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.