Monday, July 18, 2016
Running for Immediate Stress Relief
Running, or exercise, can improve the mental and emotional health of the runner. She may simply feel a sense of accomplishment or she may be happy because her clothing fits better, but studies show that enough strenuous exercise can lessen the symptoms and effects of stress, anxiety and depression. Let me show you how running is an immediate stress reliever for me.
I can’t say that I often crave a run. I crave cookies and chocolate. The anticipation of a run is often the hardest part, so no, I don’t really crave running. I do, however, crave the way I feel after a run – and by “feel” I don’t mean the physical exhaustion immediately post-run. I am referring to the emotional calm and mental clarity that begins to show forth during the run and continues for a time afterwards. The physical comfort and calm does not come until I have cooled down, stretched, hydrated, and showered!
How stress is immediately reduced:
Shift in activity and focus. When current mental demands such as work responsibilities, bill paying, or even housework pile up and a feeling of rising panic looms, a short run can shift your focus from those things that are causing anxiety to a physical challenge. It is difficult to focus on emotional worries when your legs are aching and lungs are burning. Your attention is aimed at the immediate physical task and those other worries are put aside, at least for a time. This shift also tends to clear the cobwebs and eliminate unproductive thoughts that may be looping through your mind – unless those unproductive thoughts are about how badly your legs are hurting! We will address those issues in Mental Tricks for Beginning Runners on my Tips for Beginning Runners page.
Affirmation of your abilities. Doing something difficult increases confidence in your ability to conquer other difficult tasks. Going for a run is hard. Cleaning the bathroom? That’s not nearly so difficult! Even mowing the lawn becomes almost relaxing compared to a long run.
Physical fatigue allows the mind to focus on what is next. When I have completed a run and cooled down, it is much easier to sort through my pile of tasks and prioritize them. Rather than feeling as if everything needs to be done immediately, which is impossible, my mind and body work together to recognize what is most important. Perhaps it is the feeling of exhaustion confirming that there is limited time and energy that allows me to clearly place in order my responsibilities. There is a peace of mind that accompanies doing things in wisdom and order.
The next time you are feeling anxious about things on your To Do List or out of your control, go for a short run or even a brisk walk. Ten to 20 minutes should do the trick. Stay with it long enough to shift your focus. Move until those anxious thoughts settle down and you can think more clearly about what is most important. Then return to your list of things to do and take control!
Do you have a motivational tip for runners? I would love to hear about it! Post it in the comments below.
Running Granny Green encourages women, especially grandmothers, to gain greater fitness by providing tips and inspiration to insure long years of joyful grand-parenting. The cookie recipes are a bonus!
Carol - aka Running Granny Green