One thing that's helping me manage my anxiety....
Posted Friday 5 August 2011
Guest post from Katy on how she uses exercise to manage her depressionA post by the blogger purplepersuasion entitled 'Ten things not to say to a depressed person' generated a fair amount of discussion after Mind flagged it up on their Facebook page earlier this week, with plenty of people suggesting more "things not to say to a depressed person”. One of those, which was suggested in various forms, was “get out and do some exercise”.
The criticism of that off-hand comment is valid: it belittles the scale of the problem, it ignores the difficulties presented by mental illness (agoraphobia, lack of motivation, panicking in crowds…) in getting out and doing anything, and people making the suggestion may be well meaning but are also felt to be patronising, ignorant or unsympathetic. They’re also (whisper it)… right.
Now, I don’t for a moment suggest that exercise is a cure-all, or that it’s something that a depressed person can just get up and do. What I do wholeheartedly believe is that it has been a major factor in my recovery, and that it’s the most powerful tool I have for managing my anxiety.
I always knew that I felt better – more relaxed, more in control – after exercise. I just couldn’t convince myself that now was a good time to get up and do some, when I was feeling low. It took a fair amount of recovery before I was up to joining a gym. Since then, I’ve not looked back.
My anxiety comes with a lot of physical symptoms. I spent years fighting dizziness, nausea, headaches, stomach upsets, tinnitus and more, feeling like I was constantly fighting a losing battle with my body. Yoga classes have helped to give me confidence in my physical abilities, and to trust my body again. I play racket sports with colleagues. I swim and cycle. But the best thing I do is run.
I started running on the treadmill in the gym. Once I convinced myself that I could, in fact, do it, I went outside. I entered a race. I went (with my partner, for support) and I completed it. Since then, I’ve gone to races on my own, I’ve travelled to parts of London I’ve not seen before, I’ve set off running with just a vague route and an Oyster card. I’ve entered 5 and 10k races, trail runs and orienteering events.
I’m preparing for my first aquathlon, my first day trail running on my own and my first adventure race. I will use running the Great South Run in October for Mind as a way of opening up to my colleagues about my illness. I have more confidence, I’m excited about trying new things, I feel like I’ve got wings.
So, now, when I feel low, I don’t (often) reach for the duvet, I reach for my trainers. Go on. When you feel up to it, when you’re ready, but as soon as you can – give it a go. Get out and do some exercise.
Katy's post is in response to a blog post by purplepersuasion, called Ten things not to say to a depressed person.
The same blogger later published the related post, Ten supportive things I'm glad somebody said to me.
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