While I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle in all senses of the word "healthy", one area I often forget about as it relates to my health is stress. Stress is something that I frequently experience, a lot of which I bring on myself. I've been feeling quite a bit of stress these past few days, in between having a cold, moving, getting ready to go back to school, and all of the life changes that go along with that(my school is 2 hours away from my parent's house, where I've been living for the summer).
I set a lot of expectations for myself, and accomplishing things is often what helps me get through the day. I'm not sure where I picked up the idea that productivity is a requirement to living a happy life (okay, so I totally picked it up from my parents), but like it or not, that belief is ingrained in my head. As a result, I stress out when I'm not accomplishing anything productive. Not having a job this summer really brought this out into the open. Z said it best: "You're stressed when you're working, and now you're stressed because you're not working".
Some of the expectations that I set for myself revolve around exercising and marathon training. I don't follow a strict training plan, but I try to follow a loose outline. I caught a cold last week after my crazy 35k run (weakened immune system, much?) and since then my exercise routine has been minimized. My longest run since had been a slow 5k.
Since I was already stressed about other things, I began also stressing that I wasn't training enough for the marathon. I worried that running a slow 5k was a struggle and that I should be able to run longer and faster at this point in my training and that I'm only going to have less time once school starts up.
Today I set out to run 20k - my short long run (short long run because it was still long, but not as long as last week!) I started off by having my eyes almost glued to my Garmin and thinking negative thoughts about my pace. But, as I continued to run, I decided that I would focus on running the distance and that pace didn't matter. Those 20k were a struggle, but I finished. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, but more than that, having gotten all of that exercise really helped ease my mood. As the day has passed, I've become much more calm and content and I no longer feel stressed.
While pushing myself to try to fit in exercise almost everyday can sometimes lead to stress, not exercising can make me even more stressed - because I'm not accomplishing that task AND because exercising (particularly running) calms me!
I think the most important thing is to find a balance of what works for each individual. I'm still working on the balance thing, but it's always nice to be reminded of yet another reason that I run.