Like rain on your wedding day, like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife, it feels somewhat ironic that the time you MOST need a mood booster, is when you least feel like seeking it out. When you're down or feeling anxious, trying to do what you know will make you feel better, like stopping scrolling through endless social media posts and going for a walk in nature instead, can often make you feel worse because it takes energy to do that.
And yet you all know that exercise improves your mood right? I mean you’ve heard the research, heck you’ve probably even felt those moments when you’re in your fitness mojo and life feels good. You’re shaking your tush on the dancefloor or hiking in the hills, without a care in the world. But then normal life resumes and your mood and your energy take a nose dive as you step back into your messy living room/life.
If you’ve ever experienced depression or anxiety, this nose dive is SERIOUS! The plane you’re on doesn’t just crash to the ground, it can feel as if you’re being sucked into the very core of Mother Earth and everything is just caving in around you. It can feel like there’s no way out because your own mind is attacking you from the inside. Telling yourself to stop thinking those negative thoughts just makes you feel worse because you can’t and you feel helpless and hopeless. You feel panicky, on edge, stressed and shouty all the flipping time and you hate yourself for it. I mean, you've got everything - a family, a home, friends and yet ....
I know. I’ve been there. And it’s one reason I do what I do. In fact, it’s one reason I LOVE what I do. Exercise, movement, fitness, working out – whatever you want to call it – is SUCH a great way to start pulling yourself out of that hole. When you’re exercising, when you’re trying to master your yoga moves, or concentrating hard on your weight training form, or just trying to keep breathing when you go out for a run – you’re simply not able to worry any more. There’s no time and space for thought. It’s just you and your body, doing their thing. Feeling the pains and the gains. And the more consistently you do it, the better you feel the rest of the time too. The easier everything gets.
Studies have actually shown that exercise can be used to TREAT anxiety and depression, as a stand-alone or alongside other treatments. How amazing is that?! And not just pseudo-science studies but actual Cochrane peer reviewed research (for the academics amongst you, that's key, as it should be!). But I get that its easier said than done right? I mean, if it were that simple, you’d already be doing it. Perhaps ‘not doing enough’ exercise is just another thing you feel guilty about because you’re so busy and tired you just can’t see a way to actually start something new.
But here's the thing. You're seeing it all wrong. The trouble is in our society now, we view exercise as something we ‘should’ do. Something to feel bad about when we don’t and to punish ourselves with when we’ve overindulged on the jaffacakes. But that is just so wrong diddly wrong wrong! If you can just make the mental shift and start seeing exercise as a way to treat yourself, as a way to take time out and feel good. As a way to not think, not plan, not rhuminate and just BE, then maybe you can create a little more space for it. Maybe it’ll be easier to pass the baton of parenthood over to your partner or a friend and get to that class, go for that run, do that online workout.
So if you’re feeling like you could do with a little more joy in your life. If you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed by motherhood, give yourself a break and bring a little more movement into your day. Start with a walk or run around the block after dinner, preferably alone (6pm is like the witching hour in my house so it is a GREAT time to escape!). Then when you’re feeling ready, up the intensity. Join a class, find some free you tube videos or yep, join my FB group, Heather’s health hub where you’ll find lots of mum-friendly workouts.
Just begin. Do SOMEthing and then tune in and notice how it feels when you do. Don’t let those good vibes pass you by. Take in the positive feeling of strength, of flexibility and power and allow those feelings to become part of your mental wellbeing as well as the physical.
Health and happiness
PS I’m running a 5 Day free Time for You fitness challenge for busy mums starting June 17 where we’ll be spending 15 minutes a day on exercise and doing some essential mindset work to help you make the mental shift needed to begin putting your your health and happiness, back on the to do list.
PPS feeling depressed or anxious? Please don't go it alone. Seek support from your GP or follow this link. and if you fancy some retail therapy, definitely check out Mama be Kind where 10% of the profits go towards charities who support women with postnatal depression!