Getting out of Bed…Do I really have to?

Being depressed most often leaves you feeling low in energy, which then makes you enter the vicious circle as you’re now put off being more active all together. Trust me; I know all too well that most days just getting out bed and getting downstairs is a big enough effort and feels like enough exercise as that was a hard challenge in itself!! So if you got out of bed today when you wanted to hide from the world then well done you!! You did it !! Don’t worry about tomorrow just applaud yourself that you did it today! And if you haven’t managed that yet then don’t worry. Tomorrow is a new day and tell yourself that tomorrow is the day you will and can face the world a little.

So how an earth are you supposed to even think about wanting to do exercise? Or more importantly why should you?? So you know someone has always done a study right? Well that someone has done a study on exercise and depression/ anxiety and what affects it has on that. Guess what? IT said it improves it. So I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thought of taking a pill to help make me better. I want to do something too myself to take control. So that I can get better faster, and so that I can say “I had depression but I helped myself through it”! Maybe that’s the pig headedness in me. But I think it would feel so much more rewarding to have helped yourself then to have just taken a pill every day. Don’t you?

Method behind my madness – aka science

So some sciencey bit for you now, regular exercise helps ease depression as it releases feel good chemicals in your brain that are linked to easing depression; neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids, fancy words I know. But you don’t need to know how to say them in order to enjoy their benefits, thank god.

Exercise can also reduce immune system chemicals that can be most often linked to what is causing the depression or making it worse. Also exercise quite clearly increases your body temperature, it’s some sweaty stuff working out, and this actually has calming effects, who doesn’t like to feel all warm and fussy in side right?

How can exercise help my mental illness though?

So what about the psychological benefits of exercise? Well of course you’re going to increase your confidence when you meet your exercise goals whether they are big ones or small. For me the main thing exercise does psychologically is it takes my mind of everything else. I do get the ‘high‘ too after exercise through the rush of happy hormones it pumps. It also dramatically improves my sleep and overall moods and ability to control them. I have a lot less anger too when I have been working out regularly.

“In a study 24 women who had been diagnosed with depression showed that exercise of any intensity significantly decreased feelings of depression.”

A lot of my clients say one of there many problems with their mental illness is overthinking, and it was mine too. I hated how much I over thought everything and for how long.

Do you ever hear singers or performers say they love doing it as they just zone out and it takes them to a different place? Well exercise is a distraction and it helps move you away from those negative thoughts occupying your mind and swirling around so fast you feel dizzy. When your exercising you are more focused on the task in hand as it takes some thinking, you need form, you need balance, you need co-ordination and if you’re adding some boxing in there you need some strength and stamina too. Overthinking just can’t  happen while your working out. For me, it is my escape, my time off from myself and the rest of the world.

Exercise is a far better coping mechanism then using alcohol or drugs. And it is not uncommon for people to become addicted to the chemicals that are released during exercise and thus addicted to exercise (hence the terms gym bunny or runners high).

One of the main things I first do with clients is I ask them to write down how they are feeling, emotionally before a workout. Then immediately after the workout do the same again. The difference is amazing, sometimes it is only subtle, you might go from feeling numb to simply feeling calm. But calmness is way better than numbness right? But the difference is always, always positive. Its like having a control switch over your moods, at long last! 

Top 10 mental health benefits of exercise

  1. Boosts happy chemicals within the body (without any side effects, like you get with mental health medications.)
  2. Gives you an increase in energy and thus helping you feel motivated to get out of bed.
  3. Aids better sleep and relaxation. 

“One study found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week can provide up to a 65% improvement in sleep quality.”

  1. Improves your confidence.
  2. Reduce anxiety sensitivity.

“The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders to calm down.”

  1. Improves memory and reduces brain fog.
  2. Reduces symptoms of PTSD – exercise helps by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilisation stress response that characterises PTSD or trauma.
  3. Increases your self esteem.
  4. Stronger resilience when faces with mental or emotional challenges.
  5. Improves pain – exercising releases the bodies natural pain killer which in turn helps you feel less stressed and tensed.

How do you overcome the exercise barriers

When people often think of exercise they get scared or they think they couldn’t do it or they imagine running laps around a gym and being so out of breath they are going to pass out or be sick (personally I love that feeling now). I started off thinking that exercise was some awful chore you had to do if you wanted lose weight and I hated the sheer thought of it, my stairs where enough exercise for me. But you don’t have to do all your exercise at once, and it doesn’t have to be super intense. Boxing is an amazing exercise for letting off steam, zoning out and having a fab workout without even realising it. You don’t have to go all gym bunny crazy. You start slow and you do what suits you and what you enjoy. It could be just going for a walk with a like minded person and eventually picking up the pace as the days go on.

I have a range of workouts here from quick 25 min full body workouts to six week gym based bootcamps and online 1 to 1 personal training plans. I help you to realise the mental benefits exercise has to offer.

It is ultimately about changing your old outlook on exercise and seeing it in a negative light or something associated with your physical body. It is about seeing exercise the same way you’d look at a pill for your mental illness. It is about seeing all the positive benefits exercise has to offer.

I help clients clear all there old excuses and their bull shit excuses they try and give me. Because if you are talking to me and reaching out to me, it is because you want this. But guess what? Your demons don’t want this! Your comfort zone doesn’t want this! Your demons are enjoying the hold they have on you right now so they will do anything to keep you there. Including tricking you into thinking that you can’t exercise or that you don’t have the time to exercise. Your are comfortable in your uncomfortable comfort zone and I am here to help you smash those walls down and for you to be comfortable in a more positive comfort zone.

 So who am I to say all this?  

So let me tell you a bit about me so you can see I haven’t just wrote this blog out of thin air or out of my love for exercising, as let me tell you now a few years ago I certainly did not love exercising.

I am mum to four children and I have never really been interested in exercise except to try and lose baby weight. But I tended to try and do that via my diet instead. I went from a girl who hated even hearing the word exercise, to now being a fully qualified personal trainer; I know I couldn’t quite believe it either.

So here’s how I ended up becoming a mental health personal trainer; several years ago now I got diagnosed with depression and anxiety and my world was turned upside down.

I was initially on medication however, it just wasn’t for me. I also didn’t like the thought of being on medication. In speaking with my Dr whilst I was awaiting counselling appointments. He suggested I try to go for walks or do some exercise. Now me and the outside world were not getting on, I didn’t want to face it at all. So, I decided to do some home exercises and see how things went.

Now, don’t get me wrong I pushed myself through my paces beyond belief using DVDS such as Insanity. I hated every second of it when I was working out and I heated being all sweaty and needing to wash afterwards. But once I finished my workout I was so elevated, it’s hard to describe. I felt like I had achieved something within my day and that I was happy about that. I felt my mood literally lifting and like I was ready for the battles ahead, I felt strong, I felt able, I just felt like raging out loud and saying yes!!! I just finished a workout and I feel damn good!!!

I continued on with exercising and realising on the days I was unable to, or give up and lost motivation and didn’t exercise, they were always my darker days. I am not saying I didn’t have dark days when I had exercised but I felt more able to cope with them. Or what I do now when it’s a dark day I get my butt straight to the gym so I can zone out and forget that it’s a dark day. It’s not easy, you do have to push yourself off the sofa, or the bed. But YOU CAN DO IT. I did it and I am now even making a career out of it. But one of the main things I want to do is to show and help others that exercise can and does help your mental health. I found exercise and I discovered that I didn’t need to spend years trying to find the right mental health medication for me. I had already suffered sever side effects and I didn’t want to face any more. Luckily in hindsight too , because I later went onto discover not only did I have depression and anxiety but my main issues where due to borderline personality disorder and complex PTSD.

Discovering what I did about exercise led me to take a full 360′ spin on my life. I was on a break from my 3rd year in law. But now, I decided I wouldn’t be returning to my law degree. Instead I qualified as a personal trainer and ultimately became who I am now, a mental health personal trainer.

You can read more about my journey here.

Now its your turn!

Don’t just read my story and wish it was you, let me help you become me to. Let me show you the impact exercise can have on the day to day symptoms of your mental illness.

I provide a holistic approach to mental illness in my Stronger Than Your Mind Academy where I combine my personal training with my counselling and other mental health qualifications in one simple and affordable place.