As a longtime work-from-home employee and mom to Audrey, an adorable beagle mix, a late-morning walk has been a part of my routine for years. After phoning in for a morning meeting, completing some initial work tasks, eating a quick breakfast, and crossing a couple of items off my to-do list, I grab my sneakers, put Audrey's leash on, and head out the door.
Ideally, it's a nice way to feel centered, get some fresh air and exercise, and just take a breather, especially because lunch breaks are often few and far between as I juggle work and correspondence with coworkers in a different time zone. My walk has become an important part of my day, but it's an activity that often feels rushed or a bit stressful. Sometimes I have to hurry back for other meetings, and I always carry my phone with me, checking my email a couple times as I'm walking because it's a busy part of the day.
When the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders forced me to halt after-work activities like rec center visits, happy hours, and impromptu dinner dates out with my husband, I knew I needed to add another de-stressing activity to my routine. So, I started taking a second (longer) walk in the evenings. And it's turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made in the past few months.
My evening walks are different — there's no time limit, no meetings to rush back to. I can take as many steps as I want on whichever route I choose. These walks also help serve as an end point to my workday, which is often a difficult boundary to set, as working from home tends to blur the lines of work and home life.
Walking makes it easier for me to relax, and it forces me to cap off my workday, something that's always been hard for me to achieve.
During my morning walks, I always take the same route — one that's more or less 20 minutes. I know just how long I'll be gone, and my dog can visit her favorite stops along the way. But in the evening, I've made it a point to branch out. I moved into a new house last year, and I'm still finding tons of directions to go to check out the new neighborhood. I'm now eager to find new views, whether it's a backyard I admire, a new open trail, or another view of the mountains. I also feel the variety of these routes has helped spur creativity and opened up my mind in different ways. And when my husband comes along, we often talk about our days and our goals. It's a great way to connect.
Walking, of course, has tons of health benefits: it burns calories, eases joint pain, and can even extend your life. Those benefits are all important to me and motivate me to keep going — walking another mile (or two) a day has definitely made me feel stronger. But more important than that, it's made a difference mentally, which is even more vital during this time of uncertainty and stress. Walking makes it easier for me to relax, and it forces me to cap off my workday, something that's always been hard for me to achieve. Simply put, my second walk just makes me feel happier.
Even when things get more or less back to normal, I know I'll keep up the routine. Happy hours, at the very least, can wait until I'm back.