There’s this thing that I swear exists, though I haven’t yet found it documented in literary record. The “endorphin low,” I call it. Odds are, you know about endorphin highs. Lows occur similarly after episodes of intense or prolonged exertion, but after a short giddiness, you just wind up feeling glum. Not very rewarding for all your hard work.
I first became acquainted with endorphin lows in high school, after cross country races. We’d compete on Friday afternoons, and after a brief rush from crossing the finish line without puking, the low came a-slinking. My parents would order out pizza to ring in the weekend, and I always ended up eating more than I wanted, trying to crowd out the hunger while drowning the sadness. That’s a crap thing to do, but I probably had too many hormones bouncing around in there anyway, and pizza was an easy substitute for feelings.
So it’s like transient depression, but linked with exercise. I’d chalk it up to my own perverse psychology, but the consistent race-happy-sad sequence was, and is, persistent. Drugs are just chemicals that interact with various internal receptors, and endorphins are nothing more than drugs, albeit endogenous. So it seems plausible that what I did, and still occasionally do experience, was a kind of chemical withdrawal related to the surge, flood, and recession of endorphins after racing.
I suppose that preexisting depressive tendencies make me hypersensitive to endorphin-withdrawal. A lot of people use running to combat depression, so it stands to reason that I’m not the only person plagued by the lows. Feeling sad after a big day racing or training can be confusing, frustrating, and defeating, so fortunately it doesn’t happen too often. Instead of binge eating, nowadays it makes me want to shop! Btw Pinterest is a great tool for diverting compulsive purchasing habits. You can fill your boards with everything from housewares to tattoos, just like filling a virtual cart, which imparts a sense of ownership over these ‘things’ that you’ve ‘acquired’ – even though they’re ideas, and they’re free.
Most importantly, I’ve found that the endorphin low can be adverted by taking a nap as soon as you’ve finished attending to nutrition and hydration. Just like toddlers, sometimes exhaustion makes us sad. Even if your nap-challenged, a little rest can be a lifesaver – and keep you from eating your feelings.