Walk it off

a glimpse into my life emotional health healthy body Feb 21, 2021


Finding someone to talk to is really important for both our mental and physical health. We know that meaningful connections are the key to longevity and vitality (think about the Blue Zones). Keeping those relationships healthy is key. We want to share in meaningful and vulnerable ways with the people in our lives. We need those people and have what feels like a biological imperative to connect with them. When things are hard, it can be easy to feel like all we do is complain. There is a way for you to be in your (hard) truth and avoid complaining. I say, “I’m going to walk it off.” You don’t have to walk, it could be any physical movement. But I will say – there is something magical about walking, feeling the hit of your shoe onto the ground, the rhythmic combination of your breath and feet, and being outside to notice what is happening. Knowing if it’s sunny, cold, rainy, stormy grounds my day. I listen for the birds, the airplanes, and – if I’m at school – the sounds of the kids on the playground. Most importantly, it allows me to walk off whatever felt stressful.

Physical movement- which some people call exercise – works by helping to discharge the built-up stress in our physical and emotional bodies. This is pretty mind-blowing. Moving is stress management. And it’s also a HUGE relationship helper. Here’s how. When you walk it off before you verbalize what has been happening in our day, it allows you to put things into context. It’s easier to tease out what is actually a big deal and what is “simply” stressful – and maybe not such a big deal. Even if something that happened is a really big deal, you’ll be able to better articulate what’s happening when you release some of that stress with movement. Walk. Then talk.

Discharging physical energy and stress before you speak to those you love by moving your body can help you avoid complaining or being grumpy. Do something that makes you feel good. Dance it out, practice yoga, take a walk, swim, take a hike, go to the gym (if your gym is open). If things are still in lockdown where you are or you can’t get out because of the snow, stream a dance or yoga class; do laps around your home, building, or block, do some push-ups or sit-ups. The actual movement isn’t as important as the idea that you are moving. The key is to move continuously for at least 30 minutes.

I rely on walking because it’s accessible to me multiple times a day. I take a long loop into my school building in the morning, I take at least one lap around the outside of the building at lunch and walk an interior loop at least 2 times daily before heading home to walk my dogs. Each loop takes a max of 4 minutes. Those 4 minutes make an enormous difference. It’s my commitment to myself and the people I love. Frequent walking has been the key to my mental and physical health for a long time, and it is especially important since COVID.

I don’t get it right every day – sometimes I talk before I walk – and I regret that choices every time. My overall commitment to my colleagues and myself is to “walk it off” before I talk. I feel happier, less upset, and more capable of embracing the long list of things outside of my control. There is a significant amount of science behind this. More on that in an upcoming post.

By moving your body, you are discharging the stress build-up in your body. Things feel less dire. You feel more grounded, more empowered, and more capable of letting go of the things that you can’t control. This was important before all of us were modifying our lives around COVID and now it’s imperative.

Once you’ve gotten yourself moving for at least 30 minutes – THEN it’s time to talk to your loved ones about what’s been going on. You’ll be more receptive to their ideas, less focused on your own circumstances, and things feel less dire.

Feel lonely? Walk it off. Mad? Walk it off. Frustrated? Walk it off. You get the picture! The next time you feel like calling a friend to complain – stop, talk a walk and THEN make that call. Both you and your friend will be glad you did.

All my love,