Power Walk

Power Walk

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress


Power Walk

I could manage for a year and a half — I knew I could. I was tough; I had survived worse situations.

We live on Vancouver Island, and my husband had to work in Vancouver, British Columbia, three hours away, for a year and half. Three hours doesn’t sound like a lot, but an hour-and-forty-five-minute ferry ride distanced us. He would stay in Vancouver during the week, and come home on weekends. We could do it; I could do it. Heck, there were single mothers and fathers out there who had spent much longer managing solely on their own, without a weekend’s reprieve. This was nothing.

That year and a half tested my family and me. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that everything and everyone relied solely on me. It wreaked havoc on my stress levels and my sleep. I had started a new full-time job a few months before, so exhaustion compounded everything.

A year before, I had started a walking/exercise routine in order to lose weight. Even though I tried to keep it going during the first few months my husband was away, the added pressures and responsibilities started to eat up my walking time.

But I knew I needed it. So I got back out there in the early mornings when everyone was asleep, despite my lack of sleep. The fresh air, exercise, and time for me were just what I needed. I refocused and was able to manage things better.

Just when we got ourselves into a routine, we had a hiccup.

It was the end of summer, five months into my husband’s job situation. While riding his bike, my younger son fell and broke his leg. And it wasn’t just a “simple” break. It was a break that required a three-night stay in the hospital, surgery, multiple casts — the works — to eventually come home with a cast from his groin to his toes.

No fun for an eight-year-old kid entering grade three.

Once he was home and settled, with help from my sister, my other son — the saint — and my husband on weekends, we got ourselves into a new routine. Hoisting wheelchairs and walkers, learning crutches, figuring out stairs and bathing were challenges we mastered together.

Crawling into bed exhausted, the silence of the night weighed down on me, fuelling my ever-racing thoughts. When I would finally get to sleep after an hour or two of worrying about everyone and everything, I would wake up only a few short hours later. My morning exercise routine dwindled away again.

I had my boys to worry about; I wasn’t the important one here. Trying to maintain happiness and balance while navigating this new way of living was most important.

Within a month, we were once again on track, and I resumed my desperately needed early morning walks. And this time, I had a plan for tackling my stress.

When I went to bed, I would visualize the path I would take the next morning, seeing every tree, house and landmark along the way. Doing so relaxed me, driving away worries that raced around my mind. Yes, I had days and nights when I still felt overwhelmed and my sleep was broken. But I kept walking, telling myself that things weren’t really that bad, remembering this was only temporary. This too would pass. It could have been so much worse, and I was fortunate with what I did have. Heck, if my son could endure a broken leg and surgeries, I could handle this. My self-talk and visualization worked and, combined with my walks, I started to feel better as our routine and life levelled out.

September, October, then November flew by. Then winter hit — big.

Severe ice, snow and cold temperatures brought our city, unused to harsh winters, to a standstill. My older son and I shovelled snow while my younger son, now with a different cast, watched from the confines of a sled. Getting the boys to and from school, never mind me to work, was a challenge. Trying to navigate a casted boy over icy sidewalks and parking lots was no easy feat. And of course my walks were non-existent.

Then the car broke down.

Just keep it coming, I thought.

Not once, not twice, but three times the tow truck saved me in the harsh, icy conditions. I might as well have had a reserved spot at the repair shop. With being snowed in, worrying about the car, and my poor kid stuck with a cast, I did the best I could to keep my spirits up. But I started heading back to that stressed-out fog.

The snow melted, as snow, too, is only temporary, and the car was eventually fixed.

December left us, leading us to January and milder temperatures. I was determined to get back to my walking routine, and I did. Another operation on my son’s leg in February, then the cast was off. The car still ran, and my other son, the saint, seemed no worse for wear.

Anything else was manageable.

I kept walking. With every step, I pounded out whatever current situation was bothering me. Sometimes forcing myself, when my bed was too comfy or I felt too tired, to get out there and clear my head. I realized while I needed to take care of everyone else, if I was going to cope with whatever came my way, I had to take care of myself as well. My boys had fared well through those times, their resilience and independence, and mine, tested and strengthened.

With each step, the proverbial “one step at a time” came to mind.

If I could manage what I had in the previous months, I could do anything — we could do anything. Letting stress deprive me of sleep and interfere with my sanity only gave it power. I was stronger than that, and I got stronger with every step.

~ Lisa McManus Lange ~

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