5. Outside

Going for a walk or a run can be refreshing, whether it’s just getting fresh air by walking around my town or exploring an exciting new environment when travelling. I walk to work every day and run twice a week, so it’s safe to say that I have my fair share of time outside. I can think of many times that the great outdoors have helped me with my mental health and I want to share one of those experiences with you in this post.

When I went to Seoul, despite my initial anxieties about travelling alone for the first time, I was full of excitement at the possibilities of what I could do. However, depression doesn’t care if you’re on holiday. I found it very difficult to cope with the slightest incident and I cried in public in that city more times than I would care to admit. It didn’t stop me from having an amazing holiday, because I was so determined to not let my depression ruin my dream trip.

Waking up the morning after a particularly difficult day was one of those times I had to prescribe myself some self-care and prevent my depression from ruining my holiday. I decided to go to the Cheonggyecheon stream for an explore, because it was a particularly sunny day and I was sure the fresh air would be good for me.  The calming moments sitting in the sunshine with my feet in the stream were worth the exhaustion of the 7.5km walk and I was right, it was good for me.

That day kick-started the rest of my trip and I put my energy into finding more adventurous and exciting activities to do. One of them being the zipline mentioned in an earlier post. But my biggest achievement during my time in South Korea was the mountain I climbed. That could be both the metaphorical mountain I climbed to overcome my depressive episode and the literal mountain I climbed, despite never going on a hike in my life before and forgetting my asthma inhaler.

The relief I felt as I reached the peak of Mount Inwangsan cannot compare to any other high on the trip. It was such a personal milestone to me. I have lived my life always quite physically unfit, not a sporty bone in my body and avoiding exercise where possible. I think it was this success that gave me the push to start running, which is such an important part of my self care today.

I climbed this mountain in a group and the poor tour director had to hang back to check that I was okay, because I kept having to sit down to take deep breaths to stop me from wheezing the whole time. I wasn’t expecting the hike to be so intense as when I booked it I thought it was suitable for beginners, but then we got to the rock wall that you literally had to climb up to get to the top. I wasn’t expecting anything more than an uphill walk and some stairs, but it was literally nearly vertical. I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. But I did it and the view of the Seoul city skyline was totally worth every second of pain it took to get there. I wish I had asked someone to take a triumphant victory photo of me at the peak, but no one needs to see the state I was in at the top. Photo or not, I will remember it forever.

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