I’m a runner, but not in the heavy-breathing, outdoors, sweaty way.
My version of running isn’t nearly as healthy, and it feels like a treadmill that just won’t stop. I’m all too often running from regrets, difficult feelings, and constant, nagging guilt and shame. I run to avoid the insistent whisper from that dark place inside that asks, am I enough? I run to ignore asking how am I really, honestly feeling?
Running like this is totally, 100% exhausting, but without any mood benefits or cute neon shoes. This running keeps you moving fast enough so that you can avoid anything that’s too hard to think about.”I’m fine” and “It’s fine” are the rushed taglines for an anxious, running heart. What starts as a coping mechanism can easily become so entirely not fine, as it takes over to be a default way of living.
I’m inclined to take this default and ignore the ache of exhaustion for my self-made labels of productive and strong. The fatal flaw is that this kind of maniac productivity only leads to burnout. Zephaniah 3:17 is a call to grace as it reminds us that,”The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” This verse hit stopped me in my tracks this week. Do you see the hugeness of that love and peace in those few lines?
I sat on my little orange couch this week, chocolate coffee in hand, and mulled over that truth. He is mighty to save: I do not need to be mighty. I do not need to save myself, and honestly, I can’t. He is with me– not dragging me along, not raising a condemning finger, not yelling from the sidelines. He’s with me. Not only that, but He will take great delight: God is pro-joy! If God is pro-joy, why do I do often reject it for more “serious” concerns? The line that hits closest to home for me here is that God will quiet with his love: Anxious running is not his prescription. The fact he will quiet me with love reveals that a mad dash for the finish line is the antithesis of what he wants to give me. He will quiet, then rejoice. But how can I bask in quiet if I’m mid-marathon?
How can I still my heart for long enough to really feel the hurt I run from, to then allow room for His loving quiet and joy?
I’ve been trying to make space lately for joy, but I’ve found I can’t do that until I’ve slowed down enough to work through the hurt first. I have to allow myself to feel those tough feelings before I can release them, or else I’ll just get stuck on that treadmill again. The search for replacing anxiety with joy is less about out-running and more about slowing down enough to let go.
My pro-runner self is pretty terrible at slowing down. Maybe you also struggle with turning off the hustle? I’ve tried to be more in-tune to finding the ways I can hit the breaks, and these are the things I’ve found that encourage myself to accept peace in His quieting love.
- Journal: I journal like a maniac. I have stacks and stacks of little books that I’ve filled out throughout the years, and I don’t see this habit ending any time soon. Every morning, I grab a pen and some coffee, then settle into our bird-pillow covered couch. It’s so relieving to have a place to work through feelings and events without a filter. I absolutely love setting up each day with at least ten minutes of silence to focus on God and center myself. So often, I realize feelings that I didn’t even know I had until I write then down! It helps to really feel all those emotions to be able to them move past them towards joy.
- Self-Date: I find that there are few things as relaxing or joy-giving than taking a day for the person I spend the most time with: myself. It’s not selfish to take a day for just you! Sometimes you just need a day of walking around TJMaxx, reading, and doing nothing. Self-dates help me to become in-tune to how I really am feeling, and forces me to be intentionally unintentional for a day. Self-dates work a lot like dates with another person do: you check in emotionally, spend some quality time, and gain better understanding of yourself.
- Exercise: Okay, I know this post was literally all about how a lifestyle of running is bad. But actual running is great! I’m no running queen (at all), but I do like to set aside a few minutes to listen to music and be outside once or twice a week. I’ve never been that active girl, but I’m trying to be more intentional with noticing how my moods are affected by exercise. Moving my body forces me to stop moving my mind for a few minutes.
- Unplug: I have a horrible habit of mindlessly checking social media accounts. I’m not even interested, but I do it without even thinking! Subconscious comparisons are a very real thing, and I’m trying to be more intentional of limiting how many times I log into these accounts. Logging out of social media accounts a few hours before bed to be more present in real life and is such a grace-giver.
- Open a Book: This has been my most intentional change for 2017. I’m trying to read a minimum of a book a month, to encourage me to be more intentional about spending my free time doing things I actually enjoy. Opening a book helps me to slow down and tune into something outside of myself for an hour. Tip: The goodreads app is a great way to track your reading and save books that you want to read in the future.
- Say No: It’s okay to say no! Don’t sign up or show up if you’re bone-tired and doing it out of obligation. It’s okay. I promise.
- Say Yes: It’s okay to say yes, too! When I’m stressed, I tend to shut down. I say no to everything, because every day is already entirely booked with me stressing out about my obligations. I’ve been trying to learn that will never help me to feel better, and I don’t need to complete my to-do list before I can have coffee with a friend. Let’s be honest: that to-do list will never truly be done, anyway.
This little list is full of the things that I’ve found that help me, but there are a million ways to help quiet your soul. Do you have any ways that encourage peace and stillness in your life? When life starts gaining hustle’s manic momentum, how do you hit the breaks?