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Franziska Liedtke, psychologische Psychotherapeutin am MHI
Franziska Liedtke, psychological psychotherapist at MH

Text: Sibylle Haberstumpf

Rest and walking are good for the soul, says psychologist Franziska Liedtke in an interview.

Berlin. Scientists have identified a new wave of appreciation for walking. Because the walk is not only a benefit for the body, but also for the soul. In an interview with the Berliner Morgenpost, psychologist Franziska Liedtke (30) from the private clinic “Mental Health Institute Berlin” (MHI) in Charlottenburg talks about the new lockdown hobby from a therapeutic perspective.

Many people are currently working in a home office. What is the main reason for taking a break in the fresh air? Does it clear the head better than other activities?

Franziska Liedtke: Exactly, a change of environment is one way to get your mind off things. One strategy for dealing with stressful situations is to reevaluate the current situation. Just changing the place where you are can help with that. It is important to do something that is good for you – and not to brood too much, because that is counterproductive, as it can trigger additional stress. Going for a walk lowers stress hormone levels and reduces brain activity in areas associated with brooding. Studies have also shown that walks boost memory and reduce the risk of depression, for example. And it’s also about activating resources to deal with this extraordinary situation. By that I mean: skills that help us get through crisis situations. Walking helps to find new solutions.

What other medically positive aspects does it have?

It has been scientifically proven that exercise has a positive effect on our psyche. Fresh air increases concentration, provides balance and good sleep. In addition, sunlight ensures the production of vitamin D and thus strengthens our immune system. This helps to relax muscles and nerves, to come to rest and to lower blood pressure. Of course, it also stimulates circulation and lowers the risk of high blood pressure and heart attacks. Most people who normally do a lot of sports are forced by current measures to cut back a lot. It is now a matter of embedding familiar routines into the changed daily routine. So you have to change something about the way you are used to moving and doing sports. But that doesn’t change the positive effects of exercise on physical and mental health.

Many of us are everywhere and constantly available. That’s why you often see people talking on their cell phones while walking. Does that make sense?

First of all, it’s important to maintain social contacts – if that’s not possible in a direct exchange, then by phone. But it’s also about switching off and taking a break from everyday obligations. The deceleration is a beneficial effect of the forced time-out. Take time to relax once in a while and simply notice how you are feeling right now. Small relaxation breaks, during which you are welcome to turn off your cell phone, can help you deal with the situation in a more mindful and accepting way. One example of a mindfulness exercise is to direct your attention to your surroundings for once – and simply notice where you are and observe your own sensations, for example your breathing.

Currently, many people are alone and isolated at home. Can going for a walk help them avoid the ceiling falling on their heads?

First of all, it’s important to maintain a structure in everyday life despite all the restrictions. That gives security. So despite everything, people who are isolated at home should not spend the day in their pajamas, but should get up at set times, get dressed, keep usual bedtime, mealtime and work or study times, and take breaks in between to go for a walk or do something else to relax. Schedule at least one activity a day that is good for you and that you can look forward to. Also, stay in touch with those you know, use the phone, chat or video conferencing. Quarantining and keeping your distance are sensible measures; they can protect other people. So to whom it is clear: I am doing something for the community, it is easier to deal acceptingly with the current situation. This can prevent frustration and psychological stress.

In Berlin, we have just managed to avoid a curfew. But what can it do to people if they are not allowed to go out at all during an even stricter lockdown, as was the case in Spain or China, for example?

Domestic isolation and quarantine are exceptional situations that most of us have not experienced. These measures can affect our psyche and be very stressful. Stress factors can be frustration and boredom, of course, but also limitations in material provision and financial constraints. In addition, there are fears of infection, misinformation, stigmatization of those affected and social withdrawal. Unfamiliar emotions can arise during extraordinary times, and it can be challenging to adjust to new circumstances. The loss of leisure activities, sports or contacts can then also lead to depression and make people ill.

So can walks play a therapeutic role?

Yes, there are psychotherapists who go out together with their patients. I myself do the same. If the distance rule is observed, a short walk in a session is quite feasible. I have patients who don’t leave the house for the whole week except for the way to therapy. After all, we are all about teaching our patients that exercise is important – so why not try this out in the psychotherapy session and experience it together with the patients? All the aforementioned positive effects of walking, the activation of resources, but also relaxation are things that we also want to promote in therapy.

Full article

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Mental Health Institute

The clinic for psychiatry, psychosomatics and psychotherapy in the middle of the villa district Berlin-Westend.

The Mental Health Institute (MHI) Berlin is a private clinic that offers modern and scientifically serious day-clinical and outpatient treatment to people with mental problems and suffering.