When I’m really anxious, I have the urge to run. I NEED to run. It might start out as an urge to hide from a situation, but the innate sense to just GO is so strong, if I don’t, I will have a panic attack.
Anxiety is basically your fight or flight response. You need a basic level of anxiety to be able to react in dangerous situations. In caveman world if there’s a looming danger, like say a hungry cheetah, your brain quickly assumes that you cannot fight this danger off, so you’re better off running for your life. However, this situation is kinda rare in 2018, so your brain on anxiety is basically going, “this probably innocuous thing that’s looming over me (ie a thought like: I’m going to bomb this project and my boss is gonna hate me and I’m gonna lose my job and no one else is going to hire me and I’m going to live the rest of my life alone in the woods and unemployable and diiieeeee) is gonna kill me and I literally can’t deal so I better ruuuunnnnn for ma liiifffeeeee”.
I have always felt the need to physically hide from really uncomfortable situations for as long as I can remember. (Avoidance! The favorite coping mechanisms of all anxiety sufferers! Woot!) Hi! Here I am at a school formal event and I’ve found the back stairway and am hiding in the business center of the hotel. Yes, I’m that person who mysteriously disappears at a party. Usually, I get away and need to collect myself – have a little introverting moment to recharge – but, when it gets to an extreme point, hiding no longer feels like it will cut it. I need to physically get away from the thing I want to avoid.
I have never particularly liked running. Running has always been a procrastination thing for me. Like, delaying doing homework or studying (hi, Avoidance Tendency, my old friend). No other form of physical activity can replace running.
And man, when I was doing anxiety running, I RAN. Like, further and faster than I ever could. Sometimes it was just to satisfy my caveman brain and be like, alright Brain, I escaped mortal danger! But other times it was because I also needed an outlet for my adrenaline rush. Those runs were like the craziest runs I’ve ever done. I could run for an hour and I’d still be going. If you told me to go for an hour run right now, I’d be bored AF 20 mins in.
Btw, I’m not a marathon runner at all. In high school, I ran track for sprinting. I’m good at short, fast bursts of speed. Even the 400m killed me.
On bad days, I had to run before school. On those days I’d be waking up vibrating with energy and not be able to go to class (complete inability to focus (except on anxious thoughts that provoke more anxious thoughts), panic attacks from feeling stuck and trapped). Then at lunch, I’d run again, before returning to school. (Let me tell you, my roommate’s dog was WELL exercised while living with me). No matter the weather I’d be running outside. Negative temperatures? Layered up on the warmest gear from Lululemon and RAN. Snow? I RAN. Ice outside? RAN ON THE SNOWY PATCHES.
I’m not a particularly athletic person, and have zero desire to workout. Actually, going to the gym made me panic that one time and I never went back… (Avoidance Tendency, pls leave me alone). I try and walk around every day but, going to the gym is literally my idea of torture (people, judgement, wtf is this equipment I’m probably using wrong, why am I running in one spot while staring out the window?!).
With all that said, I would like to share, from my many running adventures, how I’ve quelled my Anxious Caveman Brain’s need for “escaping” from mortal danger. This is what worked for me. Perhaps some of my methods may work for you.
Anxiety Workout Guide:
- RUN FAST (as hard as you can, for as long as you can) //this tires you out so that you can’t run forever and ever
- run slow // catch your breath so you can…
- RUN FAST AGAIN //rinse and repeat
- Run outside //you need to satisfy your Inner Anxious Caveman and literally physically run away from a situation okay? Running on a tread mill aka hamster wheel isn’t gonna cut it.
- Run where there are trees and other green leafy flora, if you can. //Other than the pollution from cars and shit, it will smell nice out in nature and it’s good for you mentally without you having to give it conscious effort. You just absorb the goodness by osmosis. Just be near it. Like the cool kids. If you’re near them, you absorb some of their residual coolness.
- Run and SING //Or like, “sing” without making noise. For me, it helped me control my breathing so I didn’t feel like my heart was GONNA EXPLODE from anxiety.
- Run to a BOPPIN playlist //Something with a fast beat so you feel surround yourself in the feeling of GO GO GO. We’re here to satisfy Inner Anxious Caveman, remember?
- If you’re running in the dark, wear SAFETY gear! Blinkers, light-up arm bands, reflective clothing designed for running.
Cold weather/winter running advice:
- Check the weather before you go. If you get caught in rain you weren’t prepared for, it’s a recipe for hypothermia.
- Running on snow on the side can be safer than running on the black-top where there might be black-ice
- Tuck your leggings/pants into your socks because salt really stings (slash burns)
- Wear layers. Take them off as you warm up. Frostbite ain’t worth it and neither is hypothermia.
- You can even layer your head wear. If you start off with a full hat and get too hot, you can switch to a hairband/ear warmer thing. Idk what they’re called! My inner ears HURT if they’ve been exposed to cold air too long, so I always keep them covered up. Apparently it’s a thing.
- Carry your cell-phone with you. Actually this is a good idea in general. You never know when you might run into an emergency.
- Your feet will generally stay dry as long as you keep moving, before slowing down/stopping, brush all the snow off so it won’t melt through your shoes. Take the insoles out and dry them above an air vent along with your shoes, upside down.
- Vests are awesome, but if you get too hot, there are no sleeves to use to tie around your waist
- Lululemon’s Rulu fabric is seriously amazing. It’s not just a warm fabric. It’s straight up hot. I can’t even wear my Rulu tights unless it’s at least -2ºC because otherwise my butt will sweat too much.
Also, when running high on emotions, be careful – here’s an article that has some helpful reminders. NYT: Running While Angry
PS. Once someone was like, “what are you doing after this?” And I replied, “I’m going to go home and go for a run.” And they were like, “You really shouldn’t. There’s a serial killer on the loose.” And I was all, “hardee har har har.” AND THERE REALLY WAS A MURDERER ON THE LOOSE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD!