While it's only Wednesday, the countdown to Friday has begun for many of us.
Friday symbolises the end of the work week for many, the beginning of two days of relax and adventure (or perhaps some chores). Either way, work week over - let's party to that!
On Friday evenings most people, to begin the destress process from the week before, turn to pubs for one, two, three, just one more...ten? fifteen? (more? ) pints of the golden stuff (beer), glasses of the smooth burgundy drink, mixes of sweet, sugar-laiden, tasty, craze-inducing pitches. These will not only "help" to take the stress away (at least for the night), and help loosen up the tongue ( I mean talking, what are you thinking dirty mind?), perhaps leading to fun adventures and encounters, surely making fun conversations (for those partaking anyway), and even more surely leading to a nasty wake up (you have an headache you say? Stomach pain I hear you scream?).
I am not denying that I, too, have taken part in many of these Friday festivities, However, I have to say that lately I found a much better way to de-stress on a Friday (and actually doing so on most days of the week so I don't arrive on a Friday overloaded with cortisol and tension): Run and exercise! And complement with some yoga. Running in particular, especially if done outdoors in a nice forest park, with or without a good playlist (depending on the mood), has a great impact on my mental health. I would start a run with a cluttered brain, full of thoughts, stressed about the many things to do (especially lately, with the end of the phd, the imminent leaving of the country and the start of a new job!), and I will end a run with the perfect email to write, or a clear plan of attack, or just a calm mindset that tells me 'I can do it all'. But I promise I don't spend the run overanalysing things, I mostly just look at the trees around, or think about my legs moving, or where am I turning next (I don't plan my routes and sometimes I get a bit lost, but I love it!). Swimming also helps, although the repetitive up and down the lane can be frustrating and if you are stressed about something is easy to keep thinking about it while in the pool. Outdoor swimming on the other hand is very reinvigorating albeit very cold so impossible to stay for longer than 10-15 min (for me here anyway - the mediterranean will be a different story...).
I complement my running with gym classes and weight training which make my body feel strong and give me a strong mind-body connection. And on Wednesday we climb (indoors :( ) , which puts my strength to a challenge, puts my brain on a new level of puzzle solving, and my mind on a new level of trust (climbing requires as much mental strength as physical, I am learning that you need to believe in your capabilities otherwise you will not make it to the top - but if you believe you will be surprised!). I also do yoga to refocus, train my mind to be present, challenge my balance and deep stretch when I need to. Plus - the week training prepares me for any weekend adventure that may come my way: surf? hike a mountain? Cycle? Bouldering? I am up for it!
Parkrun is a great way to get out of the Friday night beer times - or anyway what started getting me out of it! The 5km fun runs are at 9.30 on Sat morning, and as much as they are only fun runs - they are still 5Km and I prefer to run hangover free. Nowadays, just one drink gives me a funny feeling in the morning, so I still went out when invited but stuck to a diet coke (then replaced by sparkling water as now I am also very very careful with the processed drinks!). This not only considerably reduced my alcohol consumption to only one drink occasionally, but now I have not had a drink in more than two months and the idea of not needing it and the hidden calories behind that glass made me realise that I can easily go forever without (okay, unless mum opens up a bottle of some organic prosecco to celebrate my phd and my new job - but only one glass with some food - in Italy and in my house in particular we have a drink-with-food policy whether is dinner or aperitivo).
So here, skip the party and go do something active next weekend - I promise you will be better for it! No depressive side or comedown to this all-natural drug !
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