Exercising Outside, a Pandemic and Schizoaffective Disorder

June 4, 2020 Elizabeth Caudy

I hate to be a Debbie Downer (and a schizoaffective one at that), but just because the weather is getting nicer doesn’t mean the new coronavirus has magically disappeared. We still need to wear masks as much as we are able when we exercise outside. I say “as much as we are able” because I know it’s hard to wear them while just walking or exercising outside. But let’s try while we still maintain social distancing.

Exercising Outside and My Overactive Schizoaffective Feelings

The reason I’m giving this call to arms is that I exercise outside every day. I go for long walks. And even though exercise is supposed to be good for mental illnesses like schizoaffective disorder, walking stresses me out because other people aren’t making an effort to practice social distancing. Worse, I’ve been made fun of more than once for practicing social distancing.

Actually, I don’t know what’s worse. Being made fun of hurts my overactive schizoaffective feelings, but people not keeping a proper social distance is a hazard to my health.

I feel better when other people are wearing masks. I wear one every time I go walking. It does make it harder to breathe so, if I see a stretch coming up where there are no people, I pull my mask down under my chin and take some deep breaths of fresh air.

But this is tricky because people tend to just pop up out of nowhere--coming around a corner that is hidden by bushes for one thing. My mask is ready. I’ve noticed a big, positive difference in breathability in the cloth mask I wear now than in the hospital masks I wore at first.

The Pandemic and Freaking Out from Schizoaffective Disorder

My advice is this: have fun with your mask. Think of it as a fashion accessory, or make a statement with it. I do both with my mask. I ordered it from which is a company founded and run by a schizophrenic woman whose artwork inspired the mask design. Her company seeks to create a dialogue about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses to reduce stigma.

The mask makes me feel safe and respectful of the safety of others. But I've come home from my walks downright angry. One thing I hate is when people just stand around on the sidewalk in close-knit groups, often without masks. I know I’m a very temperamental person, and that may or may not be caused by my schizoaffective disorder, but I feel it is discourteous to block walkways and block them without wearing a mask during this time when we are supposed to be practicing social distancing.

It could be that I need to lighten up and accept that sometimes I am going to find myself within six feet of someone. I know that happens at the grocery store, and that’s why my husband Tom and I don’t go grocery shopping together--it’s a place where I freak out. I just wish exercising outside didn’t freak me out, and, I’m sorry, but it wouldn’t if other people took the precautions against this pandemic more seriously.

Does exercising outside bother you because other people aren't doing the healthy things we've been advised to do? Share your stories in the comments.

APA Reference
Caudy, E. (2020, June 4). Exercising Outside, a Pandemic and Schizoaffective Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Elizabeth Caudy

Elizabeth Caudy was born in 1979 to a writer and a photographer. She has been writing since she was five years old. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Tom. Find Elizabeth on Google+ and on her personal blog.

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