I walked 300,000 steps in 30 days and it had nothing to do with a fitness goal. Within six months, my grandmother died, my mother had an amputation and was diagnosed with heart and kidney failure shortly afterward. As an entrepreneur and married mom to four young children, I already have a high-stress lifestyle. During this time, I was also responsible for helping my mother. The biggest trigger occurred when my family started asking me to coordinate next steps in the event of her death. I felt powerless and out of control.
I have had a lifelong battle with anxiety, and, while well intended, the support I received from friends and family didn’t match my level of need. There are unique and short-term solutions to managing stress. Many of which I enjoy, but in this season, I desperately needed a simple and sustainable solution.
I’m an internal processor. My anxiety is often triggered when I can’t find the mental space to think through my circumstances. This season of life was a stress test for my faith, energy, and health.
Doctors have determined that heart disease often develops in your 30s. Watching my mother battle and overcome heart failure motivated me to find a sustainable way to manage my stress. I decided to set a goal of walking 300,000 steps in July to save myself.
How To Start Walking To Manage Anxiety
1. Find a goal that meets you where you are.
First, identify a goal. Recent studies have found that walking 10K steps daily is optional for most Americans. If walking for 10K steps a day or more than 30 minutes feels intimidating, then don’t. Aim for a walking goal of at least 10 minutes and build upon it. Place your intention on mental decompression above the number of steps reached. Perfecting your walking posture will also help you to increase your walking time if you feel ready for longer walks.
Next, you want to frame your goal in a way that sets you up for success. I started my goal by planning to walk 10K steps daily. I quickly realized that I’d be setting myself up for failure if I didn’t account for my kid’s being out of school, the weather, or my overall energy limitations. During the first week, I reframed my goal from 10K steps a day to 300K steps in 30 days. Despite walking less than 3K steps for five days, I reached my goal by reframing it.
2. Give yourself a mental break.
Walk without listening to a podcast or mindlessly scrolling on social media. Walking free of distraction was more challenging than walking 300K steps. When you’re in a heightened season of stress, you don’t realize how addicted you are to stimulation. Distraction-free walking allows you to start listening to yourself and your body again. I also found that I walked faster when I wasn’t distracted by my phone.
Get outside. Take off your earpods. Take in your environment.
3. Practice breathwork while walking.
Breathwalk is a practice that I continue daily. It’s a way to bring awareness to your body, connect to your mind, regulate your mood, and gain mental clarity. Breathwalk draws on techniques from yoga, and it’s more than just walking. Breathwalking is one way to help you to get started on meditation if you’re busy—the solitude of walking offered mental space for me to work through my issues while finding inspiration. In many ways, walking feels like meditation for me.
4. Reconnect with yourself to get out of your head.
My favorite victory from walking 300,000 steps in 30 days wasn’t from the scale. I walked away feeling inspired and grateful for my challenges in this season. They pushed me to better advocate for myself and my needs. It also empowered me to pivot in a more aligned direction within my business.