Replacing Stress With Running Made A Huge Difference In My Life

Replacing Stress With Running Made A Huge Difference In My Life

Whoever told you not to run from your problems was wrong.

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I like to pretend that I am the type of person who is easy going and stress-free when it comes to life, but there are some things that raise my stress, and that just can't be helped. School and the need to succeed has always been one of those stressors for me. Going into my first semester of college, I was so excited to have extra time between classes to get things done. I thought I was going to be so on-task—boy, was I so wrong.

Time management has never been one of my strong suits, and that, unfortunately, did not magically change when I began college this fall. During the midterm season, my level of stress reached an all-time high. I was struggling to balance my academics, social life, and other responsibilities. My morale was very low, and I struggled to do anything productive. All I wanted to do was lay in bed and watch Netflix. Nothing sounded better than a lazy day filled with "Grey's Anatomy" and some popcorn. Laying in bed was not going to reduce my stress so I decided to try doing something that would get my blood pumping, like running.

Like a lot of people, I was never a huge fan of running for fun. Growing up, I used to only run when it was required such as at practice or when I was conditioning for lacrosse. College changed all of that, as I found myself getting more stressed and looking for ways to relax, I stumbled upon the idea of running. Once I started running daily, everything turned around. It was as if with each mile I ran, the stress began to slip away. With the reduction of stress, it became easier to manage my time and to be more motivated when it came to studying.

Running daily was not an easy habit to start and it definitely was not easy to continue once the beautiful summer and fall weather turned into a cold, windy winter. The more I kept at it though, the better I felt. The overwhelming amount of schoolwork was still stressful but not to the same point it had been previously. I no longer felt suffocated by the looming essays, exams, and project deadlines. The less stress I felt the easier it was to get work done. Funny how that works—taking time away from studying actually makes it easier to focus on studying later. It feels like it should be the opposite because I am losing time I could be spending studying but instead I am just helping myself to create a more productive environment. That is what really matters, creating a productive environment in order to get things fully done without the overwhelming stress getting in the way.

Exercise in any form has often been credited as a stress reducer and even has been recommended as a positive way to promote a healthy life by the Mayo Clinic. As the heart rate and energy increase because of the endorphins and adrenaline being produced, stress and anxiety are lowered. Ten minutes that is all it takes for the number of endorphins needed to create a change to be fully produced, not an hour, just ten simple minutes. Ten minutes of a jog or ten minutes of a walk can create since an impact on daily happiness levels. The rush of endorphins creates a sense of happiness that seems to instantly relieve my stress.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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If You're A Runner, Don't Be Discouraged, Sometimes Running Progress Isn't Linear

I've been running for six years and although I was faster when I started, I'm still going strong.

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When I began running as a hobby in 2013, it was for no reason other than start participating in runDisney races and earn some really amazing medals. It wasn't for any awesome reason like weight loss, self-improvement, or specific time goals in mind. I was also always the kid in gym class who hated running the mile, so I figured any effort on my part to become a runner would be impressive. I'm not sure how people wake up one day and decide to become a runner. It's not a fun hobby (at least during), but post-run endorphins are definitely real. Regardless, I've somehow been running off and on for 6 years now.

Despite my calling it out as not a fun hobby, it's extremely rewarding and never takes more than it gives. Running has given me so much and I'd recommend it as a hobby for anyone. We all start from somewhere, but it's also important to know that you shouldn't begin thinking that you're going to improve if you do it often. That's how most things work. We've all heard practice makes perfect, but so many things can happen on your running journey. Runners can get faster or run longer distances with consistent training, but it's never a guarantee.

In my personal experience, I was significantly faster when I first became a runner. I was a newbie, but I was using the Couch25K program, which is for beginners. It is meant to guide you to run a 5k without any walk breaks. All of my personal bests occurred within my first year or two of running. I could easily get discouraged about this and give up the hobby altogether, but I'm still happy. I acknowledge that my weight is now more than it was back in the day, that I've been through injuries, and that I prefer to run with run/walk intervals. All of these things may make me slower, but not any less determined or appreciative that my body can still cover the distance.

I've had my ups and downs, just like many runners. I've had countless friends who had to start from ground zero after time off for surgeries or injury. I think the most important thing for all of us to remember is that we're only racing ourselves and we're winning against our former self as long as we get off the couch. I know how important it is for some runners to focus on a time or pace goal and continually be building on that. My favorite part of running is how subjective success is. Someone's worst finish time in a race ever may be someone else's biggest goal. Someone may think a 10K is the shortest distance while someone else dreams of completing 6 miles. Some of us are crazy and want to do a half marathon in each state. Me. That's my type of crazy I'm talking about.

I continue running despite not having the guarantee of improving on my average mile pace. Nothing is unattainable, so there's no guarantee that my best days can't be surpassed in the future. Some days it feels like my running progress has gone completely backward, but then I remember everything I've gained in 6 years. I've gained more running friends than I can count. I've collected race memories in various states. I've proven to myself time and again how strong I am, even if I think I'm not. I have significantly more race medals than I'm currently able to display in my home. Most importantly, I've gained a level of self-esteem and good health that I couldn't have otherwise. Go for a run. Then go again.

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