Welcome back to Randi from Life’s Simple Adventures! Randi is my go-to girl for expertise on physical health and fitness, but we’ve both learned in our own lives how much mental and physical health intersect. I hope you enjoy her latest guest post, a personal piece on how fitness has helped her anxiety.
In the past decade, my sanity levels have done the wave through all the levels of emotions possible. In high school, I felt I was pretty normal. I thought the world was going to end when I was grounded, the teachers were out to get me, and I was positive that everyone was talking behind my back. I was anxious and I stressed at social events, and forever awkward, but according to all the back to school specials, so were a lot of other people.
When I got out into the real world, and moved away from home and got a real job I realized that I didn’t grow out of my anxious tendencies. I went through such a throw of emotions that for a while I was on medication for anxiety and depression. The doctor took one look at me, 20 years old and just shaking in my skin like a tiny pup, and never second-guessed the diagnosis. I was living 12 hours from my parents and friends at the time and I felt so completely alone. The meds made it worse, as I went from fearful of everything to lazy and completely void of feelings.
I ended up moving home and having a bit of a rough go through the next couple years. My constant anxiety made it hard for me to meet new people, or to stick with jobs. I constantly felt unsettled, like I needed to run. I jumped around for a little while until I finally decided to try to make something stick, so I enrolled in a college diploma program. I have always wanted to help people despite my dislike for actually being around people, so I thought something that might lead to a one-on-one support type job would be ideal. I started classes in 2009/10 to be a Human Service worker.
In this program, we were required to work quite closely with our classmates, and it often involved role-playing scenarios. This was my biggest nightmare, but I wanted so badly to finish something that I started. I considered briefly talking to my doctor about medication but remembered the horrible downsides. I was desperate for anything that would help calm my nerves. It was a classmate that suggested I try joining the gym. She said that it helped her burn off some of her excess energy and helped her focus and get through the classes. My brain was such a jumble and my body was constantly turned to high alert. Not to mention I was sitting for up to 5 hours a day in class and eating awful cafeteria food… I thought that maybe working out wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
I think it took me 2 months after the thought had entered my mind for me to actually get up the nerve to get to the gym. I researched and planned like there was no tomorrow. I decided to join a gym at our local rec center. It was small and usually not very busy. The people that went there seemed real and like they were there working through their own issues too.
How Exercise Helps you Deal with Anxiety
It Gives You a Place to Go
Not everyone’s workout plan is going to include the gym, but it will probably include a space and time designated for it. It can be a fabulous escape with a lot of added benefits. I know gyms themselves can be intimidating places but if you take the initiative at the beginning to get a tour and a run down of the machines, you probably won’t ever have to talk to another person there. If you’re more of a work-out-at-home-type, you can put together an area that suits all your needs. Maybe you find your comfort in a yoga or dance studio. Wherever it is, it can be your safe place.
It Burns off that Anxious Energy
I think there are two main types of anxious: the kind where you want to hide in bed with the covers over your head and the kind where you get so jittery that you can’t sit still. Exercise has benefits for both. If you feel like hiding away from the world but instead you get yourself up and active… you will feel better, I promise. If you’re like me and you get jittery and antsy, you can put that anxious energy to good use. Run it off, lift it away and walk out feeling relaxed and happier.
It Helps You Sleep Better
Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand with some pretty heavy bouts of insomnia. It’s hard to fall asleep and stay asleep when you’re pretty sure the world is ending. This turns into a whole downward spiral of being stressed because you’re tired and being tired because you’re stressed. It’s now been proven though that as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise (cardio) will help improve your sleep, especially if done on a regular basis. Exercise relieves stress and calm people sleep better.
It Maybe Gets You Outside
Getting into the gym and getting in shape encouraged me to try more new things, as my legs got stronger I wanted to put them to the test, and I started exploring the hills around my city. I fell in love with the paths through the mountains, the trees over head, the wind through their leaves and the views of the valley. I had found my happy place among the mountains. The benefits of fresh air for anxiety and depression are inarguable! If you read any paper on natural remedies for anxiety, it will be somewhere close to the list. The air will help you breath better, the sun will give you vitamin D (which is also a hormone that directly effects your mood) and the wide open spaces help bring calm and perspective.
It Helps your Mind Focus (and Think Rationally)
Not only will you be able to focus on your priorities, make lists like a boss, and think rationally (a difficult feat with anxiety), but it will even make you smarter. Exercise will actually trigger the brain to create new brain cells, which will improve your memory and allow your brain to form new pathways for all the new information it is going to take in.
I know it’s not as easy as it sounds, and it might take you a while to be able to branch out and try something new, and you might still have off days, weeks or months where those worrying voices win out and you don’t make it out of bed. Anxiety and Depression are difficult, and unpredictable. They are strong but you are (or can be) stronger. Take charge of your life, your body, and your mind. Start small with a short walk every day, and work yourself up to more. Set higher goals and make a plan, you will achieve them and you will be able to gain back the control in your life.
Randi Marie is an adventure seeking, coffee loving, book nerd who wants to encourage you to find happiness in your day to day life by focusing on health and wellness, getting a little crafty and exploring the world around you. She is passionate about fitness, hiking and helping others achieve their goals. She is a Recreation Assistant by day, helping seniors improve their quality of life, and a student by night, learning all that she can about getting fit the right way. Somewhere in between that she started Life’s Simple Adventures as a means to communicate with the world around her and form a community of people for are looking for some motivation and some information on how they can live their best life. You can visit her at lifessimpleadventures.com.
Thank you so much to Randi for guest posting on Ivory & Pine! If you loved this post, give it a share and visit Randi at her blog! For more Ivory & Pine, subscribe to The Ivories below.