I am a runner. Even with a regular running routine and being in pretty good shape, there are many times during my runs where I start to feel like I am not going to make it. I start to panic a little bit, and I can feel the flood of negative thoughts threatening to overtake me. I know then that I have reached some kind of threshold for this exercise. 

But I don’t just quit. I look for ways to alleviate the stress I am feeling and look for a new way to move forward. I have found that this little questionnaire always reveals a way forward not only in running, but when I feel like I am losing it in life, too. 

Next time you are feeling like you’ve reached a threshold, you’re panicking or feeling overwhelmed, or you simply feel like you’re about to lose it completely, try going through this list of questions and making adjustments as necessary. It may just be the thing that helps you get through to the other side.

1. Are you looking up?

In other words, where is your focus? One of the hardest things I had to learn about running was to look up. My tendency was to look down, where my feet were landing, to make sure I didn’t make a misstep. Sound familiar?

How often do we scrutinize our steps in life so closely, that we don’t even realize we have taken our eyes off the goal ahead of us, and now we are stuck in the rocky terrain we are in? Looking up and looking ahead literally pulls you forward toward your goal. It also creates a more open posture, which leads us to the next checkpoint.

2. Are your shoulders open?

Posture is everything. In running, better posture literally opens your body up to receive more oxygen and carry your muscles efficiently through the strenuous movements. In life, posture does the same thing. It opens you up, it ensures you’re getting adequate oxygen, and it expands our hearts to new possibilities.

There is a high level of correspondence between our emotions and our body language. It is really difficult to send your body joyful signals if you are always curled into a ball. Yet, proper posture is uncomfortable for most of us, we naturally revert to a more comfortable slump. So we have to be constantly reminded to make the conscious effort to stretch and open ourselves up. 

3. Are you expelling what isn’t needed?

In any aerobic exercise, expelling hydrogen and carbon dioxide are just as important as your oxygen intake. Build up of these elements causes improper function and pain. Likewise, the tensions we hold in our bodies can slow us down and obstruct our view. In everyday life, these might be regrets, grief, or shame that you have been holding onto. It might be toxic influences in your life, people or media that is simply counterproductive to your goals. It might even be something that hasn’t happened yet, little forecasts of anxiety that cause you to feel unnecessary dread or stress. Whatever it is, take a big, deep breath and let it go. 

4. Are you using all your muscles?

Or in the case of everyday life, are you using all your resources?

Running form is a whole science that when done correctly, coordinates all the muscles of the body for maximum achievement. Sometimes, I forget to lengthen my stride or tighten my core, but when I check in with this question, I am afforded a major boost in speed or strength, because I have called on a new resource for my body to use while running.

It is so easy for use to forget what resources we have at hand. We are creatures of habit and become accustomed to using the same solutions over and over in problem solving. But often, there is a new, creative solution right in front of us, if we can take a step back, look at what we have, and give ourselves a true picture of all the resources available to us. 

5. Do you need to slow down?

Lastly, you may be doing all of these things and more, but still struggling. Sometimes, all you can do to alleviate the stress is slow your pace. Or in some cases, maybe this is a signal you have overcommitted and as a result, you are buckling under the pressure. If so, slowing down might look like scaling back. What things can you reprioritize so that you don’t feel so stretched thin? Slowing down or scaling back doesn’t mean you have to stop completely, it doesn’t mean you quit. But reprioritizing or taking some time to recover is always an option and when done strategically, it can be just the change in gears you needed to find a new way to move forward. 

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