It was supposed to be the slow time of the year, but I had worked myself into a tizzy about something small — again. I was about a minute away from full tears when my boss gently suggested that I go back to yoga. Or get a hobby. Admitting that it might sound counter-intuitive coming from her, she told me that I needed something that would take my mind off work. I've always prided myself on my ability to work quickly and achieve results, but my passion was driving me into the ground.
Six months later, my anxiety was running amok. We were now in the thick of our busy season, a member of my family was dealing with a sudden and severe health crisis, and I was planning my own wedding. I had not gone back to yoga, or taken up a hobby, and I was not OK. It was at this point that my fiancé made an offhand comment about an app he had heard about that provided on-demand dog walkers. He joked that I should apply to be one, since I love dogs so much. I applied that night.
The service was Wag, a company that connects dog owners with reliable walkers. The application process was easy enough: you fill out a questionnaire, then there's a phone interview, some online quizzes about how the company works, and an in-person orientation at a local park. Within a week after the final step, you're set to start walking.
My mother's concerns about this new endeavor echoed my own: "You're stressed out enough with everything that's going on, why would you take on more?" I didn't really have an answer.
My fiancé came with me on my first few walks, because I didn't want to be murdered. Great news: I am still alive, and my stress level has taken an unexpected turn. As I've documented on POPSUGAR before, I hate exercise, but Wag gave me a low-pressure opportunity to go outside. I got fresh air, and I got out of my head. The walks that my fiancé and I go on together have been great for our relationship; we're able to connect for 30 to 60 minutes without being glued to our cell phones. The walks that I go on alone give me time to clear my mind and focus on something other than work. I'm able to stretch my muscles, hang out with a dog, and get paid.
Before, my routine consisted of working, then going home and worrying about work. Had I forgotten to do anything that day? What did I need to do tomorrow? Was there anything I should get started on that night? Did I say or do anything wrong? I'd never considered myself a perfectionist, but if I did something less than perfectly at the office, I would obsess over it. This side hustle is the perfect remedy. There are no long-term projects, I work on a team of one (or two, if you count the dog), and I get paid in cuddles and cash.
It's been slowly healing my anxiety from the inside out.
I'm still in the process of planning my wedding, work can still be a roller coaster, and that family health issue is ongoing. The difference is that I'm not stewing in how to fix all of it. Somehow, the extra commitment has allowed me to take a step back and breathe. I'm able to really know that I'm not defined by my performance at work. At the end of the day, some random dog is gonna lick my face no matter how many typos I made at the office.