Life has it’s ups and downs, there is no doubt about that.  It can challenge us and we can feel a number of difficult emotions like anger, stress, anxiety or grief. Whether it’s COVID-19, a broken relationship, unresolved issues or something else that causes us to feel those big difficult emotions, running and movement can be one of the tools in our tool box to manage those challenging emotions when they arise.

Difficult events that lead to difficult emotions

Recently I had a life event that brought out those big difficult emotions.  Stress, anxiety and grief, all rolled into one.  I miscarried twins at 10 weeks pregnant. Miscarriages are so common in the first trimester.  I know a lot of women who have gone through it.  I just never thought it would happen to me after two easy, straight forward pregnancies.  The emotional roller coaster at the start thinking maybe this is normal, to realising something bad is happening, to heading to the hospital and waiting for hours and hours to be seen, to being put in the maternity ward listening to all those beautiful babies surrounding you.  The feeling of grief, shame and guilt.  Needless to say, it was definitely one of the more traumatic events I have ever experienced.

Everyone has a story.  Everyone has difficult things happen to them.  How we manage those difficult emotions can make all the difference to how we heal, grow and move forward in life.

Running and emotions

Running or any type of movement can be one of the tools we can use to help process emotions and be on our way to healing.  The feeling of freedom and just time to be with one’s self that running brings, can give us time and the space to just sit with our feelings, to think or not think.  Plus we get those amazing endorphins when we run or even just move.  Running can be therapeutic, clear the mind and bring the feeling healing to our lives (read more here about some other benefits of running solo).

Exercise, particularly running has been shown to help with healing trauma.  It increases those important feel good hormones serotonin, neorepinephrine, and dopamine that are involved in our thoughts and emotions.  They help the brain deal with stress and anxiety (read more in this article here).

Running has given me the time to just feel my emotions.  To think about what happened and not ignore and distract myself.  Which is important if we want to avoid negative triggers and all those challenging emotions popping up  in the future.

Finding balance

Finding balance can be difficult for those of us addicted to those endorphins that exercise brings or endurance events.  It is easy to use exercise as a way to distract or avoid our challenging feelings.  I know I have definitely used exercise to avoid and distract in the past.  Excessive training is one way to forget painful emotions.  The thing is, doing that might be great at the time and help you cope, but probably not so good for our long term mental health. As with anything in life, being self-aware about why we are doing what we are doing in the first place is the first step to personal growth.  The same goes for when we are dealing with our challenging emotions.

Other ways to deal with difficult emotions

Besides running, supplementing our self-care in other ways can help.

Meditation gives us the time to sit and just be. I have leaned heavily on my Calm app the past month.

Yoga in all forms is so good for the soul. I love the simplicity and restorative nature of Yin Yoga.

Providing our bodies with nutritious food improves our gut health which can impact on our mental health.

Professional support from a psychologist can also be really invaluable.  Professional support has also given me an outlet to talk and process in a safe space.

woman meditating

Running has so many benefits to our mental health and can be particularly good for the soul when we need to heal or manage our emotions in difficult times.