Exercising and Mental Health

Exercising and Mental Health

Hello mental health champions, how are you doing? 

I first wanted to give you all an update on my medication journey with my anxiety. I have brought up my journey with medication the last few blog posts and wanted to give anyone who has been reading religiously a quick update! As many of you know, I was on Lexapro for about 6 months and gained 40 pounds. I then came off of it because of the weight gain. I then tried bupropion (Wellbutrin). This gave me extreme depression and I was nearly throwing up after every meal I ate because of how aggressive the nausea was after I would eat. I then decided it would be a good idea to meet with an actual psychiatrist as opposed to my primary care doctor. I had my first meeting with her last week and guys- she was incredible. She not only listened to everything I said without judgement, but she actually also gave me other counseling advice. She was so thorough and I really lucked out with such a great encounter. Because of all of my issues, I still wanted medication to alleviate some of my symptoms. But, since I had so many problems with my first two tries at medication, we decided it would be a better option to just have me try an “as-needed” option. This means that whenever I know I am going to have anxiety (Big test, long workday, important event), I can take the medication to alleviate some of my nerves. It can also help if I start to feel a panic attack arise or am going through a couple hard days. I think this is a great idea for me since I am currently doing pretty well naturally because of all the work I am always doing for my mental health. However, anyone can use some help here and there and so this is a great option for me! I am glad that I also now have a permanent psychiatrist that can help me with the ebbs and flows of my disorders. 

BUT… for today, I really want to touch on the role exercise has been playing in my mental health lately. Trust me, I know, some of you are probably already like “Okay, this post isn’t for me” and I completely understand where you’re coming from. I used to HATE working out. I hated doing anything physical. I like being in bed and binging shows and eating. I didn’t like working out or anything that went along with it. I have always enjoyed walking but I never walked to really exercise, I did it more just because it was very therapeutic for me. However, since gaining all that weight on Lexapro, I have been trying desperately to get some of my body back. Yes, a lot of the reasons why I started working out was just to try and lose weight. However, I have been working out consistently now for about 2 months and I haven’t lost any weight. Mind you, I was also on Prednisone, a steroid that stores water weight and can take 3-6 months to finally clear from your system, as well as a heart medication that also has weight gain as an effect in most patients. So I was on a literal triple whammy of weight gain drugs. It can be discouraging to look on the scale and not see a drastic change. But, this hasn’t made me give up. The reason I haven’t given up is because I actually enjoy working out now. In the beginning, the whole point was to burn as many calories as I can and build my lungs up again post-covid. However, now, I absolutely love working out. Do I like getting up earlier everyday before work to workout? Absolutely not. Do I like having to get in my car and drive there and put my stuff in the locker? Not really. But, do I like that I start every single day feeling productive and proud of myself? Heck yeah. Do I like feeling strong and powerful? YUP. Do I hate that I am not yet seeing the changes I want? (And yes I am in a caloric deficit as well) Well Duh. But right now, I am working out because of what it is doing for my mental health. The Chan School of Public Health found out that 15 minutes of walking a day can reduce symptoms of depression by 26%! As far as what exercise does for the brain, it: sharpens memory and thinking, boosts self-esteem, helps with better sleep, gives you more, sustainable energy throughout the day, and gives your body stronger resilience. 

Remember y’all, this is coming from the girl who HATED exercising. I was there once too. It took me a couple weeks prior to my two months to get into habit and rhythm. I had to learn a LOT about weight loss and working out. I didn’t know how to use certain machines (and still don’t know how to use some). It is a learning curve and it takes a lot of discipline. But, I am finally in the habit of going to the gym at least 5 times a week. In the morning, I go to the gym and weight lift. At night, I will try to walk at least 2 miles around my neighborhood if it is warm enough. Otherwise, if I know it will be cold for the day, I walk 1.5 miles on a treadmill with  a high incline at a 2.7 speed. No matter what, working out has become a great outlet for me. Something that really seems to make weightlifting therapeutic for me is that I try to channel my emotions into weightlifting. It is a great time to throw anger and whatever other emotions into the movements. I notice when I listen to powerful songs, I also feel more inspired to try harder and complete my sets. I love listening to “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman. I remember things from years ago that made me mad and throw all that into the lifting. It’s like anger is what I use as my adrenaline. I love knowing that I spend time in a day taking care of me. It can be so easy to never take care of yourself when you are doing work or school or both. But when you take time to treat yourself, you will start to see how imperative it is that you do take care of yourself. I feel much happier on days I workout. It has become a habit for me and I thoroughly enjoy it. 

Some of you may try to come up with excuses. I used to. But really there aren’t many excuses you can use. We are ALL BUSY. We are ALL HUMANS WITH A LOT TO DO. Most of us GO TO WORK OR SCHOOL. But it is about taking the time and making hitting the gym or just exercising in your home a priority. To give you an idea of how I set up my gym schedule, I will write it below. 

Mondays & Fridays are my only days during the work week that I don’t have school at night in addition to my full time job. 

Tuesdays-Thursdays I have full time work and then school for about 2-3.5 hours at night.

Saturdays- I don’t have work or school but usually use this as my off day.

Sunday- No work and no school but I spend a lot of time on Love-Brain work. I still force myself to get up and go to the gym before doing anything else. 

During the week, I try to workout Monday-Friday at 7:00 AM. I clock in at 8:30. For me, 1.5 hours is more than enough time to get a great workout in. So, I just wake up about an hour earlier than I normally would and workout for a good hour or one and a half hours. Then, like I mentioned, every night after work and before class, I try to walk 2 miles. That is just another way to get out of the house as well after being home all day working. I like to get out once in a while and not always be confined to my room. 

I have also been pairing working out with eating in a caloric deficit. It also feels good to eat well and get good protein in my body. However, just like anything else, all food is okay in moderation and allowing myself to have that mindset has helped prevent me from binging or having a very bad relationship with food. 

I hope this small post helped you to see why for me, working out has been a wonderful benefit to not only my physical health by keeping me up and moving, but also so beneficial to my mental health. It is such a great thing to throw your emotions into and let go of them. It is incredibly therapeutic for me and I would highly recommend trying it and creating a habit! 

Talk to you soon brain battlers, Gracie <3

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The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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