I’ve had the pleasure of working with my 11-year-old son, Ryan, on his running. I started running with him two years ago, when we ventured out on a four-mile run. He cried before we finished. He cried several times the first year we started to run together. It was obvious he had talent and it became apparent to me that his body could process the lactic acid efficiently in his legs and that his lungs could oxygenate is body effectively; however, he struggled with processing the pain associated with distance running. He would get to a point, during the run, where it began to hurt and he would panic and exacerbate the situation.
I could always tell when Ryan began to hurt, because he would become quiet. I could sense the emotion building up and the tears would flow and the shortness of breath would follow. “Don’t panic, Ryan.” I would quietly whisper over to him. “Recognize the pain, take a deep breath and allow it to slip into the back of your mind and just keep moving, your body will adapt.”
“It hurts, Dad, I can’t breathe!” He would respond between sobs.
“I know, don’t panic.” I would respond. “Slow down, regain yourself and then get back into your groove. It will pass.”
We would slow down the pace and sometimes we would even slow to a walk, so he could calm himself down and then we would slowly jog again until Ryan could regain the strength in his legs and in his spirit.
Today, Ryan can run 9 miles with no problem and little effort. It comes much easier to him, because he’s learned to manage the pain associated with distance running, but most important, he’s learned not to panic.
Panic is a defense mechanism our body deploys when we venture into the unknown and struggle to process uncomfortable situations. Unfortunately, it’s highly ineffective and usually makes things worse. There’s pain in life. It’s all around us and with us every day. The key is how we process that pain. Like an accomplished distance runner, we must learn to manage pain without letting it dominate our thoughts and lives.
When you find yourself in a situation where panic boils into your gut and threatens to attack your mind, try these steps:
- Acknowledge the pain and recognize that it’s real and must be addressed. It’s healthy to understand that you’re struggling and acknowledge that your body and comfort level is under attack.
- Slow down and regain your composure. Your body and mind needs a moment to process what’s happening. Slow down in your life and take a moment to pause and allow your brain to process the moment and consider alternatives.
- Calm your mind and allow your body to cool down and loosen the tension built up from the situation.
- Accept that the pain and struggle occurred and then push it out of your thoughts and refocus on your goal.
- Jump back into life and slowly regain your stride and allow yourself to reengage with your goals and dreams.
I’m not minimizing your struggles, for I know your struggles are real. I want to encourage you and remind you that you can succeed despite your struggles. Life is not easy, it never will be, but you can achieve great things, even with the pain in your life. What are you struggling with today? Don’t panic, you will win!