Mental Health

Anxiety and Exercise, How I Cope

Did you have any fears as a child that when you look back now, you realize they were unrealistic? I thought that I was going to die from quicksand.

Seriously. I watched one movie that referenced quicksand and knew my life was over. I asked my mom what it was, she proceeded to tell me, “quicksand is very dangerous, if you get stuck in it, just your foot, it will eventually pull you down further. Every time you move it makes it worse and you only sink deeper and deeper until you suffocate” then she nonchalantly says, “some pits are so big they could swallow a car. People never even see it coming.” quicksand-anxiety-and-exercise

As a 7 year old with a very vivid imagination I could almost feel how terrible it would be to breathe in quicksand. I thought to myself ‘great. I am going to die from quicksand.’ I was constantly terrified and on the lookout for this imminent danger. I guess its worth pointing out that I lived in Tennessee… I don’t think I have ever heard of quicksand related death in Tennessee…

You might be wondering what I am going on about, but, if you’ve read the title and have ever struggled with anxiety, you probably already know where I am going. For me, anxiety is a lot like quicksand, it catches you, pulls you down and it feels like every movement or thought just pulls you further and further down.

I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life (hence my response the quicksand), I have coped in unhealthy ways but, I have also learned some healthy ways too. I would love to share with you how anxiety and exercise really changed my life.

First Things First

Before I get into how I manage my own anxiety, I want you to know that you are not alone. Sometimes just knowing that is more helpful than a list of ideas to help cope. Life can feel so overwhelming and I am so glad that you are here 🙂 Anxiety changed my life in a beautiful way because it has allowed me to understand others who struggle with the same things. I really hope this helps.

My Quicksand Incident

I am actually kidding, 20 years later, I have yet to see quicksand. However, I have had many quicksand feeling incidents. A couple years ago I suffered from chronic panic attacks. I would average 5-8 a week. It was exhausting and really affected my life.

I would hyperventilate and cry uncontrollably for up to an hour. My life felt unmanageable and I would often struggle with suicidal tendencies and depression. I had no idea how to cope. I was in therapy and that was helpful but I needed something throughout the week to help me. I was desperate.

How I Pulled Myself Out of the Quicksand

Again, no quicksand… just sticking to a theme here. Although, I have always loved exercising, as you may know, when you are depressed and anxious, usually, the first things to go are;

  1. outings
  2. self-care.

This is so unfortunate because this is the time that these things are the most important.

When I was at one of the lowest points in my anxiety and depression, I decided that I was going to commit to going to the gym at least 5 days a week. I decided to set aside any fitness goals and just show up, put my headphones in and just move my body. I always felt better afterwards.

There were a couple times that I would walk into the gym, see that it was crowded and turn around and walk out. I would try to go for a walk though, do some body weight exercises at home. Anything. For you, it doesn’t have to be the gym, it can be just going for a walk, yoga, a fitness class whatever YOU want.

Exercise has played a huge role in my anxiety management. To this day, if I don’t workout consistently I can feel anxiety starting to creep in and have to get back on it.

The Science

I’m sorry but I don’t have another quicksand reference here… and to be honest, I don’t even have a lot of (or any) science references here. You have probably heard how exercise releases endorphins that give us that feel good rush and, therefor, contributes to anxiety management. help-anxiety-and-exercise

Of course, I totally agree with this, I have felt those rushes after a workout, However, when I was in the battlefield, or shall I say, the quicksand of anxiety, I honestly didn’t get the endorphin rush. I didn’t feel exhilarated.

Here’s the thing, I was making a conscience effort to do something that benefited my health even when I felt worthless. I was choosing me, everyday even if I didn’t realize it and I think THAT is what really benefited me. Even though I didn’t consciously know it, it’s like I was telling myself, “hey, you’re worth taking care of.”

The last thing I want to do is give you some cliche anxiety management tips. We’ve all heard them. It’s like telling someone which severe hormonal acne to drink more water. It just makes you roll your eyes. OK, Suzy, what do you know.

So, at the risk of sounding cliche, I know what its like. I might not know your exact situation, but I know anxiety and depression. I have curled up and shivered in the corner but I have also fearlessly looked them dead in the eye.

Choose you. Please. Anxiety wants to steal from you, its a thief and wants to steal your confidence, joy, life, ambition, gifts, goals, dreams, health etc. What better way to give anxiety the middle finger than investing in yourself. Instead of buying that ice cream or online shopping, go for a walk, do some yoga. Forget the science, forget the endorphins just remember YOU and what YOU need.

Please let me know healthy ways that you have coped with anxiety, I would love to know 🙂

Much, much love,

Savannah

Disclaimer: I am a strong advocate for therapy and do not claim to be an expert on anxiety/depression management. Exercise has helped me and I am simply sharing the benefit of it here, I used it in addition to therapy. If you are struggling with chronic anxiety, depression, mental health issues or suicidal thoughts please see a professional.

 

 

6 Comments

  • Kent

    You really hit the point. Everyone’s different, sure, but what you suggest has been proven successful on such a broad spectrum that everyone should try. a little over my 40s I found myself overwhelmed by…well…life. Working out every morning for 30 minutes gave me such a balance and self esteem that although what you say about proper therapy (which I endorse) is spot on, I found myself needing it always less and less. Great piece. Thanks.

    • Savannah

      Thank you so much, Kent! Yes! I too feel such a big difference when including physical activity in my daily routine. It’s just so good for the brain. Its so good to heat that you have found a healthy way to cope with the pressures of life! 🙂

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