Walk the Mind: Using Exercise to Look After Your Mental Health
This past year has been pretty surreal, I wouldn’t say it has been easy. You can’t hug your mum but you can go to a pub, you can’t get married, funerals are restricted and everything is just up in the air. I think I am one of the many that is fed up and sick and tired of not knowing what rules need to be adhered too and what rules don’t count.
I have been shielding with each set of lockdowns. I think the last time I physically saw my Mum was back in September and I myself am finding this incredibly difficult and if it wasn’t for my daily walks my mental health would be a damsite worse than what it is. The fresh air and snippet of freedom have helped alongside fortnightly weekend hikes when my daughter is at her father’s.
I have digressed into a slight rant as we are effectively in limbo and I just want to get married.
Obviously, this post is titled walk the mind so best get back to what I was actually meant to write.
Walk the mind
With gym closures and being in a national lockdown, options are limited as to what one can do either it be in the family bubble or on one’s own.
I moved from a town to a village last year and thankfully I back onto farmland so my walking capabilities are endless to new routes and new ways to get myself covered in mud.
I originally started walking to aid weight loss and as an escape to get an hour or some “ me” time daily due to stress from work.
My physio has also said the more I move the easier things will be so I have been on my walk the mind path for the last year or so.
I think all of us are struggling in one way or another. Limited contact with loved ones, lack of physical contact with hugs due to the risk of passing something over.
The uncertainty of our situation alongside the worry has had a negative impact on our mental states, I for one know my anxiety is triggered, even thinking about going to the petrol station feels me with dread, I am doing my best at avoiding coming into contact with anyone that is not Ben or Maisie.
I then have the added anxiety of co-parenting, her Dad took her to Thorpe Park a week before lockdown and didn’t tell me until after they got back, then Maisie fell ill, then I felt unwell and had to go and get a covid test, thankfully it was just a chest infection but the fear I felt, well I have no words.
Getting out and about
Since the first lockdown, I have been using my allocated exercise time to get out and about and experience the joys of the outdoors and it also beats spending time indoors.
Every Saturday we go out as a family much to Maisie’s detriment (11-year-olds don’t think walking is cool). I also allocate 2-3 hrs on Saturdays and Sundays to get out and escape the realities of covid induced madness.
I started with a pair of Lonsdale leggings and air trainers, I am now a fully equipped walker with all the gadgets to go with the attire. No one likes blisters.
Things you may need:
- – A good pair of walking boots or shoes (I got mine from Go Outdoors for £35. My hiking boots were slightly more expensive, reduced from £200 to £90)
- – Thermals
- – A fleece
- – Waterproof jacket
- – A backpack so you can take food and water with you
I have been asked if having a stoma impact all the walking that I do, honestly, it doesn’t. I tend to go out fasted, eat when I have a pit stop break, by then I am halfway through so I know my stoma will be ok until I get home.
Things to help keep you entertained:
Just walking can be boring so we like to mix it up.
- Audible (I use this time to listen to a book)
- Geocaching (If you like puzzles)
So you don’t get lost…
- All trials
- A map
- Digital map on mobile ( Make sure you have a back up as phone signal isn’t always guaranteed)
- There is also a public walkway app
Depending on the weather and the time of your choosing always make sure someone knows where you are going and roughly what time you may be back. I average 10-20 k hikes on the weekend and when I am on my own I keep in regular radio contact with my other half as he worries.
If you are setting out for a huge mission of a walk then try and set off at first light or early morning. With winter fast approaching the sunlight is less and less these days with the sun setting around 3 pm.
For those of us with a chronic illness, morning is also better as late evening exercise can cause a disturbed sleeping pattern. I have found recently that my sleep pattern is improving dramatically.
I have also found that I am more positive, less moody and in general the fresh air is doing me the world of good.
Being able to get out and lose myself and not have to think is ever so helpful.
My wake up time is 6 am every morning and myself and Sammy (the dog) go on our pre-sunrise adventures so I can enjoy the first morning light and be more proactive about my day.
Photographer in the making
The one thing I have found is that I have a real knack and patience for light shots, early sunrise and being able to photograph what I see for others to see it.
The good weather days are few and far between these days but getting lost and taking photos is something I find both therapeutic and being able to use these as prints for at home means I have more meaningful artwork that is one of a kind and it is also memories from the day.
I keep looking at professional cameras but at the moment my phone is lighter and it’s something I will think about later on next year.
I enjoy nature, the views, the endorphins and the slow unpaced way of life.
I don’t enjoy cleaning my muddy shoes but that’s par for the course.
Many thanks for reading