Cast Your Worries is proud to welcome Melissa Meyer who blogs at fit4liferx. Not only is she an incredible athlete, but she is also one of the sincerest encouragers I’ve met!
Today she shares how fitness has impacted worries in her life and how God actually designed our bodies to benefit from movement.
January, the start of a new year, but the beginning of what would end up being one the most trying years for my family. Our faith, strength, and endurance was about to go through the largest test. What started as two grand mal seizures turned into months of uncertainty and unrest. My gut told me my dad’s condition was serious but I did not want to believe it to be true.
In the months following, my father was taken from specialist to specialist, with no clear diagnosis. As I sat with my mom and dad at Northwestern medicine on March 20th our world was about to be tuned upside down. My dad had a brain tumor, which later turned out to be brain cancer.
I had never had so much anxiety and worry in my life, but in addition to the amazing family and friends I had for support, I had two key factors that allowed me to handle the storm: my faith and fitness.
Worry and anxiety has been something in the past that could collapse me in my tracks. In college I suffered from stress induced ulcers and anxiety attacks. During this time I would let stress consume me to the point where I would skip working out to study for an extra hour.
I started to notice a connection between my pre-test anxiety on days I would run around campus before a test and the days I didn’t. At first I thought I was just too tired after a five-mile run to be anxious, but in reality my brain chemistry was altered.
God has literally programmed a positive feedback reaction in our brains whenever our body exercises. Not only does our heart pump faster and our circulation increase, but our central nervous system and pituitary gland start to produce endorphins. Endorphins are opioids; they are the body’s natural painkillers, and leave you with a feeling of euphoria.
In addition to the flood of endorphins our serotonin levels increase, which is the hormone in our body that causes us to feel happiness. Sugary and starchy foods also increase levels of serotonin which is why our bodies may crave junk food during stressful situations. However, the long-term effects of unhealthy food include a later increase in anxiety.
Hours after I found out my dad needed to have brain surgery I showed up to an open workout. Some people thought I was nuts. But I knew I needed that dose of endorphins to be in a clear mindset to turn my worries over to God and to deal with the stress.
In my case, my anxiety has always centered on trying to control the circumstances around me. Even on days where I would reread Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7 it didn’t help sustain my worries until my mind was in the right place; I needed to do my part in order to be physically able to hand off my worries onto God.
Taking care of my body through exercise produced peace and allowed me to hand my burden of worry to God. So I continued to train daily, and on days I found anxiety creeping back into my thoughts, I would stop what I was doing and take a short jog, walk or another form of exercise until I felt like I was back in balance.
Sunday I would carve out extra time and go on long runs, sometimes hours at a time, for two reasons: 1.) I used this time to talk with God and thank Him for all the blessings He had given me and 2.) To train for the Chicago Marathon.
Fast forward October 12, 2015. Mile 26 at the Chicago marathon. I have .2 miles left to complete my 4th Chicago Marathon. My family is waiting, including my dad who is now cancer free and recovering.
I wore a sign on my back from the American cancer society in honor of my dad. I ran 26.2 miles thanking God for healing my dad, giving my family strength and taking away all my worry and anxiety I had during 2015.
Melissa has been a personal trainer since 2008. In addition to a degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison (where she triple majored and minored), she also holds her personal training certification, nutrition certification, and several CrossFit and specialty certifications. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her husband Barrett and her dog Bella Bulldog. Connect with Melissa at her blog or on Facebook.