Do Not Bathe in the Toxic Swamp

Dear Reader,

Everyone is busy with something and I am no exception. I have made a (mental) list of New Year’s resolutions for myself and I’m finding it hard to make time to do everything that I would like to do consistently. One of my 2020 challenges is to run a half marathon in May. I used to jog so getting back into the swing of things physically has not been hard, however, squeezing an hour into my schedule to train at times seems insurmountable. I tend to take things to the extreme, training for this half marathon is one of those times.

My daily commute to work is about 2.5 miles. In the past, I would always walk this distance leisurely while listening to music or audiobooks. Lately, I feel as if I do not have time to accommodate my commute, so on several occasions I have instead opted to take transport to the gym in the morning to complete a more strenuous workout in lieu of my walk. While this has worked on busier days, the busiest of days have required more radical adjustments. ‘Go big or go home,’ aka the unwitting motto of my life underpins my exercise routine on some of my busiest days. A few days ago, strapped for time and stressed, I made the impulsive decision to run to work. The result was poorly executed, but blood-pumping all the same.

On the morning of my impromptu jog, I was feeling stressed because I was I running about 15-20mins behind schedule. This slight shift in timing would have serious consequences to my morning productivity that I did not have the emotional capacity to cope with at the time. I put on my coat and boots, but left my gym bag by the door, because I knew that I could not squeeze in a gym session. By the time that I reached the front of my building my stress levels had seemingly spiked. It felt as if I had pent-up, dormant stress that was just waiting to be released. A slave to my biochemistry, I tried to release the toxic energy as immediately as I could—I started running.

I took off my hat, pulled my hair back into a pony tail, and shoved my scarf into my bag. Clad in my thick, thigh-length outerwear and my stiff boots, I began to run down the sidewalk. What a sight it must be to behold a woman, clutching her bag and running with purpose but to no physical end. I felt like I was in pursuit of an invisible bus or like I was a shady Depression-era bandit with a burlap sack hightailing it from the coppers.

Exercise releases endorphins that can make you feel happy. This biochemical reaction in a way is like natural medication for the body. In my mind, a human being is like a body of water. When humans are emotionally healthy, their bodies are like fresh streams with clear, thirst-quenching water. When humans are emotionally unbalanced, the stream gets cut off, the water stagnates and what once was a clear pool becomes a pit of toxic sludge and grimy muck. When we feel bad it can be hard to drain and refresh the swamp. I spend a lot of time trying to examine and understand my feelings; while this can be productive, often, I feel as if I am stewing in my own murky waters. When I jog, I feel as if the dam quarantining my goo is slowly giving way allowing the slime to leak out and fresh water to flow in. Sustained cardiovascular exercise has this cleansing effect on my psyche but, also, I am positive, a salubrious effect on my brain.

I arrived at my destination after my run with my face dripping with sweat and body radiating with heat. Because I ran, I actually did make up for my delay this morning. I felt better in the same way that one does after taking an ibuprofen at the crescendo of an impending migraine. I felt as if the run were medication designed to target and relieve my pain. Unlike ibuprofen, this medication does not need to be ingested every 4-6 hours to sustain the effect; after one jog, I was good for the entirety of the day.

Whether it is jogging, meditating, or taking some time to reflect, it is important to understand and know how you relate to and manage stress. This experience showed me that just 20-30 minutes of cardio is all it takes for me to cool down from a stressful episode…. Also, this run has taught me that if I plan to jog to work then I should really plan to bring a change of clothes…even if the temperatures do not climb above freezing.

Stress is a devious fiend, but not the most unpredictable adversary. I felt stressed because I was finding it hard to pursue my goals. Jogging helped me emotionally cope and had the added benefit of getting me one step ahead in my training for the half marathon. Whether you need to heat up or cool down, Dear Reader, I wish you the best in your stress management and hope you will live a beautiful, stress-minimal life.



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