Take your tired for a walk
Studies show that exercise improves mood and energy. You can thank me now for that inspiring and motivating fact. I am sure that makes you want to jump up and go for a run. Not so much hey? Well let’s talk about that and what that actually means for you.
Okay, we all get it. Exercise is good for us. If we know this then why don’t we access it as part of our self-care routine especially when we are feeling blue?
Well, of course, we don’t because we are tired and down and going for a swim in a cold pool or doing 30 minutes on the stepper is the last thing we want to do. Hence this vicious cycle, needing to move our body but not being able to jump over these feelings (both mental and physical) to get the job done.
Let’s be honest grabbing a coffee and a donut is such an easier and quicker choice when it comes to a short term mood improver. Even though we know from experience that the “good feeling” only lasts for about as long as it takes to eat the donut and down 1/2 a latte whereas the benefits of a 15-minute walk can last a whole day we still choose quick and easy. There have been so many times that I have felt stressed, tired and down and abandoned my work out for Netflix or mindless scrolling on my phone. At the moment it feels like the right thing to do but ultimately I always, 100% of the time regret it.
Let me clarify if you come home from a tough day at work and step over your shoes and make your way up to the bathtub for a warm bath or you lie in bed for a 15-minute rest that may absolutely be the better choice for you. Listening to your body is never, ever wrong and your self-care is always on rotation as far as what you the choice to do.
Typically that is not what happens though, we by-pass our intention and move into something that does not actually offer relief fromthe low mood or the extreme stress. We move into distraction, avoidance or mindless activities that have zero return on investment. In fact, it aggravates the very feeling that we are trying to soothe ourselves from. No one wants to feel bad so any distraction is a welcome visitor. The challenge in these moments is choosing support over sabotage.
So what’s the answer? I am actually not one 100% sure but you know I have a theory that I am going to share. I believe the key here is awareness and experience.
Let’s start with awareness. This sounds oh so simple yet is so crazy hard. We spend most of our days in automatic, have you ever had one of those commutes where you get to work and think I don’t even remember turning the car on. That’s why we all love routines and that’s one of the reasons behaviour modifications aka changing habits is so difficult. We cling to what we know and feel fearful for what is new. So what you want to understand is the feeling that is going on in your body. Awareness does not have to mean meditation and journalling, it can, but there are many ways to become aware in the body. Understanding what you are feeling physical, mentally and emotionally is key to this learning. We don’t have to analyze or attach too much meaning to the sensation we do however want to be aware of the sensation. For example, I am feeling tired can be translated to my body feels heavy and my mind overloaded or I am feeling anxious can be translated to my chest feels tight and my thoughts are racing. Once we become aware of what we are feeling we can identify what may make us feel better and move into that direction. So the next time you step over your runners and make a b line to the freezer for ice cream ask yourself two simple questions 1) what sensation am I feeling 2) is this behaviour truly self-care.
Now on to experience. It is not going to be easy, it isn’t for anyone. Even those 6:00 am joggers that you see every morning while you are sitting on your couch drinking coffee (I am the coffee drinker in that scenario) had to talk themselves out of bed when their alarm went off. The big difference with those people and the ones that hit snooze and turned over in bed is the experience of “just doing it”. Once your body, mind and soul have the taste of movement it craves more. It becomes its own positive feedback loop and the more you do it the more you want it. The mind will always say Nah let’s skip today but if the body is like hey wait I know how this feels and I want to move then you have won the battle here.
Connecting into your bodies needs is also hugely important in this process. Through awareness, you will be able to understand your bodies state and with experience choose movement that is reflective of that need. So often we think long, hard and faster is better. No this is not 1995 folks, no pain, no gain went out a long time ago. This is where all or nothing syndrome comes in. If I can’t hit the gym for 60 minutes and do an intense boot camp class, I am going to go home and eat chips. Hmmm, where is the middle ground in that thinking? Perhaps a kinder and more motivating thought is my body is tired from not sleeping well last night: I am going to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes, stretch for 10 and then have a warm shower. Can’t you already connect with how good you would feel from me just saying that? So instead of not at all, think about adjustments. A little goes a long way and 15 minutes counts.
Inevitably we don’t want to do it and even when we become aware and understand from experience that movement we will feel better we just still don’t want to. So a little phrase that I have found incredibly helpful is – take your tired for a walk. What this means to me is waiting for yourself to feel energized to move your body may never happen so instead of expecting this to be your general state or starting point lean into the fatigue, stress, low mood and move your body. Ironically, it will be in the act of movement that these stagnant and heavy sensations lift.