Exercising can serve as a way to center yourself and take a break from the ongoing stressors of the world. Whether you are experiencing stress from personal factors (such as your job or family situation) or you are experiencing stress from things outside of your immediate radius of control (e.g., the pandemic, politics, human rights injustices, environmental concerns, animal abuse, etc.), exercise can serve as a healthy and effective tool to care for yourself and manage your stress level.
Over the past decade, exercising regularly has helped me to rebalance my priorities. In addition, as a result of adjusting things in my life that I can control and choosing to spend more time on the causes and projects that I care about, I find exercise to be more of a fun activity than a mandatory way to help me de-stress – on most days, anyway. (It wasn’t always this way, and, yes, I still have moments when I need to go for a run… I’m human.)
If you’ve been exercising for a while, you may already know that exercise changes your brain. That’s a good thing – and it doesn’t just apply to helping you manage your stress. Exercise can help you learn and retain new information, which is handy whether you are taking a class or aiming to learn on your own.
In a world full of demands for your time and attention, exercising regularly can help you to prioritize the act of self-care. Caring for yourself is one of the first steps you can take to change your life – and the world. If you are going to be a better human, you need energy – regardless of how you intend to direct your energy. It’s impossible to keep going indefinitely without a way to replenish your energy, and exercise (sleep, too!) is a super-powered battery charger for your body and mind.
As you think about your values and the causes you care about most deeply, remember that as much as we wish to give to others, we need to put on the oxygen mask and take care of ourselves too. This may feel selfish at times (I get it) and, perhaps, counterintuitive, especially when you feel overwhelmed or pressed for time.
Be patient with yourself. Change takes time…and energy.
As you exercise more consistently, you will likely begin to make healthier choices for yourself in other areas of your life. When it comes to caring for yourself, exercise is only one piece of the puzzle. The many other pieces (among them, sleeping well and choosing to eat foods that nourish you, for example) will begin to fall into place more easily when you have at least one strong healthy habit in place.
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