Focus On How It Feels


By Kate Kole

I started running cross country in high school as a way to stay in shape for soccer season. That was my singular goal and purpose. Not to race competitively, or to smash PRs, or to lose weight, or for any other reason. So, it was as much a surprise to myself as it was to anyone else when I discovered that I genuinely loved the sport. I adored my teammates and found that meeting up to cover 6 miles after school was fun. We bonded over long runs where we had nothing else to do but talk. And of course, team dinners and getting out of school early to head to meets only added to my newfound enthusiasm for the sport.

Even after graduating, I continued to run. Just for the heck of it. Throughout college and into my early 20s, I signed up (and sometimes even trained!) for half marathons. I appreciated the time that running allotted me, to think, destress, and reach endorphin fueled highs.

Then, somewhere in the last few years, running started to slowly lose its appeal. It began with an achy right knee and continued into tightness in my hips. My stomach often cramped and the pain I experienced in my low back overwhelmed any advantages of the exercise. It seemed like a chore. I fought to finish my last half marathon and for lack of a better phrase, felt like absolute shit for the rest of the day. I was forcing my body into movement that didn’t serve the same purpose it once had.

Running didn’t feel good anymore.

So, I stopped.

And in its place, I started doing more of what provided the same mind clearing, anxiety erasing, mood boosting benefits. I committed to a yoga practice, headed out on long walks, and sought out group exercise classes I actually enjoyed, ones that left me feeling energized rather than depleted.

Let me be clear, I’m not anti-running. Who knows, some day it might add to my life again in the way it once did. My point isn’t solely about working out anyway. It’s about reflecting on the ways in which the things I do on a regular basis make me feel. It’s about considering how everything – the food I eat, the relationships I keep, the shows I watch, the blogs I read, and all the other tasks I complete in my day-to-day routine affect my quality of life. It’s about asking the question of whether the habits I keep drain my energy, inspire me, create confidence, and ultimately bring out the best version of myself. It’s about living intentionally.

That’s not to say that everything will or even should always feel good. Of course, it won’t. There will be off days, even in the worthiest roles. I’ll inevitably encounter uncomfortable, trying situations and the answer isn’t to simply avoid hard things or to quit as soon as things get tough. It’s not to resist the words that are difficult to say but need to be shared anyway. It’s not to run from the lessons that beg to be learned. And it’s not to turn from conversations that need to be had, or relationships that deserve to be worked through, or obstacles that are worthy to fight to overcome.

Having said that, not every debate needs to be had, not every relationship is meant to be maintained, and not every obstacle is mine to overcome. Sometimes my energy is best spent by choosing to walk away, to unfollow, and to focus my attention elsewhere. When I truly tap into my intuition, I know when that’s the case.

I know when to stop eating certain foods, watching certain interviews, and reading certain articles. I’m well aware when it won’t serve me to click the link or scroll any further. I can feel when it’s time to opt out. I’m familiar with my mind’s habit of wandering and I can sense when I’ve overcomplicated my life by dwelling in the past or overthinking the future. I realize when I’ve become trapped by comparison and criticism. The exhausting and unsettling tightness and tension I experience inside my body are flashing neon indicators if I learn to stop, notice, and listen to them.

In exchange for what no longer feels good (or never really did in the first place), I can add in more of the things that do. I can read books that challenge and change me in the best kind of ways. I can have conversations that encourage me to look beyond myself and my beliefs and consider other points of view. In place of worry I can add in prayer, in moments of feeling overwhelmed by the past or anxious about the future, I can practice becoming present, and rather than spend my time being critical, I can laugh and cry (I’m an easy crier) through an hour of Ellen.

Life is worth more than consistently holding habits that make me feel crappy at the expense of the good there is to see, feel, and extend. Beyond that, there are enough conflicts and hardships meriting my attention, that I’d rather not waste the energy I do have to offer on what’s petty and purposeless. The world needs the best version of me, especially right now. It’s craving compassion, connection, and kindness. So, I’ll start by recognizing how I feel and from there, I’ll trust and follow my inner voice.

{featured image via pexels}

4 thoughts on “Focus On How It Feels

  1. Erin says:

    This article really struck me. I often find myself pushing to enjoy something that -if I’m honest with myself- simply doesn’t suit me anymore. Thank you for putting into words something that I’ve never really thought about, but should on a much more regular basis.


  2. Ali Georgacakis says:

    Living intentionally is something I’ve been trying to embrace lately. But I could have never put into words as well as you! Thanks for explaining to my head what my heart wants!!


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