Sometimes Things Just Suck


When I was an intern at a large mental hospital, working with adults who carried diagnoses such as Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Addiction, Personality Disorder and Psychosis, we often brought up the benefits of exercise on brain function. Not in terms of, "Here is your exercise plan, Mr. Doe. This is guaranteed to boost your mood," but rather "Here is a list of ways you can take some control over your own mental health," and 30 minutes per day of exercise happened to be on that list. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1999, when it comes to depression, exercise has been found to be as effective (although not as fast-acting) as medication. According to this article in Psychology Today, when it comes to anxiety,
10 weeks of a program of [cardiovascular exercise] offered patients with panic disorder almost the same benefit as treatment with the drug, clomipramine. There is also evidence that exercise, when added to a program of cognitive-behavior therapy for panic disorder, social phobia, or generalized anxiety, can offer additional benefits - extending the gains offered by therapy.
As a professional moving in both worlds, exercise as mental health treatment is something I am pretty invested in, of course. So why is it then when my week feels extra stressful, I struggle to do the physical effort that will improve my situation? Probably, because regardless my career path, it turns out I am human. Shocking I know!

So, this is what I do when I don't have the motivation to do just the thing that will make me feel better.

1. I don't beat myself up when I don't follow the workout plan I made when I expected this time in my life to be running smoothly. I don't allow myself to think, "It's too late to run the 32 miles you planned this week, so just take a nap." I may not do all I intended, but I do something everyday. And doing something is made easier, because...

2. I have created habits rather than just using exercise in my times of need. Running, yoga and a little strength is kind of a big part of my identity, so even when I don't wanna, my body has a routine and can push through the mind games with not too much mental force. When I need the mental force...

3. I prioritize. I may have a long list of weekend activities I think I should complete, but when I am feeling low, I tell myself, "if you do one thing today, it will be this... run, yoga class or whatever." And it's better if...

4. I start the day active. Seriously, the days I workout before I start the rest of my day, are the days I get more done. And when I get more done I feel better about myself and when I feel better about myself, I feel better about tackling whatever other crap is happening in my life. See how that works?

5. Also, I have other active people in my life. Being with Mallory means hiking, running, biking, and on and on. If she is out and active, I can't very well sit around and nurse a bad day with a frozen yogurt a season of Dexter, can I?

Here are 10 more ways to get and stay motivated.

And a few positive affirmations...

Disclosure: I am a Masters Level Clinician and Art Therapist and weeks away from being a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and I have been a Certified Yoga Teacher for almost five years, but I am not YOUR Counselor or Yoga Teacher, so remember to talk to your psychotherapist and/or doctor about how exercise can help you and some physical practices that can help boost your mood. If you experience difficulties with your mood and struggle with anxiety, seek out a professional for assistance.

Coolest Trip Yet!!!

I cannot remember when it was decided, but I know it was Mallory's idea and I leapt at it without reserve, as I normally do, being a little crazy and all that. The mission: to run a half marathon in each state. I think Mallory had a meager four states completed already and I had just started running not long before. I may have had a whopping two under my SPIbelt. So, for the past year or so, we've been living the dream and using all our vacation time driving where we can, flying where we can't and running. In the year or less since Mallory asked if I would run the country with her, I have completed seven states. Last week was Utah at the Utah Valley Half Marathon and the week before Colorado for the Steamboat Springs Half Marathon

The state thing was Mallory's idea for sure, but the Utah trip part was mine. I needed to get over the state being a representation of illness and death since it's where both of my parents died. I needed to see my family again for reasons beyond funerals and I wanted Mallory to experience some of my side of the continent with me. Success all around. Coolest dang trip of all time!

Me on Whale Rock in Canyonlands
We always rate each state on livability, as in does it make us want to leave Rhode Island and live there. So far, every single state has made us want to leave Rhode Island (especially when we come home from a summer vacation to torrential downpours and 53 degrees). Dear Rhode Island... you really suck sometimes.

Moving on, this was the busiest vacation ever. We were everywhere: Denver, Steamboat Springs, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Provo, Lehi, Wyoming. All in 9 days including 2 days of travel.

For purposes of this particular post, I need to fill you in on Arches National Park, because it was the most incredible place I have ever seen. If you stick your phone out of a moving car window at any moment, without even looking, you may snap the most gorgeous photo of your life. It is that easy to see the coolest landscapes in the world. Just open your eyes. On our first hike, I was on the verge of tears for no particular reason. Just speechless-wow. Just shit-this-is-beautiful. Just is-this-real-life amazement. My mind was clear and full and I maybe forgot my own name at times. I was high on hiking, a little nauseated from the drive and sorta weak on Dramamine, but it was glorious, divine and every word in every language for hell yeah!

View along the trail of our first hike in Arches.
We hiked to every arch we could regardless the temperature or time of day. With your $10 per car weekly entry fee (What? Cheap right?) visitors are given a map that includes the ideal time of day to take photos in various locations. I like taking photos, but we opted to squeeze in as much as we could as quickly as possible and snap some shots as we went along. Ideal time of day or not, still good shots, if I do say so myself. One day, we went on a guided hike to Surprise Arch and more, hiked on our own to Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch and figured we had hiked a minimum of nine miles in 97 degree heat overall. We were determined to see all we could and were kinda bad ass about it.

Sun setting through Turret Arch.

Delicate Arch
We arrived home with a bursting sense of passion for travel, National Parks, hiking and camping (which we haven't done yet, but plan to try this summer).  Sitting at a sunny outdoor table at The Cheesecake Factory, minutes after our plane landed in Boston, eating salads and quesadillas, we started planning our next far away race trip for 2014: ALASKA. Boo-ya! Okay, it's not actually paid for, but it's happening. I am so lucky to have someone in my life as adventurous and into the experience of living as I am. We really bring out the best of functional mania in each other and it's a hell of a run.