Ginger With a J: Running to Cope

Image via www.glasbergen.com.

So here’s the post where I go into more detail about this new career I am about to begin as a therapist. It sounds so fancy and experienced. Do you picture an older man or woman sitting in a leather chair, wearing thick-framed black glasses, scribbling on a clipboard?

Well, replace that image with one of me rolling on the floor of 1 bedroom apartment, being tackled by a three year old. That’s also a therapist. Instead of clients coming to me, I go to them. I work with families in their natural environment, from rich to poor and everything in between. It is very fulfilling work.

Don’t get me wrong, though. There is a steep learning curve filled with unique stressors. Throughout my internship, there were days when I wanted to quit and add yet another degree to my outstanding list of loans. You must learn early on that working with people and their problems is tough. And if you are not aware of this, they will eat you alive.

As such, there is a popular saying in the field that therapists often need the therapy more than the client. In fact, it is recommended that therapists receive therapy prior to beginning their careers in order to resolve past baggage or to just experience the process your future clients will undergo. I went to see a counselor during my first year of graduate school after having a serious bought of panic attacks over a span of three years. Eating disorders, panic attacks, what’s next you ask? Ok, there is one more diagnosis (hypothyroidism), but that’s it, I swear!

Anyway, at the time I saw the counselor, I wasn’t running very much. I was wrapped up in a string of unavailable relationships, carrying around a heavy bag marked, “daddy issues”, and was a hypochondriac, afraid of every single pinch and ache in my body. Eventually, all of this had to come out and so it did in the form of three emergency rooms visits thinking I was dying. Did I mention I wasn’t running very much?

Luckily, as is common with anxiety related disorders, I recovered pretty quickly mostly because I learned how to quiet my body through Biofeedback training. Biofeedback training is a way for people to control their phyisical response to something and is often used with athletes to help aid in race day performance. With time (about 1.5 years), I was able to rediscover running, meet the man of my dreams, and more importantly, learn how to control my body when it went into flight or fight mode as soon as dawn turned to dusk. Starting to sound like an infomercial? Part of being a therapist is also selling yourself!

Image courtesy of howart.info

These days, running helps me cope. It’s the ultimate de-stresser for me after a tough day in the homes of others. I like to imagine that the sweat that seeps out of my pores is the problems told to me that day.ย Likewise, one of the major areas I work on with all clients is developing appropriate and reliable coping skills for everyday life, such as running. Although running is a hard one to sell. But really deep breaths can go a long way, too. Go ahead, take a deep breath. Ahhhhh.

What are your coping skills? Is running your go-to source? If we are only running to be faster, then the likelihood of using running to cope diminishes. There is so much more to this beautiful sport of ours. I invite you to share your own recovery stories.

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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5 comments

  1. I don’t know where to start. If I didn’t have running I’m sure I’d be medicated! ๐Ÿ™‚ I am prone to depression and running definitely helps. I’ve been depressed since becoming a runner but I’m sure it’s been much milder than it would have been without it and I also know I suffer much less frequently than I did before I started running. I am also a stress-case so it’s really helped me with that and then all the mental training I’ve done to relax while running has helped me in my normal life too. Running is the single most effective mental health tool in my toolbox!

  2. Since I am taking this week off, I also realized it is important to have an arsenal of coping skills in case you can’t run! Running is number one in my arsenal but this week helped me to see other ones I can use during the down time. Just thinking positively about life has helped, but takes a few tries of fighting off negative thinking. Any form of exercise helps, too. And with the down time from running, I can go to a coffee shop more often or lay around in bed with a fluffy blanket and just chill out, while trying to patiently wait to return to the ‘crete again soon.

  3. Does fantasizing about taking some of my patient’s drugs count as coping? Just the thought of ativan or morphine with a benadryl chaster –mmmmmmmmmm!! Kidding ๐Ÿ™‚