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Exercise can help you cope in troubled times

There are several traumatic events that severely affect the soul of our nation. These terrible events cause many of us to live in a state of fear, uncertainty and hopelessness.

The Iraq war, the Virginia Tech massacre and the Imus incident are examples of these traumas.

How are we to deal with the intense feelings we have about these devastating events?

Do we deny that they are occurring? Do we avoid thinking about them by drinking, drugging, eating or working too much? Do we fall into a state of apathy or become resigned to hopelessness?

None of these responses are effective or healthy for the body, mind or soul. These dysfunctional strategies lead to isolation, increased depression and prolonged anxiety. They don’t help us face and work through the pain we suffer from these events.

In these troubled times, moving your body is a healthy, productive means to help us deal with these overwhelming catastrophes. Studies have shown that exercising as little as 15 minutes can create a sense of well being. Other research indicates that exercise can help alleviate depression and reduce anxiety. A recent Newsweek article stated that exercise can even make you smarter!

Exercise can also heal emotional pain that derives from personal as well as collective experiences. The trauma that we feel from the ongoing war in Iraq, the senseless killing at Virginia Tech and hateful words of Don Imus can be processed, faced and felt while exercising.

Let’s use the Imus incident as an example. As we all know by now, Don Imus called the women on the Rutgers woman’s basketball team “Nappy headed ho’s” on his highly rated radio and simulcast television show. These words caused deep anguish for many.

Before you begin your aerobic workout, create a question you will ask yourself while you are exercising. You may ask, “How have I been hurt by those words?” “How have others been affected by this invective?” “What can I do about this incident?”

While you are exercising, the endorphins will kick in and you will discover a combination of calm, increased confidence, clear thinking and strength to face issues that would be too difficult to face while sedentary. While you are asking yourself “How are others affected by this national radio icon’s contemptible words?” You will find the answers coming faster and more comprehendible than imagined. Some of the thoughts that may occur are: “I wonder if I can put myself in the shoes of an African-American woman? What would it be like to endure this kind of degrading stereotyping day in and day out? How would it be to be hated for simply being different than white people? Do I have any experience of my own where I was demeaned because I was different?”

After you have completed your workout, journal your thoughts and feelings. You will find writing about this internal encounter with Imus’s words will move your understanding about how racism affects you and others forward. You will no longer feel powerless, apathetic, depressed or hopeless. You will have a plan for how to persevere and make the world a better place.

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