Feel shitty? Go for a walk

Illustration by Rika Otsuka
By That Anxious Dude
July 29, 2020
· 5 min read
Y

es, I know what you’re thinking, you’re not 80 years old, so you’re most definitely not going to go for a shitty walk, besides, you’ve got things to do, people to see, shows to watch, kids to raise, partners to satisfy and litter boxes to clean.

I get it. But indulge me for a second…

You can trust me when I say I was just as judgemental towards walking for the sake of walking as you probably are right now. In fact, I harboured active ill will towards any kind of “passive” form of moving. I considered it a painful waste of time, a hollow non-activity reserved for people who have either surrendered to their crippling loneliness, or who simply lack imagination when it comes to (outdoor) activities.

As a youngster, gallivanting around with other teenagers, I would often see pensioners walking around the neighbourhood, and the apparent aimlessness of their whole being filled me with deep disdain. It also made me promise myself that I’m never ever going to become one of these sad, lonely snails.

But here I am, having just returned from a walk, breathing down your neck, feeling as refreshed as a mountain flower, so who cares.

Because it doesn’t really matter what kind of stubborn, silly ideas you clutched to your pimply chest a decade ago. What matters is the wisdom of here and now.

And the wisdom of here and now is that I feel fucking great.

I’ve been suffering with dreadful tension headaches ever since I’ve hit puberty. Chronic migraines run in my family and there’s generally very little I'm able to do once they hit. Like a Swiss watch from hell, a powerhouse of a headache will strike at my temples exactly once every two weeks, and unless I take a painkiller the pain will soon reach unbearable levels.

Somewhere along the way, I managed to figure out that moving right after I’ve swallowed a pill not only makes the medicine work faster, but also diminishes the dosage I have to ingest.

From this automatic response a headache ritual sprung into life – I take half of a painkiller and before the pill stumbles down my throat, I’m out the door, walking in a random direction. I never take the phone with me as straining my eyes renders the painkillers completely useless, and also makes the pain much worse.

Even though the headaches appear at random times of the day, the ritual remains the same. If I wake up in the middle of the night and my head is throbbing with pain, I will promptly get out of bed, dress up, and head out without giving it a second thought.

Through this unfailing, soldierly operation I became a semi-voluntary witness to a dazzling kaleidoscope of hidden city scenes.

I’ve seen the bakers firing up their ovens when everybody else is asleep, the last partygoers zigzagging towards their homes, the newspaper delivery crews racing each other on their tiny bikes... I’ve experienced the complete silence of the night and the deafening buzz of the afternoon. I’ve witnessed the sun rising and setting over the buildings of this northern urban sprawl I call home.

But most of all, through this bizarre mixture of pain and  beauty, I’ve learned how to get out of my own head.

We live in a maddeningly goal-oriented society.

Everything we do is conditioned by the expectation of some kind of “reward” at the end of our endeavour, because what’s the point of bothering otherwise?

At least this is how we were taught to think ever since we were taught anything at all. It’s no wonder then, that our cherished downtime follows the same self-bullying pattern – even when you’re chilling you have to get that like, that notification, that Tinder match, that retweet….

This debilitating binary logic robs us of some of the most effective ways with which we can escape the prison of our anxieties. Because staying so nervously poised all the time is the surest way to renounce ever having an experience.

Which is exactly what a walk, if done right, can be.

When I finally incorporated regular strolls into my weekly routine, I not only re-learned how to immerse myself into my immediate surroundings, but also realised that the nervous chatter in my mind can be subdued.

Turns out that when you renounce your electronic gadgets, even if just for a little while, and most of all when you stop hurrying (because you don’t really need to be anywhere), there is simply no way for the cranky inner demon to keep up.

In my case it’s always the same – after about 5 minutes of frantic inner monologuing that begins after I take the first step, my mind stops to catch its breath, just to suddenly figure out that it ran out of content.

As I reach the end of my street I feel calmer already.

But most of all I feel like I’m participating in something that’s larger than my panic.

So just trust me on this one, put your shoes on...

And enjoy the ride.

***

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H1 Reglar

at least until the cold rears its ugly head again, Berlin is turning itself into a series of endless open air festivals and parties.Our little hangout reflects this festive mood, at least on the outside. If you were just a random person walking by, you would have seen two mates comfortably sharing a bottle, drinking out of paper cups, chatting away and laughing. It would all look like an uplifting scene from a European indie film.

The truth however, is different. Laurie is my friend, yes, and what’s coming out of my mouth is real laughter, but the unpleasant feeling bouncing around my skull is one of deep discomfort. The truth is I’d rather be anywhere else right now. It’s not that anything bad happened between the two of us, like a pissing contest’s gone sour just moments ago… I’ve known Laurie for almost 5 years and during that time we’ve never even had as much as a disagreement.

H2 Capital

at least until the cold rears its ugly head again, Berlin is turning itself into a series of endless open air festivals and parties.

Our little hangout reflects this festive mood, at least on the outside.

...

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