Treadmill running has its pros. There’s blasting music as loud as you want without worrying about not being able to hear traffic or other pedestrians on the sidewalk. There’s being able to squeeze in a tightly controlled workout in a short amount of time. Treadmills have their place, but when you’re running for mental health, it’s best to get outside if at all possible.
That means if there’s snow on the ground, if it’s raining lightly and even if it’s so cold you can hardly feel your face. “But, why?” you’re asking. Running is good for your mental health, no matter how you do it. Running outside, however, can give you an even bigger brain boost. Some studies suggest running in nature might have stronger benefits on blood pressure, self-esteem and mood than running indoors. And if it’s sunny out, the vitamin D you’ll get from the sun has mood boosting properties, too.
Run as a Coping Tool
Although they’re designed to bring us together, the holidays leave many people feeling worse after they’re over. Family disputes or unsatisfying relationships can leave you hurting or confused. An abundance of junk food filled with butter and sugar can leave you feeling sluggish and frustrated with weight gain. Coping during the holidays can be hard.
Many people turn to alcohol during the holidays. (Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans reportedly drink twice what they normally do.) Others cope with holiday stress by binge eating. These coping mechanisms temporarily relieve whatever pain is aching, but can wreak havoc and your health and your relationships. When you feel the urge to drink, eat or use another unhealthy coping tool, lace up your sneakers and just start running.
If you think you’ll be tempted to drink or eat more than you should over the holidays, take a running bag with you wherever you go. If you’re having a moment during which you just cannot deal, excuse yourself from the situation and run for 30 minutes. Keep your workout clothes, sports bra, sneakers and a hair band with you at all times so you can use running as a coping tool whenever you need to.
Ask For Help If You Need It
Even running can’t fix everything (although most runners believe it can fix almost anything). Some times, people need help fixing problems, especially when it comes to mental health. It’s possible you’re sticking to your routine, running outside and coping with things the best way you know how, but you still feel yourself sliding. If you’re struggling, reach out to a friend, an old therapist or a mental health helpline. The holidays are a hard time for many people, but there are people and services who can help you get through it.
If you need to talk to someone now, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
By Dr. Sarah Toler. Sarah Toler, CNM, DNP is a Certified Nurse Midwife and Doctor of Nursing Practice. As a midwife, Sarah knows it’s an honor to help women thrive throughout life’s greatest journeys. Sarah works with women throughout pregnancy and birth, but her real passion is the postpartum period.