Last night I went for a run for the first time in nearly two weeks. Its unusual for me to go that long without jogging at least once, but life was busy. Easter weekend preparations had me running ragged. Planning, writing, shooting, editing, and preparing both on-line and in-person Easter services, as well as Good Friday. On top of that my wife is in the final weeks of writing her dissertation. And to add to all of that, the folks who normally watch our son were all away on spring break.
All of that meant late nights with not much sleep, trying to settle down in front of the tv to no avail, eating a lot of take out (no regrets), and skipping the normal routines and habits that help keep life healthy. Including running.
When life gets stressful and busy, why do I always hack off my healthy habits first?
As you might imagine, all of that stress, House Hunters, and Chic Fil A went straight to my gut in the form of a bloated gaseous stress balloon sitting simultaneously both high and low in my stomach. And nothing seemed to help.
Until last night.
I live in a small neighborhood dropped down in the middle of a rural area about 20 minutes outside of the city, surrounded by corn fields and cow farms. At about 7pm I laced up my running shoes, pressed play on a newly formed eclectic spotify playlist of rock, rap, and country music - and then took off at a leisurely pace out of my neighborhood, and onto the dirt country roads. I could feel my insides bouncing painfully with every stride.
I’m thankful I was running next to dairy farms for this one.
As the sun set ahead of me, that bloated balloon of stress and gas began to break up and…. forgive me… release. With my headphones in, cheered on by a black and white bovine crowd unconcerned with the sounds and smells of my body - I found release and relief.
Its amazing how physical activity can do that for me. The activity broke up what felt unbreakable. It unstopped what felt so stopped up.
I arrived home about 45 minutes later feeling fresh, renewed and so relieved.
But then I started to wonder: what are the other seemingly unbreakable, stopped up spots in my life - that just need a little alternative activity to get things moving? Where are my daily patterns unwittingly putting me behind? And what activity could break things up?
I’m a worrier. I have a tendency to get stuck in my head, allowing negative thinking to dominate my brain space, which then in turn is a detriment to my life space, getting me emotionally tied in knots. Is there an activity to break that pattern up?
Maybe you’re a serial shopper, using the amazon app to soothe your soul on the couch at night while you watch tv - wasting money on stuff you don’t need, and a week or two will forgot you bought. Is there an activity to break that pattern up?
Maybe you’re a compulsive snacker, consuming junk food everyday at the same time, in the same way - and are tired of the sluggish feelings you have mid-afternoon, or the number on the bathroom scale. Is there an activity to break that pattern up?
I don’t know what your bloated balloon of gas and stress is. I don’t know what pattern is causing it.
But my guess is that you do.
I just know, that sometimes you need to lace ‘em up, and let it out so that you can find release and relief - perhaps with some friends who won’t judge you for how it sounds (or smells).
Here are some healthy ideas - some that work for me, some that work for others:
- Exercise. Find something you enjoy doing that gets your heart rate up, takes some level of effort, and causes you to break a sweat.
- Journaling. Pen, paper and your thoughts and feelings. Begin with “today my heart is…” and off you go.
- Reading. Its easy to shop, scroll, or mindlessly stroll on your phone while watching tv, but it doesn’t work so well when reading. Reading a physical book is a great way to break up your patterns.
- Cooking at home. If out of convenience or habit you are constantly eating out. Plan one meal, that looks like fun to cook at home. I used to be intimidated by the idea of cooking, but then my wife gave me the best phrase: If you can read - You can cook. Find a recipe blog you like - here are the two I use skinnytaste.com and melskitchencafe.com If you can read, you can cook.
- Set a timer. The most helpful app on your phone might be your timer app. Set a timer for negative thoughts. Let your thoughts trigger you to set the timer for 5 minutes. When the time goes off - switch activities, to jump start your brain to think about something else.
I’m curious for you - what’s your bloated balloon of gaseous stress? What activities have worked for you to help break things up and get moving?