Running Through Crisis

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What a long year it’s been… to say 2020 has been ruthless is an understatement. COVID-19 has most of us quarantined at home and social distancing when we’re out for essentials. Finding the new normal, with the anxiety of not knowing when (or if) life will get back to normal, is almost too much to bear. It feels like Groundhog’s Day – going through the motions without anything to break the monotony, except for the latest devastating statistics. The fear of the unknown brews and festers in our mind and spirit, if we allow it… it takes a specific intention to not drown in the abyss.

Prior to this pandemic, we were all going through something individually but this virus has brought our world together in a way that’s unique. We are suffering as a globe, in so many ways… physically, financially, spiritually. It’s so heavy and there are so many ripples involved with this destructive disease.

When I get overwhelmed and want to stick my head in the sand and hide from the devastation, I think of Brene Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness.” I’m a HUGE fan of her work and read this book prior to the pandemic. Her writing about collective moments really touched me and have been on my heart, going through this time.

“Show up for collective moments of joy and pain so we can actually bear witness to inextricable human connection…. We have to catch enough glimpses of people connecting to one another and having fun together that we believe it’s true and possible for all of us.”

Brene Brown

This is why we go to church, to concerts, to sporting events – to experience these moments with others. It makes the experience so much more profound than listening to music or watching a game alone. I believe this is something good that’s coming from such a horrific experience, that we’re all in it together. This virus doesn’t discriminate, all of us and our loved ones are at risk. It puts things into perspective… what’s really important? What’s all the fluff in our lives that doesn’t need to take up our mind-space? Where does our faith really lie?

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Years ago, I was at the Cap10k, a race here in Austin that brings over 20,000 runners together to race around the state capital. It’s a fun race with tons of energy and supporters that I’ve run multiple times. I was with friends and said, “you know, I’ve read that most people find running in times of crisis.” A buddy of mine looked around exclaimed, “Wow – that’s a lot of crisis!” With THAT many runners there, it was eye-opening to see… and heart-breaking to think that ALL those people might be going through something big.

I found running when I was going through my first divorce. My daughter was only 15 months old when her dad and I separated, so I had to keep it together to be able to take care of her. I went from a part-time stay at home mom and a part-time chiropractor to a single mom who was working full-time and the sole owner of my practice. It was A LOT (and still is). I would joke with my friends and patients and say, “well, I could either hit the bottle or hit the pavement.” As offhand as that seems, it was real for me. I began training for my first half-marathon, pushing my girl in our jogging stroller.

Running brought clarity to my life. A time of solitude to sort out my thoughts and feelings about the transition I was in. I have never been athletic, never even played a sport growing up, so improving in something physical was really big for me. It was empowering to see my distance increase, to see my pace get faster. Something I love about running is that it’s all on me. Yes, weather, mood, nutrition, sleep, company all play a big role, but in the end, it’s all up to you.

Running is a natural way to find peace amidst all the stress that’s around us, especially in these unprecedented times. The simple act of repetitive movement taps into the autonomic nervous system which controls how our bodies function. The repetition allows our bodies to go from an agitated state to a calmer one. It’s not just about the endorphin release, although those feel-good hormones are a sweet bonus. It literally helps our body and mind to calm down and disperse the negative energy that brings us down. There’s something meditative in getting outside, finding your breathing, and running. For me, if I don’t exercise, my anxiety goes way up – I’m more snippy, restless, and high strung. Not exactly a great way to feel when the world has gone crazy. I’ve found that I need to exercise daily just to maintain some sanity! It’s also brought about great conversations with my daughter about how powerful exercise is in dealing with stress and anxiety, something she deals with. I hope she turns toward exercise as a way to manage her own stress, as she’s seen me demonstrate throughout her life.

I pray that you find a healthy way to manage the stress affecting each one of us. If you’re not a runner, go walking. If busy schedules have kept you from running in a while, now’s your time. I pray that you find moments of joy in the chaos. To practice gratitude for what you do have… another day of health, food in the pantry, the sunrise, God watching over us, the smile of your children, the wag in your dog’s tail, the book that draws you in. To keep your focus looking upward and to keep the faith.

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