How Making Time for Myself to Go Outside Has Improved my Mental Health

It's not the senioritis but my fifth quarter consecutively online that is leaving me stressed and just feeling a lot more in my own head. I struggle with intense anxiety, for me that means overthinking and intrusive thoughts. Having my academic life exist only online is a main contributor to recent stress. In hopes of trying to get outside more and find time to let myself overthink moderately, I started going on longer walks again. While I was still living with my parents, I found taking my dog out for a few miles everyday was a big improvement to my mental health. It was an easy way for me to exercise, my dog certainly enjoyed it, and I figured out that in less than two hours I could walk up to five miles at my own pace, and ultimately it was relaxing. It was not solely exercise-guided to start but became a way for me to really ground my mental health on days when things felt overwhelming.

During the month of August, I walked my dog almost every morning, and found at the end of that month my attitude to the day was much better. Having time that I could use where I was not trying to push out my thoughts meant I could actually let myself overthink and let those thoughts have a chance to process and resolve my head. I did not realize how hard I was on myself to try and focus in the moment when my mind was entirely preoccupied. But walking and not having anything else to focus on meant I was freeing up time later, and it actually worked. I did not notice it at first but over time as I would walk back home, I found myself being more productive when I came back. In fact, I usually did not feel tired when I came back and would start another task right when I came home, and it felt effortless to transition in between tasks, when normally, and even now, I struggle to get started for the day.

Summer Field Photo by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

It also improved my appetite, as my stress would sometimes make me nauseous and I would subsequently lose any cravings. Fast forward to now, I started taking advantage of the warmer weather, and found friends to go with me, walking around my neighborhood or going for short drives to places nearby. For the first time in the four years that I have lived near Green Lake, I walked the entire lake loop. I made that time for myself again in hopes to combat more of the anxiety that I have been facing this quarter. Though I cannot yet say for sure that it is going to solve all my problems, but it does make them feel more manageable. It was a hard journey to realize that self-care comes in many different forms, and for me one of those is letting myself diffuse internally, and most importantly being patient with myself. With just about a month left of the quarter, I am determined to end on a strong mental note, and hope that with each time I feel anxious, it is easier to return from those mindsets.