I rarely wake up, leap out of bed, throw back the shades with a “yay, morning.”
Instead, I usually turn over, stretch out my hand and feel for a mug of tea, which I hope my husband has made for me. The caffeine gives me the kick I need to get out of my cocoon.
Some mornings I grumble and growl as I get ready for my day, yet there is one thing that changes my attitude and demeanor—a walk and talk with God.
For years my regular pattern each day, when my schedule allows, has been to put on my fitness gear, get outside and spend time exercising and praying.
When I come back in the door, my husband says I’m a different person. He means I’m much more pleasant to be around.
And I can feel it too. It makes a difference to how I approach the rest of my day. I feel more relaxed and ready to tackle anything.
The experts say physical exercise helps relieve stress. It releases endorphins, which stimulate relaxation.
We don’t have to go crazy like run a marathon or climb a mountain. Instead, simple walking, and not even briskly, can help. Walking is accessible to just about all of us.
One study found doing mind exercises or meditating while walking produced even more dramatic results to reduce stress.
We can include prayer within this category. Even if we say prayer by rote, from the top of our heads when it means nothing or little, it can still make us calmer.
However, prayer is more effective than a mind exercise. Prayer is communing with the God of the Universe, who is our heavenly Father. Prayer, because of Jesus, is an invitation to enter the throne room of God who is Spirit, and open the way for his Holy Spirit to enter our stressful situations.
This type of prayer adds the spiritual to our physical activity and mind exercises.
We’ve been learning to overcome our anxiety by: releasing our problems to God, breathing in his Holy Spirit, and replacing our worries with requests. Now we discover overcoming anxiousness is a whole body exercise—mind, body and soul.
Physical exercise with prayer is stress-busting.
How do we put this into practice?
Find a place to walk and pray. One you will enjoy. Make sure it is distraction free. If you can get outside in God’s creation, even better.
I’ve talked about losing my sacred space when we moved house. It used to be going to the track in our town. A wide open space. There is no such place in New York City. The streets are busy and crowded.
At last though, I have found a sacred place—it is on the treadmill in the gym in the basement of our apartment complex. Doesn’t sound as nice as being out in God’s creation does it? However, I put headphones in my ears, turn on the Prayer Zone Workout app, and soon I’m striding away immersed in my time with God.
Find your own sacred place to place yourself with the One who is sacred.
Choose a time of day that suits your schedule. It may be early in the morning, in the evening or even during your lunchtime at work.
Find a “cue” that will encourage you to exercise and pray. For me, it’s putting on my fitness gear. Or leaving my sneakers out. Sometimes, I don’t feel like exercising or don’t think I have the time. However, when I remember I’m turning down time with my heavenly Father, and that’s he waiting for me to come to him, then this encourages me to get going.
Persevere in prayer, and exercise. Don’t be satisfied with hard to practice, practice hard to be satisfied.
Choose a routine. Dream big but set realistic goals. If you set a goal that is too high and you fail to achieve it, you might be less likely to try again the next time. Don’t give up. Alter your goal. Make it fit your lifestyle. Set yourself up for success.
Journal about your experience and write down the reward you get from your activity. By the way, journaling has been found to help with stress too. This will help you to remember how good you felt and encourage you for next time.
My reward is usually feeling calmer. Sometimes though, the reward is receiving clarity to a problem, or peace because I’ve taken the opportunity to ask for and receive forgiveness from God.
Tingling in the thighs when you’ve exercised? Then you know your body has benefited too. However, if you are unsure whether you should do physical activity, please consult your doctor first.
This week find time for a walk and talk with God.