I went for a walk yesterday…but I think it was too stressful to do it again

I went for a walk yesterday…but I think it was too stressful to do it again

My Significant Other and I usually walk for a couple of hours each weekend day. That could be at the dog park (we drive quite a ways to get to a giant dog park, one of the best in the world) or around our neighborhood.

We think of it as our favorite date. 🙂 It’s a time when we get to focus on each other and talk, and also get to see other people. We “know” lots of people (and dogs) at the dog park. We love seeing them and chatting.

I’m also very into animals. At the dog park, we see many different kinds of birds, and some different mammals (we always look for the pinnipeds, and they aren’t there consistently, which makes it even more exciting).

I had a pretty intense week. I work in healthcare, although I don’t do direct patient care. I train doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, primarily on software. That does mean I’m often where patient care is happening, but I’m not doing that now. I have an additional risk factor over many people, so I’m really trying to avoid being around others…which is very hard for a super social extrovert.

However, I am doing a lot remotely. Workflows have changed (I’ve also taught change management & time management). I may have three things going on at once: actively involved in one online meeting, monitoring two others on phones.

I was looking forward to walking yesterday.

After we did, though, I was really aware of how stressful it had been.

Now, I don’t usually make decisions based on my emotions. Spock was a fictional hero of mine, and I’m a great person to have around during an emergency (because I’ll make the, yes, logical choices). It would be illogical to ignore the affect of stress hormones on my body, though.

Why was it stressful?

One element was hypervigilance. I always look around when we walk: I’m looking for animals, such as squirrels. This was different: I was looking ahead for humans to avoid.

It felt like being on The Walking Dead.

I might see someone 50 meters/yards up ahead on the path. I’d look around for a place for my SO and I to go where we could be six feet/2 meters away from them. If we could step up on a hill, great. If not, we would step out into the traffic lane (it’s a quiet area, even more so now). In more than one case, we crossed to the other side of the street.

During those interactions, there often was tension, at least at first. I get that it could look like an ambush…we were standing out there in the weeds, and we probably weren’t immediately visible.

We actually resented people who were stopping to look at nature, or walking more slowly than us. We weren’t mad at them, but it meant we had to change our pace or take another path so we didn’t overtake them.

We did end up having a nice conversation with another couple about dogs…standing far enough apart with them outside their house.


I understand stress really well: that’s an important part of time management. What’s the difference between stress and hard work? Stress is unresolved. If your job was to dig ditches and you dug three in a day, that would be hard work, but it wouldn’t be stressful. If you felt like you had to call somebody today, and never reached them, it would be stressful.

Your body can rev up its capabilities during a time of special need…but it’s costly. Think about someone who lifts a car off another person who is trapped. Their body can change what it is doing to enable that slight lifting…but hours later, the hero might be unable to stand up.

When something is unresolved, your body stays in that ready mode. That’s one reason why it is so important to set achievable goals.

Was it hard work to maintain social (actually physical) distancing? Sometimes…it wasn’t always easy to get out of the way. I have some mobility restriction which makes it a tad more challenging. Remembering all the time to judge where someone was going to be took effort.

It was certainly stressful. We couldn’t know when we got home if we’d been exposed or not (we figured we hadn’t and had done what we could). We followed recommendations: we came in, washed our hands (I know how to do that properly from my training at work), took off our “outside clothes” and put them in the washer, washed our hands again, and then each took showers.

We are close to each other: we are exposed to each other all the time. My Significant Other has been going out doing the necessary shopping and could bring it home. I jokingly say if we go, we are going together.

I should also say that joking about it is fine. Different people will deal with external threats different ways. Joking about something helps disempower it in your mind (I’ve taught humor, too…laughter is a signal that there is apparent danger, but no real danger, generally). I would never joke about it affecting other people negatively…that feels too real to me, but joking about myself is fine.

Bottom line: I know we’re better off than many. We have a backyard (our dogs can go in and out). We can exercise at home. We have more tech than most people…more books/videos/audio, and VR (although I haven’t gone into it all week, which is very unusual for me). My employer is considered essential, and (virtual fingers crossed), my job is likely to be continued. No one in our families so far has tested positive, although some are seriously affected by the economic changes.

I’ll stay home today, and then get back to work tomorrow…

Getting outside is important, and I don’t begrudge you at all for doing it, following the guidelines. It’s just not the right choice for me right now.

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One Response to “I went for a walk yesterday…but I think it was too stressful to do it again”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    We were out walking this morning around our very hilly neighborhood and stepped aside for a few folks doing the same. We chatted with some folks from a distance. My spouse and I, at one point, discussed that we would certainly rather go together and I sung an old verse from Tom Leher … we laughed about it. Shortly afterwards when we returned to the house and “sanitized” your post arrived and was read. I don’t feel the same stress you describe, but spouse does. I asked Alexa to play the old song and we were soon laughing about “going together” to our joint demise. Plagues and bombs have much in common.

    Harold (self isolated on my mountain top)

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