I grew up with a Social Anxiety Disorder, which led to a long and complicated relationship with Depression. My mental health was never very good growing up, I struggled even in my early twenties. There were lots of break-downs, hospital visits and unfortunately, self-harm.
Through the years, I have always had my coping methods, including ones that were just bad for me and hurt my mental health long-term but the one coping method I clung onto, that was nothing but good for me, was walking.
It was my escape.
Walking in the woods and listening to birdsong or walking along the docks with my headphones on, it made me feel free, strong and clear headed. For me, there was nothing that could replace that feeling.
It also helped me with my Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for my social anxiety, as I had to ‘expose’ myself (I know, sounds a bit rude) to social situations and walking outdoors meant that I could do that in a more relaxing and slower paced way. Instead of just going to a party and meeting a heap of new people all at once, basically diving into the deep end, I went walking to start my social anxiety recovery journey.
I’d see a few people every 10 minutes or so and I actively tried to say hello or at least acknowledge each passer by with a smile, I found that people were much more approachable than I first thought. One day in particular, I’d gone for a half walk/half jog and I’d just tackled some really steep steps that had been built into a hill in the woods, when I noticed a photographer with all of their equipment by the stream. I’m a wedding photographer by trade and I like to dabble in other forms of photography too, so I figured I would push myself that little bit further and try to introduce myself. About 20 minutes later, we were following each others work on Facebook and I felt like a social fucking butterfly.
See, walking hasn’t just helped my mental health because it’s good for my body, released endorphins and makes me feel strong, it’s helped me because it’s got me out there in front of people and socializing even in just a small way.
I don’t know if you saw my last post but I mentioned that I’d be taking part in HEINEKEN’s Race To The Tower event to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind. This will be a two-day event where I’ll be walking over 52 miles, all in aid of raising money for mental health.
What has walking done for your mental health? Let me know in the comments.
If you want to sponsor me for the Race To The Tower ultra marathon in aid of Mind, you can do that here. No donation is too small!