Why running a half marathon eased my anxiety more than therapy

In graduate school, I started going to therapy for my anxiety.

The stress of my graduate classes. A romantic relationship that was ending. Heavy drinking during the weekends to dampen my feelings. I had always lived with racing thoughts, worry, and fear, but this period of my life was the perfect cocktail for a breakdown.

In my weekly sessions with my therapist, I was given many tools and techniques to calm my anxiety. But the tool that had the biggest impact was exercise. Specifically, running.

My city was hosting its first half marathon the summer I started therapy. The local running group was offering a free training plan for anyone who was interested in participating. My anxiety creates nervous energy that pushes me to do more, so of course, I signed up.

At first, I couldn’t even run a lap around my campus’s Quad. With consistency and determination, however, I was able to make significant progress in only a few weeks.

It wasn’t until I started running that I finally began internalizing the ideas my therapist taught me.

Click over to Positively Positive to read about the four essential concepts that running developed in me during my mental health journey.

Johnna Wilford