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.


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