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Mental Moment: Running

Tie up those laces and relieve some stress!
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ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY
ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY

The overworked university student is no stranger to feelings of stress and anxiety. We often spend taxing hours falling into sedentary slumps of perpetual studying. What’s more, all the time sitting hunched over our desks leaves us feeling too exhausted to do much else. 

These emotions of being overwhelmed were at an all-time high for me during the exam season last semester. I desperately needed a mental release from my studies! While scrolling on social media to escape my work, I found myself looking for something more fulfilling. I decided I’d tie up my laces and head out for a quick run. 

Twenty minutes into my run, I began to realize how incredible I was suddenly feeling. It was instantaneously gratifying to just breathe heavily and enjoy the world around me. This overjoyed feeling meshed well with my thoughts, flooding my mind, and washing over my stress. 

An enlightened mindset gave me the clarity I needed to see my to-do list from a much more positive place. Treating myself to that 30-minute run had quite effectively uplifted my mental health, making the rest of my day so much better. And while you may be skeptical about this one, I encourage you too, to spend your next study break on a 30-minute run. 

Not too sure where to start? Here’s my guide for you:  

  1. Peel yourself from your desk and go get changed. 
  2. Pop in your headphones and find your favourite playlist or podcast. If you prefer running without sound, feel free to skip this step! Enjoy listening to the birds and chatter of Toronto’s hustle and bustle.
  3. Tie up some supportive sneakers or running shoes.
  4. Head out the front door.
  5. Devote 30 minutes outside to a run, or to any movement, really. 
  6. And don’t worry about all your to-do tasks — they’ll still be there when you get back!

Yes, it’s that simple!

During your run, pay attention to how great you feel. And when you return to your desk, here’s what you can expect to notice: your mind will feel refreshed and much less foggy than before. Your body will feel invigorated from the change of stillness to movement. The monster pile of tasks waiting for you will have seemingly lost its intimidation value. You may even find that your next study session flows better now that your mood and memory retention has been boosted!  

Running is a form of exercise that really gives a big bang for your buck! It’s affordable, and yet so physically and mentally effective at making you feel good. But it is certainly not the only form of exercise that creates these wonderful effects. Exercise in all shapes and sizes is good for you! 

For me, it’s running that makes me feel great, but you may find that bike rides or long walks do the trick. Whatever physical activity that you choose to do, there’s no doubt your mind and body will thank you for the break away from your long, arduous, desk-bound days.