A few months ago I went from being tired, but calm and mellow, to wired and tense in a matter of weeks. I started running to expel the build up of tension. It felt amazing to be running again after being pregnant and then with a newborn. I felt so free, so alive, so energised. But the running didn’t release the tension, it just magnified a problem. A short temper, tears over the washing pile and a feeling of hopelessness led me to the doctors, where mild depression was diagnosed and a low dose of anti-depressants prescribed. I’ve felt so much better since, but the medication made me feel a little ‘wiped’ out and not like running.
That was until yesterday. Frances came round in the afternoon and all the children were happy, well fed and not wanting for anything. There is always a pile of washing to attend to or a floor to mop, but I had a flash of, ‘No, I have the opportunity to have half an hour of exercise and to be in my own head space and I must take it.’ Frances was quick to push me out the door, with trainers laced up tight, before I had a chance to change my mind.
I have a bit of a cold, like the children, so I didn’t push myself. This wasn’t about how fast and how far I could run. This was about being assertive with my health.
I focused on enjoying half an hour of mental head space. Pausing to walk fast and then jog again. As I paused I focused only on what was in sight.
The beautiful flax flowers.
Crashing waves and surfers waiting to catch the perfect ride.
The path in front of me, guiding me on.
Seagulls gliding on the air currents.
I came back feeling refreshed, but hungry for more. A little like having a couple of tabs off a large block of dark, rich chocolate. Two or three are ample, but after a while the taste buds yearn for more.
My heart was pulsing with a lusty, intoxicating thirst. I had enjoyed an appetiser, not a full meal. The lingering emptiness in my stomach started to overtake the happy high of endorphins rushing through my brain. Frustration began to set in. Two hours after exercising I came crashing down lower than a child after a sugar high. I was grumpy.
So what’s the answer? What type of exercise will meet my physical and mental needs. When is the best time? How long should I take? What’s going to be the best fit with family life?
I shall just have to experiment some more.
Perhaps a longer, more exhausting run that leaves me feeling completely spent?
Or when I don’t have much time, take a gentle walk, instead of getting hyped up and not being able to reach my peak.
Taking opportunities around my children to stretch and do simple yoga. Impromptu sun salutations. In the past yoga has left me feeling extremely calm and peaceful. But since having children the opportunity to find a quiet space, without being climbed upon whilst stretching, has been challenging!
Maybe I should let go of expectations of a quiet space and find it within me instead. I should just go forth with my warrior pose and downward dog, regardless of the noise and movement around me. I should inhale and exhale deeply nodding to my children that, ‘Yes, Mummy is listening, just taking some time for herself too!’.
In time – maybe – just maybe – they will join me and one day we might all practice yoga fully together? Maybe they will don their running shoes and join me for long runs too?
I must not give up entirely – even when having just a taster is sometimes more frustrating than having nothing at all. If I can keep myself in step a little better, then I am setting a good example for my children and making it much more likely that we’ll have an active, happy, balanced future together.
Progress comes in little, determined steps 🙂