You’re at your desk working on a deadline or camped out in a library study carrel preparing for exams. You’ve now re-read the same sentence 4 times and know you need a break.
You don’t have time to trek to the gym, change, workout, change back and return. You either can’t turn on Youtube because of your work’s security settings or know that if you did you’d lose an hour instead of 5 minutes.
What can you do instead that’s refreshing and free? You can go for a walk.
The best thing about walking is that it doesn’t matter where you are. You don’t need equipment or a large investment of time. You can walk for 2 minutes or 2 hours. You can walk anywhere: through a building, through a park or parking lot, in a suburb or downtown.
Turn off your phone completely instead of putting it on silent. “The expectation of e-mail seems to be taking up our working memory,” says Steven Yantis, the chairman of the psychological and brain sciences department at Johns Hopkins (1). Similarly, researchers Atchley and Strayer argue that “heavy technology use can inhibit deep thought and cause anxiety, and that getting out into nature can help” (1).
Walking increases blood flow and releases endorphins. This will leave you refreshed and ready to return to work.
After your walk, if you start to feel overwhelmed again, take some slow, deep breaths. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and signal to your body to relax and heal (2).