If you find running difficult, the way to make it easier isn’t to avoid it, but to do more of it. If you avoid it, the next time you try to do it, it’ll be even more difficult. This is true not only of running, but pretty much anything, and it’s especially true when it comes to mental health.
So if you went for a run, and it was difficult, and you felt bad afterwards, I wouldn’t suggest going to do something to make yourself feel better. There’s nothing wrong with feeling “bad”. Trying to avoid feeling bad is where mental health problems start. Your body is telling you that you need to take better care of it. That’s not a good time to ignore it. Running from bad feelings generally causes more harm than good. If something hasn’t gone well in your life and you’re feeling bad about it, feel that. Embrace that feeling, experience it, recognize what it means. Trying to get rid of it only takes you down to depression and anxiety. Whatever caused that has already happened. You can’t change that. Your brain has already had its bad run. BUT what you can do is help get your brain ready for the future.
We can do so much to be preventative and proactive about mental health, to get our brains ready for the intense exercises we put them through. Over the last couple of years I’ve developed a couple of routines that really help me maintain great mental health and prevent the kinds of mental health disasters/illnesses I experienced in the past. Here are five of them:
1. Cooking lots of healthy food on the weekends so I have it ready for the week. It saves money and helps me make sure I have easy access to brain fuel.
2. Eating lots of healthy food throughout the day so my blood sugar isn’t on a roller-coaster. When we’re tired, we make bad decisions, we communicate poorly, we have trouble concentrating, all of which can create an environment for mental health problems to thrive in. Eating well helps mitigate those factors and gives you the energy to be awesome.
3. Meditating every day. Meditation is like weight training for your brain. It helps you be more aware of what’s going on around and inside your head, and makes it easier to recognize thoughts and make healthy decisions about what to do with them. Meditation has helped me so much to recover from OCD. It’s produced noticeable changes in how my brain works and I only wish I’d started sooner.
4. Exercising. The benefits of exercise for your brain are well-documented in research studies. It boosts all sorts of wonderful things, from mood, to cognitive ability, to neuroplasticity.
5. Being anxious. There’s nothing wrong with anxiety. It’s avoiding anxiety that causes the problems. Exposing myself to things that make me anxious and learning not react to it in an unhealthy was the type of therapy (ERP) that I did to get over OCD and it’s become a way of life.