Flexible Thinking

I have run only once or twice a month for the past three months. I don’t have it in me right now to run on the treadmill and the cold weather forces me inside. So I march in my living room or jog in place to get my 10,000 steps daily. It doesn’t always happen, but I do give it some effort.

Today was grey outside and a bit breezier than I expected, but at 36 degrees I had to give the outdoors a chance. I had planned on walking for a mile or so and see what happened. After just a tenth of a mile, I threw a little jogging in and decided I’d give this a shot. I listened to a variety of TED talks while I walked/jogged/ran 3.5 miles. And somewhere in the middle of all of that, I cried.

One reason I stopped running this fall had nothing to do with the weather. It was because I’d end up crying in the middle of every run. When I listen to music, my brain will wander to wherever it wants or maybe even needs to be, and that would eventually lead to thoughts or memories about my brother, and I would cry. But after a few of these “grief runs”, I started to dread running. My conscious mind was not ready to face more memories I didn’t want to remember, and since running seemed to bring those out, I just stopped doing it.

So today I went for some TED talks instead of music. My body has craved the movement of running and I felt like I could handle whatever my crazy brain had in store. Of course I didn’t look in depth at all the TED talks first.

I ran to a few talks and I can’t tell you what any of them were about except the artificial intelligence one that I skipped over and the one that made me cry that stayed with me this whole day. It was about money shaming, and how some people are taught that their self-worth is tied to what their bank account says. And the woman giving the talk is a financial advisor and near the very beginning she says that her brother died. And she started to cry.

For fuck’s sake, how do I get these?!? Of course I started to cry because I am that person who will cry if anyone else in the room is crying and plus we had this one shitty thing in common. And like nearly every other time I’ve run these last few months, the grief started to overwhelm me. But today I let a brief thought of my lovely brother enter my mind, then let it go out. I concentrated on the speaker’s voice instead and listened to her story. This was about her, not me.

Once I got home, I walked around a bit outside, stretched on the front steps then went into my house where the wonderful aroma of bread baking greeted me, along with the sounds of my husband and son playing RISK. I stretched some more with a smile on my face as I let those endorphins do their job as they made my world seem like such a nice place to be.

Running used to calm me and put me in a better place mentally and physically. Today it definitely helped with that tightness in my chest I mentioned last time, and it typically helps me with my “flexible thinking.” When something doesn’t go my way, I can take a deep breath, assess the situation, accept it and come up with something just as good or better. I’ve said many times that having a positive outlook does not come naturally to me (my brother was the same way). But how I feel after I run certainly helps that.

Does this mean I’ll run every day or nearly ever day liked I used to, looking for that runner’s high once more? I doubt it. I’m not being negative here, just realistic. If I can change the time I wake up, then maybe I can, but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that. I currently enjoy my mornings with my family and I need to really map the morning out if I’m going to do this. It’s something to work on I guess, right?

I hope you’re finding your calm and happy place this winter, wherever you are. Take care of you. ❤


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The Great Outdoors

This has been a stressful week. Nothing extraordinary happened at work or at home. The library was very busy for the first few days and I was finally able to be productive for the last two. Home was the usual hectic schedule of trying to squeeze in making dinner and taking the boy to basketball practice and do my own workouts and laundry and all the other stuff. But there was nothing more stressful than usual.

And yet by Friday afternoon, I wanted to hide in my home and never talk to anyone again.

Typically I enjoy working with the public. People can drive me crazy but I usually find humor in odd behaviors or just roll my eyes at those that irritate me. But not this week. I had reached my fill of humans and I needed the day and week to end. I knew I had my son’s game to go to this weekend, as well as a visit to my mom, yet I wasn’t sure I could face either event.

I got up this morning WAY too early and a little grumpy. I still refused to think about the day ahead and just read a book for a while. Once my husband was up, we talked about my frustration with people and needing a break and about the courses I started to look into, possibly for a career change. Maybe something I could do from home or just something *not* with the public and with very few people. He was surprised but just let me talk. My son woke up then, so no further conversation was had, but that was ok. I needed to do a little self-assessment and figure out what’s going on in this brain of mine.

A while later, I bundled myself up and went for a run. It was 28 degrees, plenty warm and dry enough, but my face still froze. And yet it was a very enjoyable run. I just listened to my music and pushed myself when I was able and didn’t really think at all.

Once I got home, I stretched and did a few chores then showered. My kid got ready to go and we were off to the game.

No anxiety. No anger. No frustration.

Huh.

How come?

Did I purposely say to myself, “Ok, Hol, get a grip. You’ve got to do this, so just let it go”?  Of course not. That would probably be a very emotionally healthy thing to do, but I’m not there yet.

Was it the run?

Yeah. I think so. There’s something about a bit of heavy breathing and sweat and fresh air that does something to my brain. Something really, really good. Not only does my body feel better after a run, but my mental and emotional health is vastly improved. Endorphins are the absolute best drug.

But I don’t think it was *just* the run, but being outside.

All I want to do in the winter is stay indoors and sleep and read and not interact with anyone outside of my household. It’s cold and my body hurts when I’m cold, so leave me alone and let me stay inside and bake blueberry muffins and cranberry bread. I walk and run on my treadmill and lift weights and watch exercise videos, therefore my fitness level is still maintained, so why go outside?

Maybe because there’s a lot of life out there. It may be winter in Maine but there are birds and deer and rabbits and turkeys and squirrels and I get to see them right here, in my town, on my road, in my yard!  The trees may be bare but the snow and ice make them beautiful again. The spruce and the pine are always gorgeous, too, and just seeing them brings me comfort I wasn’t aware I needed.

Photo courtesy of Stephen LaRochelle

Photo courtesy of Stephen LaRochelle

Hearing and seeing all the life that is out there, makes me want to live. Makes me want to be a part of others’ lives, too. Even those annoying humans.

Well…some of them, anyway.

Do you ever just want to hibernate? Or hide? How do *you* keep going? I’d love to know.