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I Avoided Burnout By Making Walking Part of My Business Strategy

I learned to cope with my stress by taking a daily stroll, and it's seriously changed the way I work.

Image by boonchai wedmakawand/ Getty Images
Image by boonchai wedmakawand/ Getty Images

Facebook updates. Blog posts. Podcast episodes. Tweets. Pins. YouTube videos. Radio. TV.

In May this year all of it just became too much for me. My brain was overloaded with information, notifications and demands for my attention and I felt like I was going to explode.

At the same time, my body was aching. I’d been living with chronic pain in my neck and shoulder for three years, because of RSI (repetitive strain injury) from using a computer with the wrong posture. I had migraines and headaches nearly every day of the week and the nerves all down the right-hand side of my body made that half of me feel weak and tired all the time.

I needed time out.

But, as the owner of my own internet based business as an academic coach, teaching students how to reach their full academic potential, at the most crucial time of year for exams here in the UK, I couldn’t just take time off. My clients were depending on me.

So, what did I do?

I started going for a daily walk.

I’ve always tried to exercise. I used to do HIIT workouts. I’ve often jogged or run for fitness (never very quickly) and I adore yoga. But anything high impact was making my pain worse. I had also always listened to podcasts while I was exercising (unless it was yoga – listening to podcasts is so un-yoga).

Giving myself peace

What I needed was gentle exercise that didn’t jangle my nerves, and peace so that I could unclutter my brain.

So I started walking in the fields and lanes around my home in the Northamptonshire countryside. May is a gorgeous time here, with the Hawthorn bushes bursting with May flowers, blue skies with little fluffy clouds  skudding across them and verdant green on the trees, in the fields and on the  verges.

I felt like I was re-awakening with the spring.

The fiels beckoning me beyond the gate

The unexpected benefits

As soon as I turned the noise off and went out in nature to walk something amazing started to happen. I noticed that, when I protected my brain from all the noise of modern life, it had the space to have ideas, create and express itself.

Everyday I would go for a walk and come back with a problem solved, an idea for a new blog post or a way of explaining something to my clients and audience that I hadn’t been able to crack before. More importantly, I achieved clarity.

Without all that constant over-stimulation that creates the FOMO (fear of missing out) on the latest marketing tool or social media trick I could see everything in my business as clearly as the water in the streams was flowing.

Effectively, my daily walk across the fields was giving me the time and space to be the CEO of my own business, to set my strategy and stop being buffeted by everyone else’s ideas and direction.

May blossom in an ancient green lane near my home

I’m still walking

Five months down the line I’m still walking. Every day. Somedays I think, ‘Oh, let’s just skip it today.’ But I remind myself of the true benefits. Not just for my body and my mind, but also for my business, and I get myself back out there, in the fresh air and walk.

Create your own space

If you find that you can’t think of over-stimulation, that your brain feels over-saturated with information or you can’t see your way forward with a problem I’d encourage you to get out from behind your desk and go for a walk. It’s so simple, yet so powerful for your work, your health and your life.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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