Walking In the Store Turned Into My Therapy

Seven years ago, my health was tanking and I was forced to take a leave of absence from work. I was in a severe Crohn’s, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis flare-up. Being homebound was one thing, but increasingly bed-bound was new to me. I have a few choice words for those who told me “just get up and move. You’ll feel better.”

I still have those choice words. Anyway.

Catch-22 when it comes to managing flare-ups

This flare had my joints and bones on fire, skin blistering and cracking, and I was living in the bathroom. I was bitter toward unqualified advice, and positive that moving would make someone else feel better but not me. That is until one of my doctors pointed out how arthritis sets you up for failure, as do the other inflammatory diseases. And then explained how movement works in your favor. Then, they dropped the bomb on me that I needed to move more and get some sun.

Lovely.

Trying out different ways to incorporate daily movement

I live in the land of year-round-summer with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees during the real summer. This provides its own set of challenges. I did what I tend to do best, fixate and make lists. Here’s what I came up with:

Taking walks with my dog

A long walk with the dog. Start out doing once daily until getting to twice daily. Alternating light-weight exercises with yoga videos online. Go to the pool to relax and tread water.

These three options sounded like a good start until I tried one and then another. I had an older dog at the time. She was so not into long walks in the rain, sun, or in the blustery wind. She enjoyed long naps around the house, and the patio, and on top of me. It's not the end of the world, but onto the next.

Trying out light weight lifting and yoga

So, I moved onto the next option on the list. I tried using light weights out and they were okay, minus the painful skin under my arms. Though, I quickly lost motivation to do them consistently. I never got very far with yoga because we had two dogs and a cat. They found my being on the floor was playtime. Not to mention, I had some pretty wicked psoriasis under my arms and lower parts of the body. I couldn’t get comfortable regardless of trying it on a mat on the floor or carpet. Back to the drawing board, I went. Between the zoo in my house and pain from the cracked and blistered skin under my arms and arthritis in feet, yoga was out.

Low impact exercise in the pool

Last on the list was the pool. I was able to go once every couple of weeks, but not consistently. When I was able to go, I felt self-conscious if someone would see my spots. I would also worry about what if my insides acted up and I needed to get to the restroom in time. What if the gate card wouldn’t open the bathroom? I often talked myself out of going to the pool, even if I had gotten ready to go, which is a shame. Because when I was able to go, exercising in the water felt great and so did the sun.

Narrowing down places I could comfortably navigate

Defeat is one feeling that hovered over my head as I reviewed the list. But I didn’t want to give up. I concentrated my thinking around my doctor’s advice of more movement. Then I zeroed in on places I can navigate comfortably. Here’s what I came up with: my home, the market, and my favorite store that my nephew calls the “Circle Store.” What they had in common - mostly easy access to restrooms, places to sit or hold onto, and AIR CONDITIONING.

You may be thinking, doesn’t a gym have all that? It does, but I didn’t have a gym available locally. Also, at that point in time, I caught viruses left and right.

Short shopping trips

So, I went. Even if I didn’t need to shop, I would go to the market or Circle Store a few times a week. This act of going to the store helped me in a couple of ways. First, in order to go out, I wanted to look presentable. This forced me to put in some effort with dressing and my hair. I’d even wear makeup if I was feeling spiffy. This helped feeling better emotionally, too. But it was also exhausting. As the saying goes, guard those spoons! Second, I walked the stores often enough that I could spot a lost person. I wound up helping at least one person a visit. This forced me to communicate with people, and also left me with a sense of gratification.

Walking the aisles of the stores provided my body with movement in a climate-controlled atmosphere and a well-being boost. Mostly clean restrooms are nearby, and the stores provide shopping carts which make for great walking aides.

My new normal while shopping

Here's what I think. When experiencing a number of good-days or points of remission, it’s really easy to take something so simple like a trip to the store for granted. Rushing in and out of the store was my old normal. My new normal is strolling in the store while grabbing a few items. While I do smaller shopping trips now, I feel like I get more out of them.

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