely upside down! I am thankful that everyone in my life is healthy, but life has been stressful, unpredictable and downright boring at times. Not to mention, it has had a huge impact on my job. The quarantine here is New York has left many of us feeling very isolated. We have all been trapped in our houses, unable to socialize with friends, see family or do many of the things that have always been just part of our normal daily lives. My big excitement for the day became going out to the grocery store and hopefully finding stocked shelves …. or finding the ever-elusive paper towel! I knew I had hit an all time low when I was walking into Walmart and saw people coming out with toilet paper and got SO excited…my husband looked at me like “you didn’t win the lottery…. calm down!”
I have tried to maintain some routine, working out at home, eating sort of healthy, but let’s face it, I am eating the junk food too and drinking plenty of wine! None of which really helps the stress. Although it may feel good temporarily, many of us only beat ourselves up afterwards for eating too much or diving into that container of ice cream or for me that extra glass of wine that I did not need.
These are unprecedented times, so I tell myself and my clients, this is not the time to beat up on yourself. We have all just been trying to get through, all while staying healthy and sane! However, the more you can add in better ways of coping with stress, the more it will crowd out the bad ones.
I have a lot of friends who are really into yoga and meditation and I am true believer in their amazing benefits. I have tried both and have never been able to really stick with a practice for either. I always feel amazing after, but neither are something I really am motivated to do. I have a really hard time slowing down and in particular, “quieting my mind” – which I guess is why they call it a “practice.” But I know I am not alone in not being able to commit to this.
Since gyms, up until recently, have been closed, I started committing myself to a daily walk. Even if it was cold and I had to bundle up. It certainly is not the physical challenge I get from going to the gym or from my beloved Pilates, but mentally it has done the world for me! I tend to walk fast (typical New Yorker), so I am sure I am burning some calories and a little burst of endorphins is always a good thing. But it wasn’t necessarily how far I went or how fast I walked, the goal was just to get out of the house and move! It just feels good to move, to get some fresh air and to feel the sun on my face. I listen to some great tunes and just get lost in my own world.
Walking for me is like meditation – I can totally get lost in the moment and can actually clear my thoughts, when needed. Something I can’t seem to do with yoga or meditation. The other thing that walking really helps with, is that it allows me time (without distraction) to actually think about things. Whether it’s working out a problem or coming up with ideas, walking is my best time to do it. And in my own weird, type A personality…it is healthy multi-tasking! I work out my issues, spend time outside and get a bit of a workout all at the same time! I know that sounds a bit nuts, but it works for me.
The point being that I think we all have to find what works for us. I have spent years trying to make myself like yoga or meditation and it just does not work for me. I can’t say I will never do them or never enjoy them or that they will never one day be a part of my daily routine, but for right now walking has become my “meditation” – it calms me, it clears my head and boosts my mood when I really need it. And you can do it anywhere and anytime – I need a break from my computer or I need a break from all the people in my house – I grab my phone and am out the door. It really truly can be that simple!
We all have stress in our life and we have to find healthy ways to deal with it. If it weren't COVID, it would be something else. So for me, walking makes me feel good and also helps me to stick to my healthy habits. Now instead of grabbing for that wine at 5pm, I go for a walk. I find that often time, I come home and feel energized, relaxed and actually crave water and something healthy for dinner. Does not mean the glass of wine does not win out sometimes, but at least I did some pre-wine cardio! LOL!
So next time you have a bad day, put on those sneakers and walk it out!