Do you know what triggers your mental illness? Are there specific things that just make you unravel, feel uneasy, or come apart at the seams? What if we were able to identify our triggers and funnel our nervous and anxious energy into something more? Here’s the thing, mental health runners, I think the world needs us – us who feel too much; us who process the world differently; us who have mental illnesses. Because you see, we have the power to take our feelings and make real change.
I have a few things that always trigger my panic/anxiety.
Flying. Every time I have a flight planned, there is at least a week of anxiety leading up to it. A big hunk of metal speeding through the air just does not make sense to me. How? What are all the sounds? Do we have to? And the seatbelt light – why is it on and then off and then on again? Can I get sucked out through the bathroom? Also – who is this person sitting two inches away from me? And what is that smell? Basically I just really feel trapped up there. I love to travel though, so I sit there anxious thinking about all the possibilities of what could happen to me for what feels like an eternity.
Health Issues. I am a believer and know in my heart that God works out the details for us all, but my brain can’t quite get there when it comes to health. I obsess about my health. I’m constantly in research mode – googling the tiniest of symptoms and convincing myself that I have everything I read about.
Clutter. Nothing can quite get my anxiety going like toys scattered all over the house, or laundry piled up on the floor. And don’t even get me started on dirty glasses on the end table. Everything must have a place. If it is not in its place, I cannot live, I cannot function, I cannot focus on anything else. It is debilitating.
Living with a mental illness is processing the world differently. For me, it usually always means feeling too much and not understanding what to do with my extra feelings. In all those situational triggers I mentioned above, I used to find myself just sitting in my anxiety. I’d let it paralyze me and essentially take over for a while. But by not working to get out of those mental blocks, I was just feeding the fire of my emotions. I was giving these triggers too much power in my life.
After identifying some of my anxiety triggers, I learned that I need to stay ahead of them and play offense before I’m forced to play defense against them. Playing offense is so much easier, friends. We get to be in control, calling the plays. When I notice something triggering my anxiety, I try to be more intentional with my nervous/anxious energy and put it into physical energy. Because this is where the growth happens; it’s where change happens, and it’s where I want to live. It’s become so clear to me over the years that my anxiety and my physical activity are connected.
Running is my self-prescribed, all-natural, gluten-free, award-winning, anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves my tension, alleviates my stress, boosts my energy, and enhances my mood through the release of those feel-good endorphins. When my body feels better, then my mind does too. Best of all? It gives me a stronger resistance. If I push myself in my run, I learn to push myself in my life. And I’m better for it. I get lost in the footsteps of my run. I try to notice the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground, the motion of my breath, the sun on my skin and the wind wrestling through my hair. This. This is enough to interrupt the flow of constant worry that runs through my head and calm me in the best way. When I recognize a trigger coming on, I lace up my running shoes and don’t look back.
Mental Health Runners, You’re Needed!
The mental muscles that I gain while running can spill into anything that I want to accomplish outside of running. This is why I think mental health runners are a force to be reckoned with – and the world needs more of us. We can accomplish anything we want to with the principles that running teaches us; and many times, it’s our mental illness that pushes us to run in the first place, we just have to be intentional and direct our energy into more. I know we can do it. Happy running, world-changing mental health warriors! Know your triggers, direct your energy, and change the world.