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The Significance of Taking a Walk With Chronic Illness

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Sometimes, our own minds can be our very worst enemy. Between self-doubt and a lack of self-confidence, an anxiety-ridden mind can talk us out of just about anything. Even when things appear to be fine, our mind can have a wonderful way of making us think that things are not fine. For those of you who struggle with anxiety, you know this cycle all too well.

The other day, I was really feeling the pressure of life. Even though there are a lot of positives in my life, I found it difficult to focus on them. My mind was playing tricks on me, making me think I did not deserve to have a good day, to feel good about myself, or to use my skills to empower others. I mean, who did I think I was? Who did I think I could be? Even though I have experience in many things I do, was it really enough?

During this time, I could feel my anxiety rising, my heart racing, and my mind running away with itself. Before I knew it, I had convinced myself to run… just run away from everything, including my own mind. Sometimes when you work from home, it’s easy to climb back in bed, throw the covers over your face, and pretend the world doesn’t exist. When this happens to me, I usually give in to this notion and hide. I hide myself from the world, take some time to breathe, and then continue on with my day when I’m ready. But for this particular day, I decided to do something different.

I decided to walk. Even though exercise was the very last thing I wanted to do, I somehow looked at my dog, who so desperately wanted some attention from me, grabbed her leash, threw on some shoes and practically shoved myself out the door. This was the first time I hadn’t given into temptation and just gone to bed. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and took a walk. Some of you may be thinking, so what? It was just a walk. Just a walk? Oh my, dear friend. It was so much more.

For the past year, I have struggled with many ups and downs, mostly located only in my own mind. Yeah, life happens and not every day is rainbows and ice cream, but for the most part, this year has not really been a bad one. My mind, however, will tell you something different entirely. I’ve been sick… all year. Heck, I’ve been sick for the past three years. Autoimmune disease has taken over my life. And most of the time, my mind allows that to become an excuse. Oh, you shouldn’t work out. It’s OK. You’re sick. You don’t feel well. You’re tired. You deserve some rest. Maybe tomorrow. Yeah, that’s it. Start tomorrow.

And you know what? That “tomorrow” has been happening all year. It is now February. The year of 2016 has been here and is gone. How many days of “tomorrow” is that? Do some math. And even though my mind is half right and too much exercise can have adverse effects on autoimmune symptoms, my mind is also wrong. Short amounts of exercise has proven to help those with autoimmune conditions live more fulfilling lives. Why? Because it gets you moving. It gets your heart pumping, your muscles working, and your mind thinking. It helps you as a person feel more confident about that very body that is attacking itself each and every day. It can empower you to feel… to feel anything but pain.

So, I walked. And you know what? It was great! I finally took some time to enjoy my dog, to enjoy the exuberance I felt just for doing something relaxing for a change, and to gain some perspective on my surroundings. I stopped to take pictures of flowers, to breathe in the country air that surrounds my home, and to thank God for this life I have. I may have a life of challenges. I may struggle sometimes and feel depressed. But I will never allow it to break me. I can change my own perspective of how I view autoimmune problems. I can stop allowing myself to provide excuses. I can exercise and eat healthier if that’s what I want and/or need to do. All I need is to be my own best friend instead of my own worst enemy.

And you can do this too. Figure out what you can control. Is it hard? Heck yes! Living with any type of physical or mental challenge is tough. It is not easy. But you can truly help change how you feel each day by changing your attitude towards the very thing that’s dragging you down. Learn how to inspire others. Show other people how you push through your challenges each and every day just to feel a little bit better. Show others these conditions will not bring you down.

Walk for those who can’t. Run for those who feel like it’s impossible. And sweat for those who are lost and need just a glimpse of the positives exercise and health can bring to one’s life. Learn how to motivate others by sharing your story, and be darn proud of it too. So, the next time you’d like to run… walk instead.

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Thinkstock photo by Ingram Publishing

Originally published: February 9, 2017
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