Depression, Anxiety and …. Exercise

Depression, anxiety and exercise!

Advertisements
pair of white lace up sneakers on top green grass
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

 

I know you want to hit me with a shovel, but ummm ….. exercise DOES work. Yup, sorry about that, but unfortunately, it does.

I remember going to the doctor’s surgery many moons ago (Do read The Doctor if you want evidence of my previous mental state) and being apoplectic with rage at his suggestions and yet, months later when the medication had eventually taken the edge off the depression and anxiety and I was able to think just a little clearer, I started the only form of exercise I knew, tennis.

Odd isn’t it how the doctors, therapists, magazines and papers are all telling us to use exercise to beat depression and anxiety and yet still, we are enraged and hate them all for their irritating and pathetic suggestions. “I have a disease, going for a swim won’t change that!” and “How can I go for a run when I can’t even get out of bed?” we shrill. “Don’t you understand how I feel, how can I possibly go for a cycle ride when I feel like this?” we shout.

And yet, and yet, they do keep banging on about the wretched benefits of it, even the celebrities we idolise seem to be talking about it. Bastards the lot of them. They just don’t understand. Don’t they know how darn exhausted we are?

However, when you have those endorphins and dopamine coursing through the body (don’t even question trying to fight those chemicals), the brain is occupied (no possibility of thinking about death, dying and misery, whilst focusing on a small yellow ball flying at eighty miles an hour towards you), the laughter, chatter and screams of hilarity filling the court (and often neighbouring courts) make any downward spirals of negativity stop firmly in their tracks with an almighty screech of rubber on tarmac and a handbrake U-turn. And as for the light, sun and fresh air … well I personally couldn’t find any of those whilst hiding under my bed with only the drooling dog and a family pack of multi-flavoured crisps for company.

The hardest part is the putting on of those trainers. (Read this post next … Short Term Pain, Long Term Gain) After that, it’s a breeze …. one becomes swept up with that extraordinary and distant friend, happiness, and before you can say “Goddamn gym bunnies” your cheeks are rosy, you’re laughing, chatting and organising the next session with newly found friends. If this all sounds a bit too cheesy, the only words of wisdom this old bird can hand out are from that age-old adage, “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it”. Because, annoyingly, using exercise to combat depression and anxiety and the lethargy that comes as part and parcel of those evil twin sisters, actually does work. It beats it. Game, set and Goddamn match.

Katie x

WHAT EXERCISE ARE YOU DOING FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TODAY? WELL??

26. Having a Hobby, or ‘A Thing’

pexels-photo-91460.jpeg

I’ve never much liked the word hobby. It’s always tended to conjure up images of groups of 80 year olds sitting in a draughty church hall doing crochet, undoubtedly wearing large polyester floral skirts with elasticated waists and discussing the merits of their husbands vegetable patch ……

I’ve had single girlfriends who have secretly joined Salsa evening classes, until a few weeks later they can’t talk about it enough. Worse still, they have tried to coerce me into joining them. Err, no thanks! Raving about the liberating joys of learning something new and meeting different people. Why on earth would I want to do that?

Why would I want to risk making a complete fool of myself, standing on the edge of a roomful of Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers, whilst nobody picked me to have as their partner. Oh nooo! Besides, I had friends. Why would I need any more? My own little random group of friends, strangely however from the same middle class background with the same dress sense, likes, dislikes and thoughts as me. Was this a coincidence or had I subconsciously chosen friends because as they were like me, therefore they were deemed safe and I could therefore trust them?

However, that was in the old days, the bad days. Those were in the negative days. To be honest I was not only just a teensy bit narrow-minded but also somewhat uneducated. I knew nothing! Not that I know an awful lot now, but perhaps I am slightly more open to ideas. And of course, this was before I discovered my ‘thing’ (autocorrect just put in ‘thong’ rather than ‘thing’ which has made me smile, childish I know … I’m sure I discovered thongs a long time ago!). I don’t have a hobby, I have a ‘thing’.

And tennis is my thing.

It’s my focus … for several hours a week, I think completely and utterly on one thing. I do something completely alien to me which is to concentrate! I’m pretty sure Roger Federer isn’t serving for the match whilst stressing over what to buy his wife for her birthday or whether Trevor the plumber is going to turn up that day. During those hours I have no negative or anxious thoughts, and that is becoming so regular that it’s becoming a habit. A good habit. Betty the Demon Depressive doesn’t get a word in. She is silent. I am not feeding the beast, so she is wilting. Simples.

It’s my sport …. it’s exercise which means endorphins, dopamine, serotonin start leaping into action, boosting my mood. They are real and they work. The exercise has helped my skin; it makes me drink more water which helps every organ in my body. I can wallop a ball with such force that all my frustrations fragment and disappear. Despite being a skinny bird, age is cruel thing and where bingo wings, muffin tops and love handles once were, muscles are appearing. This makes me more confident and the Colonel’s glasses steam up more … both of which are positives in my book. (The latter perhaps needing to be kept under control from time to time).

And finally, it’s a part of my routine and structure …. It’s one of my daily tasks. It gives me a sense of purpose and control with my life, mind and body. I need routine and structure more than most people. Without it, there’s always the fear that I really might end up doing nothing all day and hiding away in my little home, wrapping my bingo wings around me with nothing to talk about.

And finally, it’s my social interaction with the world. I have new friends. Friends who are different from me. Friends of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. I have no one to hide behind, no children, husband or alcohol. I have learned from them that being yourself is good. We talk nonsense mostly, laughing about nothingness. We laugh, we tease, we tell each other our woes and our joys. We put the world to rights. They don’t judge me and I don’t judge them. They are quite simply, fabulous.

So, if anyone out there is even just starting to think about having a new ‘thing’, then my advice (without being preachy … what right have I?) then don’t overthink it, just do it!

Don your very best floral, elasticated skirt, head down to the church hall and start doing it …. Crochet, tennis, salsa, Ethiopian basket weaving – whatever floats your boat. But you’ll end up with considerably more than just a new hobby. You’ll have a whole new part to your life. A very, very good part.

Kx

14. Joining a Gym!

Lordy-be! I’ve joined a gym …. more specifically, a tennis club with a gym attached.

Having played a bit of tennis at school (only the B team I hasten to add), I figured that this was one sport that I would

  • a) enjoy and therefore be more likely to stick at – good idea,
  • b) be a bit social and introduce me to some new people – very good idea,
  • c) might get me a teensy bit fit in time for the summer bikini season – excellent idea, and finally
  • d) I might, with time, practice and a huge amount of effort, be able to take just one game off The Colonel (aka my husband). Flippin’ brilliant idea – pass me the forms, where do I sign?

I’ve known for ages that exercise is the absolute key to recovery. I’ve read enough blurb on the subject of anxiety and depression to know that this is the way forward. So, with great excitement I told The Colonel of my plan. He looked at me from over his glasses and raised an eyebrow. I swear I saw his mouth twitch. I think I know that look …. I bet he thinks I won’t do it, or stick to it for longer than, ooooh let’s say a week.

“Pah!” says I, “Just you wait til the summer when I’m as fit as a flea, looking like a very young and very beautiful Claudia Schiffer and am running you round the court with my newly-found tennis skills!”

“Excellent.” He says. “I look forward to it.” Another twitch of the lips and he returned to his breakfast. Fine!

So with this sense of a challenge in mind, I took a deep breath, parted with huge sums of money, was given a locker key in exchange (how generous) and jumped headfirst into the world of gym bunnies.

After a physical assessment with the Scottish version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom I have to admit I couldn’t understand a word of what he said (very strong on the Scottish accent front … and how many times does one say “What?” before they have you down as either completely brain-dead or worse still, taking the piss), anyway, I digress, I was then set free to join in the tennis club session.

This involved three indoor courts of mixed doubles which after one set everyone would switch around so as to change partners. Oh help me God!

I felt like the new girl at school. Hideous … anxiety hitting me like a ton of bricks. Want to run …. want to escape. Starting to sweat. Panic attack on its way ….

A smiling face bounds over, welcomes me and introduces himself as The Coach. “Thank God, you’re here!” He whispers, “It means I don’t have to play …. I slightly overdid it last night!” He roars with laughter. At least I think that’s what he said …. Another strong accent. Panic is subsiding – and before I know quite what has happened, he has sent me off to join three others.

And so I played.

My hands shook, my legs shook. I missed most balls and the rest seemed to end up either in the net, or in the net of the neighbouring court. I apologised profusely each and every time. And the reaction from the players ….. Laughter, hilarity and huge congratulations when I did something good. Quite extraordinary! What a completely unexpected delight.

Afterwards it was coffee all round. No getting out of that one and slinking away …. yet more laughter and chatter. A few questions, but nothing too taxing. It appeared that they didn’t want anything from me, they were just welcoming and happy to have another player.

I left on a high …. a complete high. I didn’t care what hormones or chemicals were flying around my body. Endorphins, dopamine – don’t care. I wasn’t trying to analyse anything at all – all I knew is that this was flippin’ marvellous and I felt fan-bloody-tastic!

I bounced around the house for the rest of the day, booking myself into every tennis session available and reported back to The Colonel.

“I played!” I grinned. “Very, very badly, but I played …. and they were lovely. Everyone was lovely to me!”

“Of course they were.” He said. “They were always going to be lovely to you, because you are lovely.” A gentle smile from The Colonel and I throw my arms around him with a teensy tear threatening to roll down my cheek. He understands. He understands everything.

Kx