Something beautiful happens when the brain and body work in tandem. When there’s balance between the two, everything feels effortless, and one enters a state of flow. In this state, the mind empowers the body, and the body empowers the mind as they collaborate to carry and protect us.

Trouble ensues when we disrupt the flow by expecting too much from both mind and body while simultaneously neglecting to nurture either. The mind and body can only endure so much persistent pressure before they rebel in the form of mental collapse and injury. Rather than work together, they find themselves in conflict as they vie for your attention and energy.

It’s been 128 days since I’ve run. The problem with finding flow in the extremes is that it’s only sustainable for so long. For months, I was running 120 miles a week. It was never enough. I was stuck in a mentality of always more, never less and was never satisfied. Anything less than 17-20 miles a day felt like a failure. I hold myself to self-imposed rules fueled by anxiety and impossibly high standards with a constantly moving ceiling. Perfection, always just out of grasp, is the only acceptable performance.

Running has always provided me clarity and a sense of calm. In the extremes it controlled me. I only allowed myself rest when I was too exhausted to function. I was shrouded in a curtain of darkness because the pressure to be productive always pushed me straight past appreciation for the moment and left me procrastinating happiness.

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I’m used to measuring success by how much I can endure before I break. The problem is I always break. I reach my peak and then keep pushing. I ignored my mind and body for so long that I grew accustomed to the pain and misery to which I subjected them.

When by body broke, I was forced to slow down. It was only then that I realized how much damage I had done by depriving my mind of the attention it deserved and demanding my body deplete itself to the point of destruction. I’ve been forced to be honest with myself and confront things from which I had literally been running. I often feel desperate to get back to my old routine. But that routine was rooted in rules that didn’t serve me. It’s okay to let rules go when they’re ruining you, even if at one time those rules were your world.

There are days I’m wracked with guilt for being the source of my own undoing. It feels frustrating and selfish not having the energy to commit to anything other than my own healing. There’s a different purpose and pace to my days with my only goal being to get healthy. I’m finally learning that trying to solve an internal problem with an external solution only prolongs the problem. As beautiful as perfect harmony is between mind and body, there’s grace and sweetness in prioritizing and protecting yourself. The healing process is exhausting, but I hope rather than rob me of health and happiness like my running and neglecting my needs did, it restores those things for me.

Danz is an avid runner, reader and writer. She’s a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead who lives, works and believes in downtown Fargo. She’s a regular contributor to The Forum’s opinion pages.