We humanly require an outlet to unplug and destress. The range of coping mechanisms spans a gamut – some choose to turn to the vices of smoking or alcohol for a momentous high, some tuck themselves into quiet nooks and cafe crannies for down time, while others seek refuge in the form of exercise.

I don’t smoke, but I watched as my friend indulged in a cigarette before we walked to work together, and another during our lunch break. Meeting deadlines upon deadlines was becoming excruciatingly tough, where the weight of responsibility felt greater than the cross we had to bear at school. Stress took a toll on us both, and we found individual ways to cope.

After her first few drags, my friend would feel calmer, but I watched as her hands trembled just so slightly throughout the day.

I remember a point of time when I was coping with a barrage of negative emotions, when my problems seemed to pile on endlessly without merciful respite. I can’t say I exercise regularly, but that week when it all started, I ran four days out of seven and embarked on a month of pilates. My problems were not going to solve themselves, sure, but I didn’t feel so helplessly overwhelmed any longer.

It’s interesting to see that both kinds of coping mechanisms release the same kind of chemicals, endorphins.

Endorphins are also known as ‘feel good’ chemicals, where a stimulation of these chemicals can quell pain and also heighten positive emotions and feelings. And to battle our inner demons, this is what we chase after. But how we choose to chase after a dose of ‘feel good’ chemicals matters greatly. Vices, such as smoking, can indeed bring about a numbing of pain and a sense of euphoria, but its long term effects of known health risks outweigh the momentary high it brings.

For many of us, we avoid exercise because of our desire to experience any form of discomfort. When we’re stressed, upset, or frustrated (or all three!), putting our bodies through a test of its limits seems like the last thing we would want to do.

One thing about exercise that would frustrate me the most would be how long it would take to see results. A week of running would seem to amount next to zilch, and my body didn’t seem to be changing in any way after a few weeks of pilates. Slowly, the initial excitement of ‘getting fit’ would wear off as quickly as it had appeared.

But when I reached an all time low and started running, I felt lighter and less heavy hearted. And surprisingly, I felt an infinite weight of gratefulness rest upon me. If everything in my life wasn’t going smoothly, at least I could move, at least my legs were still able to carry me through. And this positivity grew and blossomed. Not only was my body constantly releasing endorphins, my mindset changed into one of renewed hope and positivity.

There will always be light at the end of the tunnel, but it is how we choose to find it that makes the journey worthwhile

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