Thursday, August 17, 2017

How Running Helps Me With Emotional Struggles

I wanted to talk a little bit about emotional problems and how running has helped me through those rough patches in life, but first here's a little bit about our day.

This morning after dropping J off at the bus, we went to Costco. M decided that she was big enough to walk and not ride in the cart. It kills me that they are getting this big. She ended up walking and riding on the side of the cart like this the whole time.


After we got our errands done, M wanted to do a workout. So I found THIS kid workout video that they like to do every now and then and M and V entertained themselves with it while I made some lunch. 


After we had lunch, V wasn't ready for a nap yet and we had a while before J got home, so we went out back to play for a while. They are trying to soak as much summer in as I am before it gets cold. (Notice V's choice of "toy" is a fork...)


On our way to pick J up, M kept striking poses like this. She's quite the character. I'm not sure where she got this funny little side to her personality but I hope she's always this happy and silly. 


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Last night's run was more for therapeutic reason than for training or conditioning for anything.  I've been dealing with a lot of anxiety the last few months. I'm not really sure that I've ever had a lot of anxiety in my life. I've definitely dealt with depression and stress a lot in life, but I think this is the first time that I can say I've had anxiety. (And I haven't been diagnosed with it, I'm just sure that's what it would fall under).  The first thing I've noticed is that I'll wake up about an hour after falling asleep for no reason. My heart will be racing, I'm sweating, and my body starts to shake and then I can't stop my mind and I can't go back to sleep. Most of the time I'm good during the day as long as I keep going and I don't think too much about a growing to do list or any other life stressors. So maybe it's not even an anxiety thing. (?)

The first I started noticing this happening was the night my grandma Ann died (both of my grandmas were a huge part of my life and helped raise me so we were VERY close). She died very suddenly in a fall. It was a complete shock to my entire family and it was pretty traumatic. So that night when I woke up every hour feeling sick to my stomach, heart racing and crying and shaking, I knew why. I had a reason for it. But since then it's happened once a week or so for no reason.

I've started noticing triggers and knowing when I'll probably have a rough night, and last night happened to be one of those nights. When I start to feel THAT stressed, I usually have a hard time getting out the door, especially for night runs.  But I knew that running would help me, not only relax, but also to process through what stresses I've been having. I was able to go out and run 3 miles with my sister. Not only did her listening to my problems help, but the run itself helped. And today I wanted to talk about how running can help with emotional/mental problems.

There have been studies done that prove that the endorphins you get during and after a run help with these mental health issues.  And that's amazing! I am very grateful for those endorphins, but I wanted to share the ways that running has helped me through anxiety and depression and not just the scientific side that we always hear about.

First, I have struggled with depression for several years. My high school years were the hardest for me. I'd been bullied in school, I didn't have a lot of self-confidence, things just never seemed to go right for me, I felt a lot of pressure to be a certain way...I could keep going, but I won't. I was struggling.  I was on the cross country and track teams and I told myself that I was doing it to be good at something. And while that wasn't true, I had told myself that enough that I believed it and then when I would do bad on a race, it would pull me down further. But the truth is, and looking back at those times I'm pretty sure I knew this then, I did it as a way to help me feel better.

Running gave me a group of friends that were in so many ways better than the friends I would have had with out running. It gave me a support group. And while several of the people on the team didn't help with the social aspect of it (so happens that my bully since grade school ended up being on the team) a lot of the people DID help me. I had so many friends that actually cared about me. Who wanted to talk to me, who thought I was important. And that didn't only give me someone to talk to, it also gave me a confidence boost.

When I would run on my own, in high school, it gave me the time to clear my mind. It gave me time to focus on me and to not worry about what others were thinking. It gave me time to work through the feelings and frustration I felt as a teenager.  It also gave me some time to just feel whatever emotions I needed to feel at the time instead of hiding them from everyone around me. And I always came back feeling a little better.  I felt like showering after a hard run was helping me wash away all those bad feelings.

Those things are all things that I have continued to have when I run.  I took a long break from running after high school but with in a few years, I realized that I needed it more consistently in my life. I needed something constant and something that I could control. It made me feel safe. Running also made me feel strong and like I could get through anything.

Now that I have a little bit of anxiety that I am also dealing with, I've been noticing how much running also helps me with that.  Usually, during a run, I'm thinking of a few things: My day/my problems, things that have to do with running (that normally turn into blog posts) or running.  I've noticed that it doesn't really matter what I'm thinking about on a run, I will always come home feeling better. The chance to be outside, to push myself hard, to breathe deep, to feel my legs and my lungs and all the little uncomfortable things seems to be oddly comfortable.  When I get back and get myself cleaned up, it's a lot like when I was in high school, and I feel like all the bad feelings, the stress, the worry, whatever it may be, is going down the drain like dirty water. I am able to think more clearly and to figure out answers to my problems.

What is something that helps you with emotional struggles?

How did you start running?

5 comments:

  1. I LOVE running for this reason, too. All exercise helps, but there's something about getting outside and "away" from your problems that helps clear the mind. THanks for sharing!

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    1. I agree! It definitely helps me to feel like I'm literally stepping away from the problem and clearing my mind. It seems to help a lot when it's time to revisit the issue and solve the problems.

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  2. I don't do long-distance yet, but I do look forward to my late-night treadmill jogs every day. It's great for helping me unwind after parenting all freakin day!

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    1. I can't think of a better way to help myself feel less stressed on a regular basis besides exercise. running is a great way to destress, and it's a good way to teach your kids about keeping your body strong and healthy. thanks for reading! Have a great day!

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  3. I feel the exact same way about my yoga practice. There's just something about your body moving that helps so much!

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