Last Monday I had a photo shoot with Diane Orrett for Kansai Scene magazine (follow the link for more information). It was the first time I had an assignment like this lined up (mind you, I have officially shot events, but never portraits) and I guess I felt a little more nervous than I thought since I woke up at 4:30 and could not fall asleep again. After an hour of tergiversations, I got out of bed, put on sweat pants and a fleece, and went for a run.
I use the word run here because from the beginning, I intended this outing to be a stress reliever, and thus I ran at a fast pace, for me, right from the start. Never underestimate the power of jogging/running to relief stress. I guess it must work with other forms of exercise, but when you decide to exert your body, it tends to relax your mind somehow, or at least to make you forget about other stuff. Yes, it is escapism, but in a healthy way.
Right out the building, I picked a fast pace that I kept for a while. After about a kilometer, it became it a little hard to keep up that pace, but I kept at it. And at almost exactly the 2km mark (and I know thanks to mapmyrun.com), I saw the Sun pierce through the cloud cover and the canopy of cherry blossom trees (almost no more flowers), and I heard an internal voice telling me that everything would be fine. I know it sound pretty metaphysical, but I deeply believed that thought and knew things would be alright. Not long after, I reached a temple where I like to meet a centenarian rooted friend, paused for greetings, and continued on my run.
Having started at such a pace, of course I had slow down later in the run, down to my usual if not slower pace. But that was not important at all. What counted was that through physical exercise, I had calmed my soul, and then felt much more prepared for what was ahead. And the photo shoot did go well. Not perfect, of course, there are still heaps of things I need keep in mind and to learn. But I got there much more relaxed and I'm sure it had an impact on the final results. I got an email from the magazine's graphic designer tonight saying that the shots were very good, my own self-criticism notwithstanding.
Of course I can only talk from personal experience, but I really believe that physical exercise can relief stress (there are numerous studies out there that validate my opinion, but reading and experimenting are two different things). I feel that jogging is the best exercise in this case for two reasons: first you can go jogging pretty much any time and anywhere.
Secondly, perhaps on a more profound level, jogging is what humans have been doing for aeons. Jogging is what allowed us to either evade or hunt stronger and faster animals. We are enduring and persistent. How many animals can jog more than 10 kilometers (some of us, not me, can do it for a few hundreds)? There is something primordial about jogging, I think, that is deeply rooted in our entity. When we are out there pounding the ground, while consciousness is focusing on a purely physical endeavor, our reptilian brains take over, allowing our 'superior' neural networks to relax and attain a desired equilibrium, not unlike Archimedes when he took his legendary bath and shouted 'Eureka' (I don't care for baths personally, although Japanese hot springs are pretty nice).
Of course, on most days when I head out the door for jogging, I am mainly concerned about my physical health. But always remember that jogging will also benefit your psyche. I don't know about you, but I'd rather be healthy in the mind than in the body, and jogging takes care of both, so to me, it is the perfect friend to my desired long and healthy life.