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How a midday walk can be a much-needed stress buster

One of the biggest challenges of WFH is the tendency to remain glued to your laptop all day, courting eventual burnout. Our solution? Step away from your computer and go for a walk.

Fit in a walk whenever you can
Fit in a walk whenever you can (Unsplash)

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When the pandemic brought office-going to a halt, coding professional Prerna Sharma moved from Bengaluru to Patna. Two months into her work-from-home routine, she realised she struggled to exercise. Earlier, Sharma would go for a morning walk before she sat down to work at 9 am.“It was going swimmingly till the winters arrived,” she says. Bihar winters can be harsh, and so the 26-year-old’s morning routine was completely thrown out of gear, she says. December saw Sharma wake up, have tea and get to work, only interrupted by a five-minute brunch at her workstation.“By the time the New Year dawned, I had started experiencing anxiety attacks. Almost by the clock, I would start panicking around 1 in the afternoon,” Sharma says, adding that the panic attacks would usually centre around how half the day had gone by and there was still so much work to finish. It would also act as a hurdle to her work.

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She reached out to her uncle, a psychiatrist by profession. He told her what she was experiencing was burnout and lack of me-time. He suggested that she undertake a 30-minute exercise routine anytime during the day.“Keen to get a grip on the situation and turn my unproductive afternoon into something constructive, I decided to go for midday walks. It was the ideal time to walk in the winter and also helped ease my thought process. After just a couple of days, I realised I was getting back to work post walking with a rejuvenated mind and more energised than before,” Sharma smiles.

If working from home comes with many perks, it has a few drawbacks too. The biggest dilemma that people working out of home face is that they often lose out on important me-time. They struggle to carve boundaries in their physical space and often spend punishingly long days, uninterrupted by the office banter or coffee breaks that usually ensue when you work from an office. This, in turn, could impact motivation and enthusiasm even lead to burnout. 

One way of dealing with it is this: Step away from your computer and take a short walk. A midday walk is the simplest and best option at such times. It’s all about breaking up ‘routine’ and letting the mind into a space where it can rejuvenate. Recent research has found that 15 minutes of activity daily results in a 22 per cent lower risk of death. It further said that walking was associated with a 43 per cent reduced risk of stroke and other risk factors of a heart attack. 

Also, regularly walking may help prevent Type 2 diabetes too. The study was published in the Diabetes Care Journal last month.“For every 1,000 steps per day, our results showed a 6 per cent lower diabetes risk. If the average adult were to take 2,000 steps every day in addition to what they were already doing, they might expect a 12 per cent reduction in diabetes risk,” says author Alexis C Garduno, a third-year student in the University of California San Diego and San Diego State University joint doctoral programme in public health.

Madhulika Shrestha, a Gurgaon-based psychiatrist, says, “A daily walk can help improve blood flow to the brain, which can, in turn, boost your brain function. Walking also encourages our brain to release endorphins, a neurotransmitter that makes us happy. While exercise, in general, has numerous benefits, walking is often linked to thinking. It helps the brain form new connections and be more creative.”

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However, she says that a midday walk comes with its baggage despite the benefits. For a professional, leaving work right in the middle of a crisis and going out for a random walk seems inappropriate and selfish at many levels. Shrestha’s work-at-home content creator daughter Avantika agrees.“When I decided to go for my midday walks, I would often think, ‘am I doing the right thing?’ or ‘am I not skipping work?’.But with my mother’s support, I realised that sitting in front of the laptop through the day was not helping either,” she says, adding, “My writing would often be stuck, and no matter how much I tried, I wouldn’t arrive at the solution.It was frustrating.”

Once Sharma’s walks became regular, she realised they were actually helping her connect to her work more mindfully.“Sometimes the best thing to do when faced with a hurdle is to simply take a break.Unplug to restart your mind. Come back with a rejuvenated mind and you will find it easier to tackle your work, even the areas where you were stuck earlier,” stresses Shrestha, adding, “Always know that a healthy routine can keep you motivated. Haven’t we learnt that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?”

For many who have not yet experienced the virtues of a midday walk, it might appear a hassle to change in and out of workout gear in the middle of the day, especially when surrounded by work.But, especially in today’s times when most jobs have become sedentary, it does good for the body and mind to take a break mid-way.And walking is the easiest thing to do. It takes away the usual afternoon lethargy and relieves all kinds of stress. Also, nutrition-wise, taking a walk at lunchtime will remind you to eat light and stop you from between-meals snacking, experts say.

“Nothing stops my midday walk now.The only time I missed going for a walk was when it was drizzling.But I figured out my way to de-stress. I just walked around the house for 10 minutes and then settled down with a cup of tea on the balcony, watching the rain.By the time my 30 minutes was up, I was raring to do!” smiles Sharma.

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