Exercise and stress

It’s been a rough week for me emotionally, and exercise has been a lifeline—for the first time ever.

The pressures of running a business, the death of my uncle to cancer last week, and world events (I read the news professionally, and can’t just “turn it off” or withdraw from the most polarized political disagreements I’ve seen in my lifetime) all led to me feeling very stressed out this week. And I’ve turned to exercise to help.

A few years ago that would have been unheard of, but this week I found myself looking forward to my running training day, where I run as much as I can, walking the rest, for an hour. At the end of that hour, I’m wrung out, sweating from head to toe—and I feel much better than I did before I started.

There’s plenty of scientific evidence compiled over many decades, that links exercise to stress relief. I’m not a scientist and I don’t know why that is, but I know it to be true in my experience. This past week there were two or three days where I did two workouts in a single day, looking for that physical release.

In thinking about what has shifted in my mind recently (and I say this as a person who for the past 30 years or more has avoided exercise, mostly) and I guess it’s a lesson that has just finally sunk in.

Self-care is a complicated business. I used to have a pattern where I worked myself very hard, for a very long time, then crashed and burned, typically by getting sick. Several years ago I realized that unless I take care of myself, I can’t carry the workload I do. That led to some early steps to try and avoid the crash and burn. What I’m doing now is the same basic process, but at another level. I’ve been increasing my fitness level for the past couple of years, to the extent that my body now craves movement if I go long enough without it. What a fundamental change.

So the current plan is lather, rinse, repeat. Meals and food prep continue to go pretty well. I am getting exercise regularly and training for running outdoors when the weather warms up—especially the Torrance County 50+ Games and at least one 5k race in May. Stress relief is simply another side benefit, like better digestion and better sleep with regular exercise. I need that relief and I’ll take it. In fact, I’m going to go lift some weights right now.

Do you turn to exercise for stress relief? I’d love to hear your strategies. Contact me at 505-286-1212 or leota@lobo.net, or join the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!