One of the most important things I’ve found necessary to do during my short time thus far on this planet is finding a way to keep a clear mind and not letting stress pile up. The most effective way of achieving this, in my experience, has been running.
Originally, like most people, I viewed running as an unnecessary and ridiculous form of self-torture. Now, I still view it that way, but I also kind of enjoy it.
In the sixth grade, my mother made me sign up for the middle school track team. All of my friends were on the distance team so, naturally, I joined the shortest distance event available: the 400-meter dash. Of course, I was the slowest kid on the team, but being surrounded by my pals helped me start to enjoy this daily torture, and actually helped me get kind of good at it. I joined the cross country team the next year and continued with both cross and track throughout my middle school years, and then through my high school career (up until senior year, after my move). Gradually, the torture became not only a part of my routine, it became a part of me—I became a “runner."
Now, running when out of shape, or trying to get back in shape, is awful. Every step is a burden and your lungs just can’t keep up with your legs (assuming your legs are still moving in the first place). Being in shape and running, however, is a wonderful thing. The exercise and not having to worry too much about a careful diet (at least, at my age) is plenty nice. But more than that, what’s truly magical about going on a run is the clarity of mind you get. Running has always kept me level-headed. Whenever something comes up that throws me off, or I’m abnormally upset for whatever reason, a long run will have me feeling much better—perhaps because I’m too exhausted to be upset afterward.
Especially now, as my life begins to culminate into a massive period of potential stress (with the end of high school, waiting to hear back from colleges, comparing financial aid, seeing new Trump headlines every morning, etc.), I have miraculously remained fairly worry-free, and in large part thanks to the running program I’ve been doing. I no longer am part of a cross or track team, but the discipline and mindset that I inherited from those settings have pushed me through running on my own and helping myself keep my sanity.
Perhaps we all feel a little overwhelmed right now, and if so, I invite you to go out for a run. Torture your legs, tax your lungs, but clear your mind. Go run a mile, or go run fifteen, but come back with a clear head. The best thing we can hope to do when times get stressful is to stay cool and think intelligently.