Once COVID started, it was encouraged that you stay indoors and not leave your house. While I followed this rule, my mental health deteriorated. I did not want to leave my bed and I felt anxious and sad every day. It was hard to leave the house. More people have been getting vaccinated, restaurants and gyms have begun opening up, but I feel like I have gotten so used to staying home that I rarely wanted to take a step outside.
I felt so drained—mentally and emotionally—that on March 6th I stepped away from my desk where I sat on my computer 24/7 and got up and took a walk. I had no plan for how long my walk would be, but I felt very exhausted and anxious. I needed to be somewhere other than my room.
I played one of my melancholy Spotify playlists because it matched how I felt, and I walked on a straight path near my house. I remember how I actually breathed some fresh air for once and how the wind cooled my exhausted body down. I followed the path, did not stop, did not think, and did not worry. 2.6 miles later, I went from the end of the path to my house. It felt so fast even though it was about one and a half hours later. I could not remember how the walk was or what I thought about when on the walk. It was like I was on autopilot.
I decided it was time to take some longer walks and get what I could out of my next few walks. For the walks I took the week of the 14th of March, I walked between 1.4 and 7.4 miles a day. This is where I started to really enjoy the benefits of walking. I was actually feeling very anxious because of COVID, friendships, and academics during this time. I felt like I needed to do something for myself again, and that is why I increased the amount of time I spent on walking.
When I walk, I get to listen to any song I want, and sometimes I even talk on the phone with friends. While I am talking with someone on the phone or even listening to music, I realized that walking in nature brought me peace. Especially for the week of the 14th of March, I noticed that walks helped me calm down, cleared my mind, and did not allow me to really think about my problems. Walks simply brought attention to what I was missing while looking down at my phone: the present.
Usually, I walk the same path by my house, but recently I’ve been trying to change up my surroundings. I did this by walking into neighborhoods, exploring new paths, and traveling up and down steps. For the week of the 21st of March, my friend and I did a socially distanced hike on a neighborhood trail and walked 10 miles. I continued to find new trails or paths to explore new areas and increase my mileage throughout the week. My mileage for this week ranged from 2 to the 10.3 miles, and I was extremely happy with my walking habits for that week. The farther and longer I walk, the more accomplished I feel and it boosts my confidence.
On my walk on Friday, March 26th, I started to feel anxious again. So, what did I do? I put on some upbeat music, I observed my surroundings, I let the wind blow my hair back, and I was cautious about my breathing. I felt the stress and nervousness leave my body and continued to enjoy my walk. As I approached home, I started to feel content. It felt as if I accomplished something or released some negative energy out of me.
Walking has such a different meaning to me now than before. Before COVID, I’d go on a short walk to get some physical exercise; however, during COVID, walking is my time to escape. It’s an activity that brings me to the moment, shifts my head away from academics, and relieves me of my worries and anxieties. Walking is no longer boring to me, it’s an activity that allows me to focus on myself and enjoy who I am and the nature around me. I started to actually enjoy how I carried out my daily routine and I understood why I wanted to walk every day. Walking has many health benefits, and I would say it has helped bring me out of the past, not worry about what is to come, and live and be grateful for what is happening now.