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In this piece – Emily reflects on how running has helped her mental health, and what this latest roadblock means for her.

 

Exercise releases endorphins.
Endorphin [noun] ‘Any of a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect.’ (Oxford Dictionaries | English, 2018)

 

Endorphins make you happy. They can have a similar effect as morphine, reducing your perception of pain; however, unlike morphine, you cannot become dependent on endorphins. Nor can you become addicted.

So why do we repeat the activities that become tiresome and draining? That are painful and impossible?

Because once we’ve had the experience, we crave endorphin, the hormone that makes us happy.

I am a rollercoaster of countless attempts at becoming what I desire to be. Sometimes achieving, sometimes failing, but forever aiming to reach my goals. I am a creature of habit, but yet again, aren’t we all? It doesn’t take much for me to be absorbed into the Instagram fantasy of ‘Women’s Health’ dreams. But nevertheless, a downward spiral of regret and hate which always follows an off track few days, is never far away.

Recently I have experienced a new challenge which has physically prevented me from training: injury.

Even though the injury is a very physical prevention, the mental hurdles which follow are just as challenging. I have been unable to maintain my half marathon training plan and haven’t ran any distance in over a month. This challenge has come at the worst time, just two months before I run to raise money and awareness for something so close to my heart. It’s been a challenging five weeks experiencing emotions of anger, sadness and frustration. I am still angry at myself, but I accept. Acceptance has come from moving the goalposts. My original idea of success was completing the distance in a certain time. After understanding healing takes time and is out of my control, I know this is no longer a reachable goal for me.

My challenge now lies with building my knee to be strong enough to withstand 13.1 miles of impact and my body to sustain this endurance without the training I had planned.

I have come to learn what my ‘triggers’ are which lead to my view of personal failure. I work well with routine. If I know I have time to exercise, or what I will be eating the next day, this often leaves little room for distraction. However, left to my own devices my decisions can lead to those I will later regret. I have become accustomed to ‘self-help’ mechanisms I have adapted into my life to help me stay on track. I record my food in ‘my fitness pal’ app to keep an eye on what I consume, I wear a Fitbit to log my exercise and no longer take my purse to work to prevent the 3pm binge. I find having a plan and an understanding of what my body and mind needs helps manage my motivation.

I am a tried and tested prototype of the affects activity and diet can have on the way you are and your outlook on every aspect in your life. I not only despise the way I look and feel when I don’t have my diet and activity levels in my control, but I feel I lose myself. I no longer enjoy the things I enjoy. I lack motivation and a sense of care or purpose. I spend my days wishing for the new start to come the following morning. As soon as that day is ‘broken’ and I’ve failed my eating or exercise goals, I’m wishing for my next clean slate. The days become weeks and weeks, months. I no longer enjoy, I don’t see the good in all. I don’t appreciate.

When I am in control of my diet and exercise, I work, I am me.

I am a loving, caring person who sees the good in everything. I embrace my day and look forward to things. I enjoy the moment, not wishing for another chance to come. I take pleasure in my accomplishments and am proud of who I am.

The morale of the story is simple. I sound like a drink awareness advert mixed with a theory PE lesson. Eat and drink responsibly and move as much as you can. But putting this into practice can be the challenging part.

It is the challenging part.

For me, I know my way to a better, more positive, metal place. Balance. My life needs balance. Without balance I lose purpose and without purpose, I am not me.

Support Emily with her run in order to raise money for Freedom of Mind here: https://www.goldengiving.com/fundraising/bristolhalfmarathonforfreedomofmind

If you have something you want to say about mental health send us a pitch to cai.burton@freedomofmind.org.uk

Keep your pitches to less than 150 words and tell us what content you want to make and why you want to make it. It can be anything, from a poem, to an article, to a video, to a piece of artwork – we’re just after stories to tell. We can keep things anonymous if you’d like and we’ll help you to edit your piece then get it up on the blog.


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