2020 was a challenging year for everyone. I believe everyone’s mental health took the biggest hit. People lost their livelihood, family members, businesses, routines, not to mention the huge divide that politics, social media, and COVID-19 has exacerbated. I can say with great certainty that last January no one saw this dumpster fire coming. What have you done to take care of your mental health?
In 2013 after losing more than 100 pounds I started running to keep the weight off. I had run a marathon after graduating from paramedic school more than a decade earlier and remembered the feeling that comes after training for and completing 26.2 miles. In addition to the physical benefits, I found my running routine to be great for my mental health, I have found trail running in nature to be especially therapeutic. 25 years in Emergency Medical Service (EMS) has taken its toll on my mental health, from post-traumatic stress, anger to depression.
Before COVID-19 hit, I was on a 150-day running streak. After the races I was training for were canceled due to the pandemic, I needed the motivation to keep running. decided to extend that streak to 365-days. August 5th, I completed that running streak. Last January, I also saw a challenge to run 2020 miles in the year 2020. I did some calculations and figured I would have to average about 5½ miles a day, and about 39 miles a week. These tasks, when looked at as a whole, seem to be quite overwhelming, however, when broken down into parts it is more manageable.
Looking back at my running accomplishments, they helped me get through the challenges. When I was stressed, overwhelmed, or depressed, I would go for a run, even if I had to force myself out the door. Some days, just getting out the door was a victory. I also learned resilience by taking each day as it came. When you think of running every day for a year it seems dreadful, however, if you take it one day at a time it is manageable. Running 2020 miles seems overwhelming, but if you break it down into daily or weekly goals it’s not so bad. Finishing these difficult goals gave me a sense of accomplishment that cannot be taken away. When times are tough and I feel like quitting, I can look back and say I slayed my demons and ran 365-days in a row and completed over 2000 miles in a year. Not an easy task after having been morbidly obese for most of my adult life. These accomplishments gave me confidence to look ahead to what else may be possible.
Another positive event occurred in February, when I took a job as an EMS instructor, teaching new Paramedics and EMT’s. This is a job I had been working toward for years and it finally came. I attribute my success in attaining the job to my consistent running that gave me time to work through my problems, gave me confidence, and helped keep the negative thought at bay, not to mention the discipline.
I am not saying you have to run every day for a year or run 2000 miles, but I do recommend finding that physical activity that gives you strength, then challenge yourself to go to the next level. This will boost your physical and mental health and help you weather the storms that will inevitably come, and even improve your professional life.
“A warrior is a guy will that goes “I am here again today; I’ll be here again tomorrow and the next day.” It’s a person who puts no limit on what is possible. “