My Emotional Outlet: Channeling Stress Into Fitness

Taylor McCaughey

Lately, I’ve learned a lot about healing. Someone I love has been in recovery from a substance use disorder for several months now, and I’m so grateful that he’s getting better. But his struggle with addiction has stirred so much anxiety, stress, and fear in me. I want him to be happy and healthy. I want to be supportive and loving and help him navigate this journey.

At times, it’s been like an emotional roller coaster. But I soon realized that in order to be strong and supportive for my loved one, I needed to be the best version of myself possible. That meant self-care needed to become a priority. In order to take care of him, I had to really take care of me.

When I’m at work, I’m busy enough that I find I don’t focus so much on the emotions of my personal life. But during my commutes, or during downtime, the stressful thoughts surrounding my personal life usually resurface. So instead of sinking into depressed or anxious feelings, I try to channel that energy and focus into fitness instead. It helps me cope.

Taylor McCaughey running

Everyone has a favorite activity or hobby that they turn to in times of stress. For me, it’s exercise. From group fitness classes at the gym, to running, lifting weights, or even yoga, I can say without a doubt that my fitness routines have helped me manage my anxiety.

Exercising has really been an emotional outlet for me. Physical activity helps produce endorphins which help the brain cope with anxiety and depression. When I walk out of the gym or when I have finished a run, I can truly feel my mind body and soul become more centered and peaceful.

I’m lucky enough to have a gym in my work building, as well as a gym in my town. But even if you don’t have access to a gym, try getting outdoors for a walk. Breathe that fresh air. Put on some tunes and try to relax. Give yourself that time. You might be surprised to discover just how much a short walk can improve your state of mind.

There were times where I found myself always putting others first, especially my loved one in recovery. It was my natural instinct, given what he was and is going through. Though, through counseling, I learned that putting myself first is the greatest thing I can do for him—and he reminds me of this all the time. He wants me to be happy and healthy, too. He’s afraid for me, too. Recovery is often a team effort, and he supports me just as much as I support him.

I would encourage anyone who’s supporting someone with a substance use disorder to take care of themselves, and to give fitness a try. Study after study shows that physical exercise has a big impact on mental health and well-being. Exercise routines have also been proven to help people with substance use disorders sustain their recovery, too. If you’re coping with the stress of addiction, there are simply no downsides to lacing up those sneakers and seeing where your fitness journey takes you.

Want to use your favorite fitness activity to help families struggling with addiction? Create a Shatterproof FIT fundraiser!

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