Fitness and My Mental Health

I mentioned in my first post, https://manifestingmaven0427.wordpress.com/2021/12/28/from-people-pleasing-to-boundary-setting/, how therapy helped me find self-confidence among many other things. When therapy started, I realized that I was a very angry woman. I have never considered myself angry, but the lack of boundaries, not being true to myself and lack of authenticity in my life had culminated in me becoming just that. I was extremely stressed, short tempered and ready to lash out. I needed something that could take the edge off, and help me to relax when I was wound too tight.

Exercise in any form was my answer. A brisk walk, a run on the treadmill, a good stretch and I could feel the calm setting in. I started to call myself an endorphin chaser, and knew that when I needed a pick me up, a good workout would even me out.

I was prescribed a mood stabilizer, and although it made me easier to be around, I felt very disconnected and drowsy. I was still out of balance. I went from being over stimulated to feeling almost nothing. It’s important that I say that medication is necessary for some, and if you take it, be consistent, talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling and don’t make any changes without a plan with your doctor. Abruptly stopping medication is very dangerous. I was on a very low dosage and had not been taking it for long. In my case, the exercise was a better solution.

Because of that, most days, you will find me at the gym, in a yoga class or if I’m near one, running the beach. I have learned that I love the extreme stuff: flipping tires, jumping on boxes, trying to contort myself into what seems to be impossible positions. The sense of pride and accomplishment that I feel when I complete tasks like this is enormous. I feel it from the inside out. I feel as though I’m glowing. I love the rush of pushing myself, but a walk will do the trick.

I challenge you to take a walk and tune in. How are you feeling at the start? What’s going on in your mind? Your body? Are you stressed, muscles tight, jaw clenched? You need that walk to nourish your mind, body and spirit. Grab your headphones, turn on your favorite tunes, a mindfulness app or an audio book and take the first step. Put one foot in front of the other and see where it takes you mentally.

I know that walking is something that most of us take for granted. If you have physical challenges that would make walking more stressful than helpful or it’s impossible, find what works for you. My point is not that you need to flip tires, run marathons or turn yourself into a human pretzel. The point is to find your release valve. What can you do on a regular basis to relieve the pressure?

The pandemic and being shut-in and closed off for so long made many people ask that question. I struggled through the pandemic more than I realized and by the time I was able to get out again, I had packed on an extra 30 lbs. I’m only 5″1′ so I didn’t have much space to spread it around and it began to take a toll. I was challenged going up and down stairs, my knees and back were hurting more, and I just didn’t feel well in general. It was not healthy weight gain.

My husband and I started working out in September, and by December, I had dropped about half of what I gained. Although, I didn’t see much of a difference (I see myself every day!), I felt much better. My mood had improved, and the stairs were no longer an issue. I found myself feeling emotionally lighter. I felt happier, more at peace. For me, there was something to this endorphin chasing. I had something tangible that I could do to lift me out of the blues.

My family, like many, has been impacted by Covid. I was really stressed and sad one morning to learn of four family members who had tested positive. I went to the gym, and I told my trainer that I was there to sweat because my mental was so off that day. I needed to move and clear my head a bit. We were barely into the warmup, and I began to feel the calm take over. Instead of despair, my head was clearing, and I could begin to clearly think about what needed to be done.

For me, working out is a game changer. It gave me control back. I am no longer subjected to the ebb and flow of my feelings. They still happen, but I have an anecdote to keep them from becoming debilitating. I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed, I can’t think clearly. I’m no help to myself or anyone else. The calming of the mind that I feel with exercise allows me to think and develop a plan for whatever I’m tackling. Once I have a plan, I’m less likely to get wound up over the situation. I’m moved into action mode. There are plenty of scientific and psychology-based articles that you can find to explain the why behind my endorphin chasing success. But I’m no scientist or psychologist, so I won’t go there. I can simply say that over the years, I have learned that when I find myself in a space where I’m controlled by my mood, I can quickly regain control with a little exercise. Hopefully, there is something here that can help you find what works for you. Here’s to wishing you a well-balanced, in control, joyful 2022!

Find Your Release Valve

3 responses to “Fitness and My Mental Health”

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