I was dying to run outside today. Over the last five days, I only worked out once. This is a significant deviation from my normal 5-day a week routine, but I have been under a lot of stress recently, and I reached my breaking point on Tuesday. I didn't workout that night, or the next, or the one after that, or after that. I spent the time I would have been exercising catching up on all the work I was unsuccessfully trying to keep up with.
I don't want to make a pattern out of not working out, but I decided this morning I didn't want to go to the gym, not because of time, but because there were no classes I wanted to take. So I considered running in the cold. Weather.com said the current temperature was 15 degrees. Brrrr. Luckily, it warmed up to 35 by this afternoon, so I decided I would suck it up and go for a run.
I am SO glad I did. In just the few weeks since I switched to the treadmill, I forgot why running outside is so much better. The calorie burn might be similar, but for me, the added benefits of running outside make it much more productive. Doing a trail run like I did today gives me a clarity and peace I don't get when I'm running indoors. On the treadmill, my mind doesn't wander the same way, and the end result of today's run was a lot of time reflecting on the stress I've been feeling lately.
This week, I found myself literally crying to various people in my life that I am doing everything I can, giving everything I've got, and still feel that I'm being told it's not enough. It was this feeling of failing despite giving every piece of myself that led me to reach a breaking point this week.
I spent a decent amount of time trying to figure out how I could find balance and do it all. The solution this week was that I gave up my workout routine, something I value and consider to be one of the most important things I do for myself. Running today led me to the conclusion that perhaps I shouldn't be looking for a way to do it all. Maybe the answer is the opposite of what felt natural to me. Don't try to devote more time to what's stressing you out when you're feeling overwhelmed. Do less.
Not so long ago, I used to be an expert at avoiding stress. It was actually something I consciously kept out of my life during and after cancer treatment. Stress is bad. There is a lot of research to back this up.
If I go a little further back in my life, however, I had a very different perspective. In college, I ate stress for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I worked, went to school full time, substitute taught, and still made time to do various projects that were unrelated to my school work. I was forced to give up the stress-around-the-clock lifestyle when I got sick. In a way, that was a gift. I was so tired, that I had to prioritize what I needed to do. The things at the bottom of the list never got done. Because of this, I also learned to say no the year I was doing chemo. Before, I said yes to anything I was asked to do, if I didn't have time, I managed to make it. On chemo, that wasn't an option.
What I realized as I ran today was that I have returned to some of my old ways. I am not living on stress like I used to. I don't want to return to that, but I think I have let my perfectionist ways to suck me into a stressed out state. I find myself agreeing to do things I could easily say no to, knowing I don't have time to accomplish them without giving up something that really matters to me. I've also gone above and beyond, not because I would get something extra out of it, but because someone else would benefit.
I think it's great to give everything you've got, I wholeheartedly believe in always doing your best. But when you reach a point where it comes at such a high cost, leads to a breakdown, compromises things I deeply value, it's too much.
If I push myself like I have been, I will without a doubt burnout. I hope that the people who are asking so much of me will understand that when I say no, it is because I am already giving as much of myself as I healthfully can, and and hopefully not more than I should.
Hope, love, run,