Running with Anxiety


This blog isn’t supposed to be about me, but I think it might be a good place to start to talk about a bike accident I had five years ago. To cut a very long story short, I fell off a bike at the Velodrome in the Olympic Park and suffered two fractures on my skull and multiple bleeds on my brain. I was in hospital for a week recovering, but really that was just the beginning. I was very lucky that day, someone was smiling down on me and I walked away pretty much free of any long-term physical harm.

 

The scars that you can’t see are the mental ones, I was left struggling with my mental health in a big way for years to come. Health anxiety is defined as an obsessive and irrational worry about having a serious medical condition, also known as hypochondria. When something unexpected and totally out of your control happens, like my accident, you become acutely aware of how fragile you are.

 

It was a difficult time. I couldn’t run for six months after the accident and I didn’t feel like myself – I had lost a major part of my weekly routine. As soon as I could start running again, I grabbed at the chance with both hands. It was a slow build up to where I was before the accident but, more than that, I started to feel like myself again. I hadn’t realised quite how much I rely on running to maintain a healthy mind.

 

I know I won’t be alone in saying that running is absolutely vital for keeping my head straight and my thoughts clear. If I’ve had a bad day at the office, the first thing I want to do is go for a run. When you start out on your run, your body goes through a transition: your breathing becomes heavy and your pulse quickens as your heart pumps harder to move oxygenated blood to your muscles and brain. As you hit your stride, your body releases hormones called endorphins. Ah, the ‘runners high’! The sense of euphoria created by this release helps athletes feel relaxed and calm, and can even help shield against pain from a long bout of exercise. Well, at least temporarily.

 

Exercise can also be a great way to distract yourself, divert your attention away from something that’s making you anxious. Going for a run with a podcast in your ears can give you a much-needed break from the intensity of day to day life.

Ever heard of a ‘forest bath’? No, it’s not frolicking around in the leaves…. quite. Well, I suppose it is a bit. It’s a Japanese practice which is a process of relaxation; known in Japanese as Shinrin Yoku. The simple method of being calm and quiet amongst the trees, observing nature around you whilst breathing deeply can help both adults and children de-stress and boost health and well-being in a natural way. So, why not run in the forest? I like very close to Epping Forest, it’s my sanctuary when I’m feeling anxious and need to find peace.

 

I know so many people who lace up their trainers when they’re feeling anxious – perhaps you could be one of them. It doesn’t have to be a run, a nice walk may be just what you need to blow the cobwebs away.

This blog post was contributed by Beth Henry.

Instagram: @bethhenry1989


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