Mental Health Awareness week: how exercise helped

Date: 22 June 2020   Author: Energise Me

Georgia tells how being active helped her through lows with her mental health and how she still uses exercise as a way of managing her anxiety.

Georgia on a walk - exercising to help look after her mental health

This mental health awareness week we are sharing stories from real people about mental well being. If you’re struggling right now remember you’re not alone.

My battle:

In June 2017 I wasn’t myself. No matter what I was doing I didn’t find any joy in it. I couldn’t concentrate on uni work, I would feel restless watching TV. Something just wasn’t right. One day on FaceTime to my mum she said that she thought I should come home as she could tell I wasn’t right.

I moved back home for the summer and booked an appointment with my GP. For me, it was hard going to the doctors as I didn’t feel I was in crisis. I thought there were a lot of people out there worse than me so I should just get on with it.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My doctor prescribed me anti-depressants and that was that. The anti-depressants helped but I felt misted. There was no feeling of sad or happy. I just felt blah. I still felt like I had little energy and found it hard to enjoy anything.

Having that hour slot guaranteed twice a week when I would go and push my body to its limits helped me feel something. I left feeling more energised and with a buzz at what I had achieved.

Just what the doctor ordered:

This is when my mum suggested I go to her circuits class with her. I almost brushed it off completely at first but after a lot of persuasion I decided to go along. Now, I’m not about to say that exercise magically made everything better. It didn’t. But it helped so much!

Having that hour slot guaranteed twice a week when I would go and push my body to its limits helped me feel something. I left feeling more energised and with a buzz at what I had achieved.

Pushing my body was a way of getting out the charged-up emotions in a safe and harmless environment. I could put my body through a hard workout but not do it any harm.

There were weeks when I wanted nothing more to stay in bed but with the encouragement of my mum I went. On those days I always felt so much better for it.

 

My relationship with exercise:

I have always been a little sporty. I played a lot of sports in school and was always dancing. But as an adult I didn’t fit in on any teams as I wasn’t competitive. I wasn’t someone who could just go for a run. Having had bad past experiences of panic attacks induced by going for runs.

But something about circuit training really worked for me.

Georgia exercising at home to help with her mental health

 

Handling my anxiety with exercise now:

Nowadays I am off anti-depressants and a lot better in myself. My anxiety can still be quite bad. I think I am just an overly anxious person. Just the other week I found myself feeling not right. I was irritable, restless, and almost hyper. I think that the current situation was starting to have a real effect on me. I knew I needed to do something about it.

I got to it and did a 30-minute circuit workout in my spare room. I felt so much better instantly afterwards. Working out had given me something to aim my pent-up energy at and I had such a buzz from the endorphins of doing so. I now know that whenever I feel like this, I can take my mind elsewhere by simply doing some exercise.

I also find that if I am worrying about something, going for a walk can really help. If it’s something I can do something about, going for a walk gives me the time to chat over what I can do with my partner. If not, it gives me the time away from everything to just take in the fresh air and shift my focus elsewhere. I like to write my worries down as a way of getting them out of my head. I use the worry tree app to help me look at them analytically. The app is great as it gives me a nudge to remember to use my ways of working through worry such as going for a walk or working out.

 

Keeping it new:

I know it might seem so easy for me to say exercise is great when at the end of the day it can be really hard to stay motivated. For me, I find that changing things up helps me feel more excited about exercise. I often use a pack of cards to plan my workout – letting fate decide what exercise I do next. I also recently got given a card pack of 100 body weight workouts. I love these as I always end up doing a different set of moves and you never know what’s next.

I also like to switch between circuit training and yoga. On those days when I am really not feeling it, I do some gentle yoga. That way I still do something but don’t have to push myself too far.

I am by no means a model person who works out everyday every week. But I know it’s there and I can dip into it when I need to.

Exercise cards and equipment

Taking time for me:

I think one of the reasons that exercise has worked so well for me is that I know it’s me doing something for me. No one else benefits from me being active but me and I can own it as my self-care. I can be selfish and say I need this time for me. I don’t have to feel bad for it as I’m looking after my mind and body! I can be truly in the moment and forget about all other worries.

As a very wise women (my mum) once told me “the longest relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself, so you’re worth looking after!”

For more information and help with issues raised in this blog visit Solent Mind or the Samaritans.

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