I know exactly when I started sinking into an abyss. It was around two years ago when I began having very dark thoughts on the way to work. I remember thinking, “I wouldn’t mind if the car crashed into a wall.” In fact, I wanted anything to happen to avoid having to go into work because I was so stressed. When the GP suggested antidepressants, I wanted to try a different way to cope and that’s when the walking started.
Work had been overwhelming for a while and I was really struggling. My doctor signed me off and, even then, I was still trying to negotiate going back in to finish stuff off. Slowly I realised that I needed to take a break, but I wanted to avoid medication. I’d used antidepressants in my early 20s and the settling in period was difficult.
Up with the larks
I decided walking seemed like a good idea and I’ve not looked back since. I walk early in the morning as the walks near me are remote and coastal – not ideal for walking alone at night. It does mean I go to bed super early. I have a bath at 7pm, listen to The Archers and then head to bed at 9pm with my alarm set for 5.40am.
I walk mindfully without any music or podcasts as I like to feel connected to my surroundings. I do grounding exercises to relax when I feel really stressed. I notice the sounds, such as birdsong and the crunch of gravel, or snow in winter. I feel the textures underfoot and when the sun appears over the horizon, bathing everything in sunlight, well, it’s euphoric.
“My husband used to think I was crazy getting up so early and pulling on waterproofs in the rain, thermals in winter and donning a head torch, as it’s pitch black out there until sunrise. But now he’s seen how much it benefits me, he’s all for it”
Over time I’ve got to know the other local larks, waving and chatting to them while they walk their dogs.
Dealing with the weather
I’ve read quite a bit about how being a lark and walking early in the day is beneficial for health. It resets my melatonin, boosts serotonin and you never feel worse after a walk! It just really gets me ready for the day although the seasons can play a little havoc with my alarm clock. The arrival of spring signals a very early wakeup call if I want to see the sunrise.
The weather plays a special part in my walking experience and I have invested in serious wet weather kit. The snow this winter was exciting, gave a totally different ambience to the usual landscape and I loved walking on the frosty ground. Forcing myself to go out in all weathers can be difficult, especially if it is pouring down or hailing. My mantra is: “It’s not bad weather, you just have to be prepared and perhaps a little mad!”
On average, I walk around 8km a day and join in virtual distance challenges as I love a goal. I find the pace of walking really keeps me calm. I am totally hooked and would feel anxious if I couldn’t get out. I even feel annoyed if I forget to set my alarm and wake later than usual, especially if I miss the sunrise.
I enjoy taking photos of my walks and share them on social media every day. I did worry that people would get annoyed seeing the sunrise every day pop up on their feed but I get lots of messages from people saying they love it.
Riding the wave
Menopause happened to me suddenly with an emergency sub-total hysterectomy after the birth of my second child. About six years ago I felt really weird and not myself. The doctor told me I was post-menopausal, which surprised me. I’ve decided to ride the menopause wave, as taking HRT isn’t an option for me due to family history.
My symptoms come and go. I won’t have a hot flush for ages and then one will crop up, or I will wake up and the bed is wringing wet. I used to get really stressed about feeling hot and sweating but now I’ve just decided to accept the rise and fall of what comes my way.
I feel better now I’ve changed my job and walking continues to be my therapy whenever things get a bit much. There are more larks and night owls out there walking than you’d think!