Running for Mental Health

Disclaimer: We are not mental health professionals. This post contains personal experiences, thoughts, and opinions and are not intended to replace medical care or professional help. If you need help, please consult a health care professional or licensed therapist.

Did you know that 1 in 4 people struggle with mental illness in any given year? The odds are you have a close friend or family member who has struggled. Or maybe you have. Today I want to talk about something really important and personal and that is mental health. People still don’t talk about mental health very much, but lots of people are affected by it.  Today I will be sharing my story and how running has been an important habit to add to my self care routine.

I want to be open about one of the main reasons why I run. Running helps me to manage my anxiety. I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. For a long time in my life, I wasn’t even aware that I had anxiety and just thought that worrying all the time about every possible worst case scenario was normal. I thought that my overwhelming fear of social situations just meant I was an introvert. We all feel anxious sometimes, but when it is chronic and starts to interfere with your life, it isn’t normal. I didn’t have the awareness about the anxiety to be able to know that I had a problem until I was in my 20’s, and that’s when I was given the ability to get help and break free.

For me, seeing a therapist has been the most crucial part to finding peace and working through my struggles. I have grown so much through therapy that sometimes I don’t even recognize my old thought patterns. I also take medication. Taking medication was something I resisted for a long time, until it became clear that it was the right choice.

Another thing that has greatly helped me to cope with anxiety has been placing my faith in God. I used to worry about every possible thing that could go wrong and try to control the outcome of situations, which was impossible and self defeating. I’ve learned to lean on God as my rock during times of uncertainty and fear. One of my favorite bible verses is 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”. I’ve learned to give up my anxiety to God and it’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

And of course, running is another way that I manage my anxiety. I like to tell people that I fell in love with running by accident, and I never set out to be a runner. I only intended to do a 5k to get in shape for my wedding, but I I instantly fell in love with the mental health benefits I was experiencing. When I was feeling down, I would go for a run and it would instantly lift my mood. When I was feeling anxious, I would go for a run, and it would bring me to a sense of calm that I couldn’t achieve elsewhere. Running releases endorphins and makes you feel good. There are lots of studies that show the mental health benefits of running.

Don’t get me wrong – running in no way replaces therapy or medication. I still see a therapist and take medication, but running is a very helpful tool in my self-care toolbox that I am so happy I have.

I am fortunate that I have become well-equipped to manage my anxiety effectively, and at this point, I am in a really good place. With the Coronavirus pandemic, the whole world is struggling through a new challenge that has thrust a lot of people into an anxiety that they might not have experienced before. If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. You deserve to get the help you need. Reach out to a friend, tell someone about your struggles, schedule a virtual appointment with a therapist, talk to your doctor about it. Life is short and relief is available.

Be well!

-Coach Lauren

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