How Running Helped Me Conquer Anxiety
by Aurélie Mathieu
Throughout law school, I managed to keep my stress levels under control. I avoided the gunners (the know-it-all, super teacher's pets), any serious relationships and all types of negative energy. I felt that if I tried my best, everything would eventually work out. But in the end, it seemed it did not. The bar exam was a beast I was not prepared for and what it took for me to pass, took a toll on me that I could not ignore.
After the bar exam, I would wake up in a panic in the middle of the night and have a hard time going back to sleep. The waiting period between taking the exam and receiving the results was torture. I was not achieving my highest potential in other areas of life, and stuff that never bothered me before suddenly began affecting me emotionally. I was scared of failing, and I was scared of having to move into a cardboard box on the side of the road. That is exactly what anxiety is: fear. So, I decided to acknowledge the issue and do something about it.
Making a Change
I started going to the gym every evening, beginning my workouts on the treadmill. Burning energy physically allowed me to get my mind right and sleep better at night. I was no longer anxious and never wanted to go back into that space.
Around that time, I also started running with District Running Collective and met the women who would later launch RUNGRL. Within weeks of running with the crew, I was running six miles at a time and pushing my pace. Once I realize how fast I had progressed, I decided to register for my first race, the Navy Air Force Half Marathon in Washington, D.C.
Training for my first race forced me to be disciplined and organized. My entire life was structured around weekday runs, Saturday long runs and cross training. I met amazing people and lived a stress-free life. It was important to have that support system because I did not grow up around active people. It really helped to have people always ready to answer my most random questions about running.
I also loved that running was an inexpensive sport to pick up. My first investment was getting fitted for running shoes. I noticed that the pair sneakers I had sporadically used since college were not the most comfortable. My second investment was food because burning so many calories made me hungry all the time. I now invest significantly more in my running, but it is worth the peace of mind this lifestyle has brought me.
I feel the most alive when I get to run around this wonderful city that I love so much. My solo runs are usually my one-on-one time with myself and my thoughts. My group runs are when I get to catch up to those runners who have now become my friends. Running is my form of meditation, possibly even my therapy.
Knowing all the great things that the universe manifested in my life as a result of running, makes me thankful that I was able to overcome this small bump in the road.
Editor’s note: ‘Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States and impacts African-Americans at a higher rate than any other group — especially African-American women’, yet only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care. For more information on how African Americans can ‘overcome our unique obstacles with anxiety’, please check out this article from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website by Angela Neal-Barnett, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Kent State University and a leading expert on anxiety disorders among African Americans.