If you have been reading along you know that I have been under some unusual stress for the last week. To put it bluntly, I found myself at the end of my rope, hanging by the tips of my fingernails. I was very, very stressed out. I can’t remember the last time I felt this stressed or for this long.
But a funny thing happened: I felt a need to exercise. Sure, a small part of it was that I didn’t want to lose momentum for my very slow weight loss so didn’t want to miss burning those calories. And a small part of it was the fear that if I didn’t keep up with my consistent habit, I wouldn’t go back to my routine. But the biggest part of the need to work out was to feel better. I knew that I needed to find a way to relieve some of the stress, needed to find some outlet. I felt an actual urge to work out!
So the other morning, another very bad morning, I knew there was a chance that the current circumstances would intrude and keep me from my cycling class at the gym. So before I even ate breakfast, I hoped on the treadmill at home and walked/jogged for 45 glorious minute. Yes… glorious! I felt my muscles engage and my mind disengage. I got sweaty and my heart rate rose for all the right reasons. And when the 45 minutes was over, I felt good. Really, really good. I am now a true believer in the power of endorphins.
So fast-forward to later that same morning. Amazingly I still had the day to myself. So I headed to yoga class. Since I have not been doing it that long and am not usually a good relaxer, I suspected that during the class my mind would be elsewhere. Like on the cell phone sitting on the floor behind my sticky mat waiting for the call that would pull me from class. But I was wrong. I focused on breathing and being in the moment. And in the final minutes of class when we lay in the dark to relax, I was fall-asleep-relaxed. Again, exercise had calmed me and brought me to a better mental place. Hoped for, but not truly expected.
It has taken me many years to develop an exercise habit. I started because I wanted to lower my cholesterol and lose weight. I eventually found motivation to keep at it to be physically strong and fit. I never did it for mental health. I never considered it for mental health. But this week I learned something about myself and exercise. And gave myself another reason to workout.
So next time you are feeling stressed, try exercise. Give yourself the gift of endorphins. Feel your spirits lift. Even if you don’t enjoy the exercise itself, you can relish the aftermath. Aftermath can be good:)