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4 ways runners can take care of their mental health this season

For many of us, the holiday season isn't all jingle bells and snowflakes. Here are a few ways to make your mental health a priority

man thinking during his run

For some runners, the holiday season is a challenging time of year. Societal expectations can make those who don’t want to be particularly festive feel like they must either put on a good front or stay home. Whether you celebrate or not, this time of year can be hard to navigate and can leave runners (and everyone) dealing with complicated feelings. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) website shares that more than half of Canadians report feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation at this time of year. Here are a few ways runners can protect their mental health during the holiday season.

Runner heading toward mountains:andrea-leopardi
Photo: Unsplash/Andrea Leopardi

Festive flexibility

Give yourself the gift of flexibility in your running routine. Acknowledge that the holiday season can be hectic, and recognize that it’s OK to adjust your training plan temporarily. Be adaptable, allowing room for extra rest days and shorter runs, when needed. You’ll maintain a positive relationship with running and reduce unnecessary pressure on yourself. Missing a few runs over the holidays is not going to have an impact on your long-term running goals (but beating yourself up for doing so might).

couple running


Connect with your community (if you want to)

The holiday season can be especially tough if you are feeling lonely. Your local running community can be a positive place to connect with other runners, and chances are, others are experiencing similar feelings. Signing up to volunteer at your local parkrun, or heading out for a run with your local running community may give you a much-needed boost. If you’re not feeling up to running and don’t feel like socializing, that’s also OK. CMHA suggests doing something special for yourself: cooking your favourite foods, going to a movie or starting a holiday project.

Go for a run (if that helps)

For many of us, running is a daily pick-me-up. If running is supporting your mental health and is something that helps you tackle everyday life challenges, don’t be afraid to make it a priority. Need to press pause on making holiday treats with the fam to fit in a few stress-relieving miles? Consider this your reminder that you never need to apologize to others for taking care of your physical and mental health needs. Your family and friends will benefit from the healthier, happier post-run you, and you’ll be able to savour the family antics while feeling relaxed.


Don’t be afraid to seek help

While seeking therapy and talking about mental health is becoming less stigmatized, it can still be really hard to tell others that you are feeling low. Canadian Olympian middle distance champ Gabriela DeBues-Stafford recently shared about her own struggles on Instagram and encouraged others to seek help. “If you’re struggling, please reach out, and don’t lose hope,” DeBues-Stafford wrote. “I know it’s hard now, but the world is a better place with you in it.”

For a variety of reasons, many of us may not be comfortable sharing what we are going through with those closest to us. There are resources available if you need help navigating the challenges you are facing, or simply need to talk. Bigger Than The Trail is a non-profit that uses trail running as a platform to advocate for mental health, and will provide three months of online counselling through Betterhelp to anyone seeking help. Check out their resources here.

If you need to talk to someone right now, call or text 988 in Canada or the U.S. For more resources, head here.

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