Friday, May 18, 2012

A Testimony: How exercise helps keep me sane


I was just starting my junior year of college when my mom suddenly passed away. Instead of taking the semester off, I returned to school a week after her funeral. As could be expected, I struggled mightily with school after her death. I was severely depressed. There were many days when I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t want to talk to my friends but I knew I had to get help.

I went to the counseling center on campus and signed up for grief counseling. Even though I never missed a session, my depression caused me to drop class after class and extended my stay at Howard for an additional two years. Throughout my fight to beat depression and earn my degree, I continued to attend regular counseling sessions.

My counselors consistently advised me to work out. They were adamant about the positive effects exercise could have on my mental health. If I couldn’t make it to class, what made them think I was going to make it to the gym?  I never did.

It’s been eight years and I’m just now coming around to seeing things their way. I can finally attest to the positive benefits of exercise on my brain.

Last week, I got some bad news from someone I love dearly. Immediately, my spirit was crushed. I dreaded the days filled with soggy tear soaked pillows that I just knew lay ahead. My appetite left me and I didn’t anticipate its return anytime soon.  This was going to be bad. Real bad. Michael Jackson.

The next morning I woke up with eyes so swollen I didn’t know whether to go to work or go to the hospital. I sincerely couldn’t figure out if they were swollen from crying or if something had bitten me on both eyes in my sleep.

All day long, I was tipping on the “please don’t cry at work” tightrope until it was time for my weekly workout class with the co-workers. Every Thursday at 1:00 a group of us work out with a trainer. Although he routinely kicks our ass, I look forward to Thursdays because it gives me an afternoon energy boost. I think more clearly and my normally short attention span improves after these intense workout sessions.

This time, I noticed another side effect of the work out: my mood brightened substantially. Also, it’s hard to focus on your sad situation and power lunges at the same time.

While my heart was (and still is) broken, working out regularly has helped me keep depression at bay. I have made it my focus to keep BOTH my body and mind active. In addition to working out, I’m making sure I don’t isolate myself. I make it a point to get out of the house rather than sitting and dwelling. I’m finding things other than my sadness to focus on, like a good book, the NBA Playoffs and MY BLOG. *smiles sheepishly*

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not running (literally) from my pain. I think it’s important that we allow ourselves to feel but, just like squats, don’t overdo it.

7 comments:

  1. Three things:
    1. love your blogs these days! : ) how was i unaware of this before?! following now.

    b. So that endorphins thing is real, huh? Hmmm, maybe I should push myself to work out.

    iii. Hope you're feeling better soon! And I truly mean that, tho it sounds glib as all the damns.

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    Replies
    1. 1) Yay! :-D

      b. Yes, ma'am. Try it and let me know how you feel.

      iii. Thank you! Your numbering system is hilarious, btw. lmao

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  2. Sarah Sarah, you speak my life through your words. Went through the same loss of a parent my freshman year of undergrad, except it was my Dad. And back in class the next Monday. What a time. My salve for the pain was and still is work. Always adding more things to the plate because being too busy seems to keep the emotions at a manageable level. Since losing my oldest brother to suicide (two years ago yesterday), I've learned to set aside time to completely break down. Nobody wants to get lost in overwhelming emotions. However, if you don't set aside time for it, your body will take over and do it for you. I'm so glad to read about how you've found positive coping activities like working out! Thanks for sharing your testimony Sis. - @JessEfai

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    Replies
    1. *hugs* Anniversaries are the worst. I'm glad you have found a balanced way to deal, as well, and are doing okay.

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  3. I need to try this, because I've been doing the stay busy with work thing, which helps, but only when I'm at work.

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  4. Commercial Fitness equipment including treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and custom strength equipment. You can find our nearest provider for Fitness equipment orlando.

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  5. I’m glad to know that exercise has a positive effect on you. It is scientifically proven that exercise can make a person happier. The more energized you are, the more our brain will produce chemicals that are responsible for that feeling of happiness. This will help you feel less stressed and anxious. Also, exercise will help you fight insomnia and boost your confidence. Keep exercising and be happy! =) Berta @ FitnessTogether.com

    ReplyDelete