This is such a unique time to our lives. When even was the last time that literally the whole world was dealing with the same problem? The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most surreal things I have experienced. It has also been stressful. Some days more so than others. Like most of the world, my husband and I have been “social distancing” and it can definitely take a toll. We miss our former activities and hobbies that involved going out and being around other people. It has also made me realize how much I took for granted (like casual trips to the grocery store).
Thankfully running is still in the “safe” column, as long as you’re running alone that is. In this particular scenario it’s obvious how running would relieve stress-simply getting out of the house feels amazing and I’m able to clear my head and gain perspective. I have always been a solo runner so that part of it hasn’t been a change for me. Sometimes I’ll listen to an audiobook (I recently finished reading/listening to the Harry Potter series for the first time ever!) or podcast (I have been loving the Better Than Happy podcast which is on Spotify or Apple music), but half the time I will not be listening to anything. I will think about whatever is on my mind and clear my head.
Doing a physical activity, while thinking about the difficult things in your life, or in your past, helps you process it. In the book Getting Past Your Past, therapist Francine Shapiro discovered that thinking on past trauma while doing something physical helps access both parts of your brain and will help you to process it and come to a place of peace.
Some people may say that running is their therapy, but I don’t think that’s the right way to phrase it. Therapy is therapy and running is running. However, running is therapeutic. It does not take the place of seeing a therapist if that is what is needed. But it can still be therapeutic and helpful to your mental and emotional state.
Have you ever seen that quote that goes something along the lines of, “Depressed people don’t need medication, they need sunshine and running shoes”? Running can certainly help with depression. But it doesn’t cure it. I can speak from experience, there have been times when I was depressed but would still go run. Maybe while running I would feel better, but as soon as I stopped, that depression came over me again. It’s the same as the above statement on running not being therapy. Running isn’t the cure to depression. It can help, but it isn’t the cure.
And now here the reasons why running reduces stress!
One of the reasons I am so grateful to have discovered running is because it is one of the steady, constant things in my life I can rely on. When the world around us is confusing and stressful, it’s good to come to something that isn’t confusing. There is a comfort I get from running while going through something difficult. Like it’s a friend I can rely on no matter what is happening. (Not counting the time I’ve been injured lol. But even then, it’s a comfort to know it’ll be there again when I’m ready and able).
– Running rewires your brain
If you live an active lifestyle, chances are your brain is wired to think more positive. An article on Runners World said, “We are constantly rewriting our memories, so of course, if exercise makes me happy or calm more often, I might interpret the stressor as less impactful as it’s happening, but I might also recall it later as less stressful.”
-Resilient to stress
If you are an avid distance runner, you have experienced what it feels like to think you can’t go on and to want nothing more than to just give up. Yet despite those feelings you continue on. Whether it is during training or during a race. That strength and fortitude you get from conquering those negative emotions transfers over to your daily life. When something difficult is happening, you are able to cope with it better and are able to have the strength and knowledge that you can get through it.
Maintaining healthy breathing is key when you are feeling overwhelmed. Running forces you to breath deeply and consistently without you even thinking about it.
-Panic attacks and exercising
Did you know that if you feel a panic attack coming on, the best defense against it is exercise? A panic is all this energy that’s looking for an outlet. It usually comes out by you having a panic attack. But when you feel it starting, if you start exercising in some way, it will cause that energy to come out through exercise and will pass. If you have a cardio machine at home you can jump in that, or try doing some pushups, jumping jacks- whatever is most convenient. The exercise will also help you to take those deep breaths, which you tend to be unable to do while panicking. If you struggle with panic attacks, try this one out next time! It works wonders!
As I said above, running has helped me through various difficult situations and it has certainly helped me while dealing with coronavirus stress. Simply avoiding the news (or limiting how much you take in) is also a great way to keep the stress levels down!
I hope you found this article helpful and that you are able to find the best way possible to not only deal with this right now, but learning how to deal with any difficult thing that comes up in life.
Side note, if you started running recently due to gym closures-check out this post for some running tips for beginners! And if you need some uplifting books, heres a list of inspirational running books! (which are also available on Audible.)