If there was a way to ward off depression, keep anxiety at bay, reduce stress, and help you sleep better by doing one simple thing each day, would you believe me? What if I told you that it didn’t involve a pill or sitting on a therapist’s couch? Even better, what if this “remedy” was absolutely free?
One of the easiest and most effective ways to combat compassion fatigue and many of its associated symptoms is to move forward – literally. We know that walking and other forms of exercise are good for the body, but research suggests that walking for just 30 minutes a day is also good for the mind.
So how does getting physical help with mental health? Exercise, such as walking, allows the brain to release certain neurotransmitters, or “feel good” chemicals. It also increases body temperature, which is thought to have a calming effect on the brain. Daily walking or other forms of moderate exercise can therefor help to alleviate depression and anxiety, as well as decrease blood pressure, making it the perfect stress buster.
By helping to release a lot of negative emotions associated with compassion fatigue, walking promotes mental clarity and positive thinking. It can boost self-esteem, increase energy levels, improve sleep quality, provide opportunities to socialize with other walkers, and allow you to connect with the natural world.
That brings me to an important point. While working out at the gym or hitting the treadmill is great, I really encourage you to get moving outside as much as possible. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, your body will reap the benefits of natural sunlight. Of course take precautions such as wearing sunscreen and talk to your doctor if you have a family history of skin cancer.
To get the most from your walks, aim for 30 minutes on most days. Brisk walks in the morning are great if you struggle with insomnia, but even breaking down your walks into three 10-minute chunks throughout the day can be effective. Personally, I have found that walking on my lunch break or taking a mid-afternoon stroll really helps to maintain my energy levels throughout the day, not to mention lift my mood. Find whatever works best for you, and don’t be afraid to start small. Make a commitment to walk for 10 minutes a day and work your way up to a half hour. Setting and achieving healthy, realistic goals can really help to increase your motivation and self-esteem, not to mention set the stage for a lifetime of good physical and mental health.