I often ask myself if I’ll ever be in shape again. How is it possible to be fit when you have little ones, and NO energy, and a billion other things on your plate?
We get so bogged down by the day to day minutiae. Dishes. Laundry. School pick-up. Play dates. Work meetings. Doctor’s appointments. Grocery shopping. By the time we get to the end of the day, we’ve often forgotten that we intended to exercise and we’re too tired.
Is anyone else going through that? Maybe you started the New Year off strong and over the past few weeks you’ve fallen off the bandwagon.
I plan to figure out how to get fit this year. I really enjoyed being in shape. My depression was more under control and I was happy with how I looked.
Not that how you look is necessarily something to fixate over. But I truly believe that getting to that happy place is so good for your mental health, and it looks different for everyone. You have to love YOU.
It can be hard to give ourselves a little acceptance and recognize when we need to start fresh. That sort of realization involves a lot of humility. I gave up. I didn’t stick to my goal. It’s time to change.
Why is fitness important for physical health?
Fair warning– I get a lot of flack for this in the mental health community sometimes. This post is going to be full of a bit of touchy little tender bits that might make you want to hide in a blanket fort.
But here are some facts about the benefits of exercise:
Exercise helps you control your weight.
Yes, it’s true that often the number on the scale should not necessarily control your identity, and value, and self-worth. BUT… there are health risks with being both underweight and overweight. Neither is ALWAYS a good thing. While neither is necessarily a BAD thing. Got it? Just keep an eye on your health, and remember, when we are not physically well, it is difficult to be mentally well.
Also, it reduces your risk of heart diseases, issues with blood pressure, and issues with circulation.
It improves your mental health and mood.
Exercise releases neurotransmitters that help you manage stress, depression, and anxiety. I will discuss this more in depth in a bit.
Bonus: Exercise helps keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age. According to the article I linked: “Exercise stimulates your body to release proteins and other chemicals that improve the structure and function of your brain.” So, it doesn’t just help the happy centers of your brain. It helps the whole dang thing.
-Improves your sleep. Lots of us with mental health issues are not sleeping very well. We either struggle to fall asleep, wake up a lot at night, or find that our sleep is not restful. Regular exercise is proven to help that!
-Improves your sexual health. I mean… we’re depressed and take antidepressants. We often need help here!
-Increases your chances of living longer. Once you get emotionally stable and make the decision to say YES to life, you need to take that seriously. One of the most profound realizations we can have on this mental health journey is that life is both incredibly short, and incredibly precious. We need to treat ourselves well so that we can make the most of it.
(Read the above article for more in depth info.)
Why is fitness important for mental health?
As I said before, this tends to be an unpopular opinion. Rather than start with a personal rant about my thoughts and feels, I decided to offer the facts that science gives us first (see above).
We’ve already shown all the ways in which exercise can benefit us physically. So, why is this so important for our mental health?
Our minds and bodies are so inextricably linked. Our heart is connected to our limbs which are connected to our brain which is connected to our smile which is connected to our gut.
It is all a part of us and it all matters.
Hopefully you are reading this because you decided to say YES to getting better. (That’s a whole other unpopular opinion post topic, right there.) I said yes in 2019, and I wanted to share what that process looked like for me.
Saying YES to getting stable
Many of us reach a point where we are fed up with how we feel. We are at our wits’ end with the way depression makes us feel. The way it affects our job. Our relationships. Our sex life.
So, earlier this year, I decided enough was enough. I was GOING to get well. I WILL get well.
Once you make this commitment, there are a few things you need to realize:
- You will never (at least not at this point in society/technology) cure your mental health issue. Well simply means stable.
- There is nothing that can make you better except you. You have to decide to resume therapy or take your meds or end toxic relationships. It is no one else’s responsibility to make you better. If you do not take action, you will never get better.
- Depression is not like just some random fluke in your brain that might go away if you give it time. It is a biological condition that takes treatment just like other physical illnesses.
You matter. Taking care of your body matters. Feed it good things. Try to get some daily activity. This is not a subjective recommendation. This is what science objectively tells us is important.
It is hard to get well. I hear that a lot. How can I exercise when I can’t even get out of bed? It’s impossible.
I understand that it is hard. No one is saying it’s easy. It takes a daily commitment to wake up and speak life into your day. To set that reminder on your phone.
Physical activity is a pretty non-negotiable part of mental health. Let that marinate for a bit.
How to get fit
There are a lot of things you can do when you want to get started again with exercise. If you have found that your regimen has not been working, here are some possible tweaks you can make.
- Switch the time of day you exercise. Maybe your body’s energy naturally peaks at a certain time and you will have more motivation then.
- Drink a LOT of water. This is just sound advice anyway. I really love drinking pop, but there are literally no health benefits there.
- Set a SMART goal. Decide what you want to achieve and when.
- Find a physical activity you genuinely enjoy doing. That can make all the difference. Learning to enjoy movement again is so important.
- Ask a friend to help you stay accountable. They can be nice about it. Or a little mean! It’s up to you. Some people are more motivated by tough love.
Things I’m obsessed with
Here is a quick list of things that I love that will help your workout routine, and also make it more enjoyable.
- Bluetooth earbuds. This is a lot easier than worrying about your wires getting tangled up in equipment. I am all about streamlining and making things easier.
- Workout leggings with pockets. These were a total game changer for me. It answers the question: Where do I put my phone when I’m doing upper body?
- A good podcast. This helps the time pass, since working out isn’t always super exciting. Crime Junkie is one of my current favorites.
- Huge water bottles. Speaking for myself, I need a big one, or I am not going to drink enough ounces.
Hopefully this post inspired you to use the new year (and decade!) as a reason to start over with fitness. I know I plan to give it my all.
Remember: It’s hard. After all, you are a legitimately sick person with a true illness. Nothing can change that.
But you can change the way you allow your brain to limit you. I am not bipolar. I live with bipolar disorder. Language matters. Don’t tell yourself that you are too depressed to exercise. Give yourself a little more love than that!
You can do it. Just get moving.
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