Running as Stress ReliefPosted: March 14, 2013
I just finished up a 10K race over the weekend, my second since arriving in Switzerland last year. Running has always been one of my passions. Now, after having kids, running allows me the rare opportunity to spend time alone (one of the reasons I never considered a jogging stroller!). Getting outside and moving around helps me relieve stress.
Studies have shown that coping will food allergies can be a source of stress and anxiety. As a full-time caregiver for our food-allergic son, my running and occasional races have become even more important to me. Here are just a few examples of recent research on this topic, if you’re interested:
- “The impact of food allergy on the daily activities of children and their families,” Pediatrics (2006)
- “Variations in quality of life among caregivers of food allergic children,” Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (2010)
- “The psychosocial impact of life-threatening childhood food allergies,” Pediatric Nursing (2012)
Escaping to a Race
Someone asked me the other day whether I was a “professional” runner. I’m certainly not! While I consider myself better than average, that’s about it. When I sign up for races, I compete against myself. A race forces me to train and stay in shape. And, I’ve been very lucky to find a running partner who’s willing to meet me at 6h00, twice a week!
My most recent race was in Payerne. I spent nearly 5 hours, including travel time, entirely by myself. From our town, I hopped on two trains to reach the starting line. I was so happy to be there, and it was such a beautiful spring day.
I love the positive atmosphere at races—the energy and excitement of the runners and spectators. When I’m on my own and running the course, I can focus entirely on myself—how fast I’m running, how I’m feeling. I still think about my family, and how they’ll ask me about how I did after the race, which only drives me to go faster. It sounds cheesy, but racing makes me feel free, alive and strong (on a good day, at least…).
And, there’s inevitably food at a race. At this race, seconds after I crossed the finished line (where I almost puked—something I’ve never done before, but I full-out sprinted the last 50 meters trying unsuccessfully to beat some guy), I received a bottle of water and a big block of Swiss gruyére. Cheese is not okay for my food-allergic son, but I didn’t have to worry since he wasn’t with me (and it was completely shrink-wrapped).
For the train ride home, I picked up a chocolate chip cookie, which I haven’t had in a long time. I ate it without considering whether my son would grab at it or pick up some of the crumbs or touch my hands after I’m finished because they haven’t been washed yet. I was content—pleased with my accomplishment of finishing the race without barfing, and relaxed because I wasn’t in my usual caregiver role (which I think any parent can relate to, regardless of whether their kids have food allergies!).
Honestly, I have nothing to complain about. My son is doing well. He’s never had an anaphylactic reaction (my fingers are always crossed in hopes he never does). We’re living in Switzerland where we enjoy access to incredible health care and an overall high quality of life. I’m now serving as a stay-at-home mom to my two boys, in part, so I can closely monitor my son’s food.
I’m so thankful, yet I live with a persistent fear. This feeling was so eloquently described in last week’s New York Times article by another parent of a food-allergic child (with more allergies than our son and with greater severity):
“…food allergies amplify a kind of fear every parent experiences — of a child dashing suddenly into the street and, just like that, being gone. Your child is always playing near a precipice that is visible only to you: you may be able to keep her from falling off, but you can never move her away from the edge.”
So, until my son’s food allergies magically disappear (there’s a good chance they might in the coming years), I will continue to run as always and escape to an occasional race. Also, I’ll make sure my son’s older brother and my husband get those opportunities too. We have the luxury of taking a break from the world of food allergies, but my son doesn’t at this point. He’s so young—he doesn’t realize what’s happening to him and around him yet. There will be new challenges as he gets older, but we’ll figure them out together.
If you’re living with food allergies, what are your stress relievers? I plan to sign up for another 10K race in June, if anyone wants to join me!