Stress blog

Knowing when to retreat

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. September 21, 2010

The marathon is a race of 26.2 miles. There are no short cuts in training. If you don't invest the training time, you might finish the race but your results won't be pretty and you might well end up injured. The cornerstone of marathon training is at least two long runs of approximately 20 miles each.

During one such run I hooked up with a woman in her early 60s who I knew but not very well. Talking with fellow runners takes your mind off the discomfort and creates a sense of camaraderie. As we ran, she shared with me some of her struggles:

  • A thorny political situation at work that might jeopardize her future with the organization.
  • An adult daughter struggling with mental illness who refuses to take her medications on a regular basis and who was charged with reckless driving.
  • A husband who was forced into retirement and now struggles with his self-identity.

As we approached the 15-mile mark, I felt like Dr. Phil. I was compelled to say, "Okay, you have a lot of things on your plate. Some are fixable and some are not. What are you doing to take care of yourself?" Most people faced with that question fumble for a response. But not my running partner.

She made it crystal clear that she understands the value of self-care. She said she planned to spend five days alone at the family cabin to find some personal renewal. When she returned, she'd be better able to support her husband and daughter with their challenges.

I found her attitude very healthy. She understood that you can't give what you don't have. So the question is: What are you doing to take care of yourself?

With

Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

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Sep. 21, 2010