In the previous articles, I discussed the importance of acknowledgement and gratitude. Both of these topics are related to the mindset and attitude, and I mentioned how crucial they are in helping to better the situation and set up your mind for other tactics.
The next tactic I want to exploit is the strategy of exercise. This may be a fairly well-known concept, however, it is a vital step in helping to overcome the downside of these mental disorders.
Growing up, I was heavily involved in athletics and doing things that got me exercising, breathing, and my blood flowing. It wasn’t until after my incident that I realized how important those things were for me growing up, and helping me to avoid the darkness of my depression.
As I attended my therapy sessions, one of the first things my therapist asked me was if I was exercising regularly. No, I wasn’t. I was attending school full-time and working and didn’t feel like I had the time to dedicate to exercise. So, I wasn’t doing it. This was a major mistake on my part. By not exercising, I was limiting the amount of endorphins that my body was experiencing, which obviously had a massive impact on my mood and allowed for the depression to set in heavier.
The following paragraphs go into more detail on how exercise can specifically help depression and anxiety.
EXERCISE AND DEPRESSION
Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as anti-depressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression (helpguide.org).
EXERCISE AND ANXIETY
Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out.
Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head (helpguide.org).
When you’re under the cloud of an emotional disorder and haven’t exercised for a long time, setting yourself extravagant goals like completing a marathon or working out for an hour every morning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short. Better to set yourself achievable goals and build up from there.
If that still seems intimidating, don’t despair. Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, for example, that’s okay, too. Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more. The key is to commit to do some moderate physical activity—however little—on most days. As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off (helpguide.org).
SCHEDULING YOUR EXERCISE TIME
I found that it was hard to motivate myself to exercise when I was overcome with depression. So, to get myself to exercise I had to appoint a time each day that I could spend 10-15 minutes moving and getting my blood pumping. I also needed the help and motivation of my wife. Be sure to tell those around you what your goal is so that they can help you when you don’t have the will power to motivate yourself.
Your exercise may be first thing in the morning before work or school, or at lunchtime before the mid-afternoon lull hits. If depression or anxiety has you feeling tired and unmotivated all day long, try dancing to some music or simply going for a walk. Even a short, 15-minute walk can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and boost your energy level. As you move and start to feel a little better, you’ll experience a greater sense of control over your well-being. You may even feel energized enough to exercise more vigorously—by walking further, breaking into a run, or adding a bike ride, for example.
Exercise is a vital part in the process of being able to get a handle on your disorder. It wasn’t easy for me to get into the habit of regularly exercising, but once I did it became a necessary part of my day. It gave me time to escape the world of worries and stress and unleash. Without fail, every time I finish exercising I feel better. My mind is clear and I feel lighter and more optimistic about the day.