Handling Stress with CrossFit

When I was 18, I was told that I have an anxiety disorder. I don’t usually call it a “disorder.” I don’t usually call it anything. In most instances, I pretend it’s not there because I’ve learned how to manage it pretty well over the years. But put simply, a disorder is what it is. It’s the most concise way to explain it without giving you my whole life story. Needless to say, I have a lot of seemingly insignificant stressors in my life that I’ve had to learn how to deal with in some creative ways.

Crossfit has been the best way I’ve found for managing my stress. Last week, I was on my way to the gym with my little brother when we were rear-ended while sitting at a stop light. Seriously. How hard is it to determine if the car in front of you is moving? Apparently, very. This is the second time within a year that this has happened to me so I was furious. I believe my exact reaction was “YOU FUCKING IDIOT!” I was sipping on my BCAAs when we were hit and they sloshed all over my dashboard, steering wheel, radio, everywhere. I was pissed. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a big Chevy truck slowly backing away from the dent it’d made in my little Mazda. I knew the damage would be extensive.

Once the light turned green, I headed off to an empty parking lot with the Chevy close behind. My whole body was shaking as I parked and got out of the car. I walked around to the back of my little hatchback and saw that the hatch was no longer usable. It was pretty banged up, bumper included. Everything would need to be replaced. This made me even more angry, and as the other driver got out of her truck, I tried to say as little as possible to keep my anger in check. We exchanged information, I spent the next hour on the phone with insurance, then hit my workout for some stress relief.

The first part of that workout was actually not very fun. I was too stressed. I felt a panic attack coming on, making it hard to catch my breath. But as I kept going, and moved onto the next part which was something more enjoyable for me, I started to feel better. The workout was simple barbell cycling. A snatch complex. By the end of it I was laughing and talking with my brother on the way home like nothing had happened.

Crossfit has that effect for me, as well as for a lot of other people. I can come in angry, sad, distraught, and always leave in a better mood. It clears my head, gives me perspective, and allows me to think through things in a rational way, without my normal emotional chaos. Most of the time, when I have a problem, it consumes my thoughts until I find a solution for it. The problem is, my emotions become so tangled and intense that it’s hard to find that solution. During a workout, my emotions are usually cleared out. Afterwards, I can think so much better and I find the solution I was looking for. Plus, the problem never seems as big as it did before.

Crossfit has just as many mental benefits as it does physical. Your physical and mental health are linked. Don’t sacrifice one for the other. Each is so very important. However you choose to manage you stress, make sure it’s in healthy ways. Don’t settle for short-term relief. Invest in yourself. Invest in the quality of your life. You will be much happier for much longer. I promise.