A long while ago I had some time off work – signed off with depression. The ‘D’ word is less dirty these days. Back then, I literally hid away at home in case I bumped into someone I knew and didn’t have a limb hanging off, for the unseen illness surely didn’t exist! That attitude didn’t help me at all, and staying in a self-imposed locked up four walls meant I did little exercise. I had no appetite for it anyway. The self-perpetuating circle of gloom fueled itself merrily. Yet, had the doctor prescribed a 60 minute brisk walk daily (even better with others suffering in silence like me) I seriously reckon I would have returned to work quicker.
“By enjoying the exercise, rather than feeling like it was a chore to be done, I learned I could feel good in my body…and importantly my head felt good too. Exercise saved me from being overweight but the important bit for me was not losing my sense of self on the journey.”
Fresh air and moving your body can work literally wonders. We’re bombarded with this message from all angles these days, so me posting this is hopefully no surprise to anyone. I’m not a doctor, nor a counselor. I won’t claim to be an expert in depression. But what I offer you is my experience, and a few words from other’s (those are the quotes included in this text) who have shared their experience with me.
“We all need to move, and to move regularly. Moving keeps me sane, stops me from stagnating”
I still have bouts of depression. There are times I feel ‘blue’ or ‘low’. I’m better at recognising it now. I can often tell if I haven’t done some sort of movement or exercised in a while as the creeping darkness is much more likely to strike. It’s subtle. But if I’m alert I can sense it coming and can shake myself into action. Don’t think by this I mean I force myself into a full-on-intense-and-long workout (well not always – a good hill rep session can be very cathartic). Often just a brisk walk in the fresh air is sufficient. If I haven’t been out (rare these days as life as a personal trainer tends to keep me moving!) for a few days I know it. My body knows it. My head knows it.
“Running is for ‘me’ and keeps the black dog at bay. But when I loose my sense of self the black dog looms heavy and I run less, it’s like he has a leash round MY neck, but keeps me inside instead of taking me outside. I now know that I need to run and never let him put the lead on even when I don’t feel as though I have the energy. As soon as I am outside and the air hits my lungs, I’m free!”
After accepting that depression would come and go through my life I chose to take control of it, to decide how I let it affect me. Exercise is, for me, the perfect antidote. It gives me some ‘headspace’ to think (or not), time to get myself ‘out of the dark’ and focusing on other things. I always find something positive from going out into the hills or for a walk around the park. By the time I return home I’ve usually got my head in a happier place.
I decided to take a positive and forward looking view on my depression, and exercise plays a big part in that. Some people like to spend time analyzing what’s gone on, why you burst into tears for no reason – I personally didn’t find that approach helpful as it felt like I was just being dragged further into ‘it’. So I look forward and find the happy good stuff to focus on.
“Anyone who has experienced depression understands that it is not something you can just snap out of. You can try to convince yourself with positive thoughts, but they tend to only reach the surface. After experiencing post natal depression with my first child I had to resort to antidepressant in order to come out of the depression. After a few months of antidepressants and a few good sleeps, I was able to start a regular fitness routine. It was then that I realised that through fitness I could come off the medication and get back to a place where positive thought went deeper than the surface and a sincere smile returned to my face.”
There are heaps of good resources on the internet – a few I’ve dipped into are the NHS and Mind websites, and a great meditation app that I used for a while is Headspace. I also found watching this 4minute clip from the World Health Organisation really helpful.
We all know that we lead hectic lives, spend lots of time looking after and caring for others, often neglecting to care for ourselves. We need to take time out for ourselves so I’ve created a facebook group to share information, ideas and challenges about health, being present, mindfulness, and allowing yourself space to just BE without feeling guilty. I’ve witnessed changes in people through my work as a personal trainer, and it’s a delight to see positivity growing, and then even better it rubs off onto others around us.
Let’s make this the year of #SelfCare
If you want to join our #SelfCare2017 facebook group click the image below
#SelfCare2017 is all about looking after the most important person in your life