I once interviewed for a job where the interviewer asked me how my body handles stress. Not how I personally deal with stressful situations, but how my body physically reacts. Truthfully, I didn’t quite know quite how to respond, so I threw something out about “physiological responses” and moved on.
After the interview, though, this question about stress, and how the body reacts to it, got me thinking about how I handle stress. I thought about all the times I’ve been to the doctor and they’ve asked me if I’m physically active and what kind of activities I do. My answer for years has been the same: Yes. Yoga and walking. These two have been a big part of my life for decades, helping me keep a clear head and remain relatively stress-free during times in my life that have been very high stress—through unemployment, having a baby, moving across the state, the list goes on.
I started doing yoga in my late teens. My mom was attending a class her friend taught and I thought I’d tag along. I enjoyed yoga at first because of the company—my mom and I shared a lot of giggles as we tried to work our way into some contortionist-like poses. I’m sure all the serious yogis in our class couldn’t stand us, but we definitely had fun. Since those classes with my mom, I’ve turned to yoga for more than just a good laugh. While yoga, depending on the class style, can be a great workout, I’ve also come to rely on the aspect of mindfulness that comes with it. I know for a lot of people, yoga can seem a little strange, with all the chanting and the “om-ing”, but for me, it’s a time to surrender any kind of stress I’m having and just give in. I try to do what the teacher says and trust that on the other side, I’ll come out more decisive in my choices and calm in my actions.
My relationship with walking was born out of boredom, really. I moved away from home in my early twenties—new city, no friends, first apartment, the whole shebang. When I arrived, I spent a lot of time sitting by myself trying not to think about college, what I was doing with my life, my relationships, and a who slew of other things that truly needed my attention. I had a lot of decisions I needed to make and was avoiding making them. As a way to get acclimated to my new city and as a way to get some exercise, I started taking up walking. I would strap on my shoes and walk until I got tired, sometimes several miles, and then I’d turn around and come home. This was pre-mp3/iPhone/iPad days, so it was just truly me and the elements. Even though it wasn’t my intention when I started, walking became, and remains today, a great way to just plain think. To weigh the options of a tough decision. To make grand plans. To walk off stress.
Now, after countless hours of yoga and miles upon miles of walking, I’ve truly found how I best handle stress. While I don’t get out there as often as I'd like—adulthood sure comes with a lot of time-consuming responsibilities, doesn’t it?—I’ll always know that when I’m feeling overwhelmed with life, I need to take some time to unroll my mat or lace up my walking shoes.
A California native, Sarah Walsh enjoys sipping champagne, cooking big Sunday dinners, and spending time with her husband and feisty four-year-old daughter. When she's not busy eating and drinking, she loves performing improv comedy, watching bad reality TV, and listening to podcasts. You can read more on her blog, www.homesweetsarah.com, and on Instagram and Twitter @homesweetsarah.