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5 Ways Exercise Helps Depression and Anxiety


This week is National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week, so I thought it germane to discuss ways exercise helps depression and Anxiety.

Before I begin, I want to remind all of my Flywheel Giveaway and the CORE Organics Giveaway!

I am simply sharing my story. If you are experiencing symptoms of Depression or Anxiety, please seek the help of friends and family, an organization such as Freedom From Fear, or a medical professional. Depression and Anxiety are serious conditions that are often beyond your own control; even those with “perfect lives” can suffer from the disorders.

I was diagnosed with Clinical Anxiety and Depression in late 2001, just a month or two after my Crohn’s Disease diagnosis. Though I had experienced isolated depressive and anxiety episodes prior to my diagnosis, Crohn’s Disease altered my brain chemistry and hormones and accelerated the process towards a chronic issue (here is my post on my top Crohn’s Disease related health concerns). Depression also runs in my family; we expected that I would be dealing with depression in some capacity at a certain point, but still, this was sooner than we expected (I was 13). 

As with my Crohn’s Disease, I combat my Clinical Depression and Anxiety Disorder with daily intervention via medication, diet, and especially exercise. I want to also emphasize that without my medication, I would be actively dealing with depression and anxiety. Even so, I have no doubt that my overall good health and remission is thanks is due in large part to my fitness and exercise habits. I wanted to share with you just how I fight depression and anxiety through exercise and fitness.

5 Ways Exercise Helps Depression and Anxiety

How Exercise Helps Depression and Anxiety. @suzlyfe

1) Empowerment

Unfortunately, when I am suffering a Depression or Anxiety relapse, there is little that I can do about it, but even so, going out and engaging in exercise and fitness pursuits helps empower me in a way that helps me to realize that I am worth a better life and better outlook than the one that I am dealing with.

Words of empowerment; I am Capable. One of the best mantras around. @suzlyfe

I can utilize the endorphin push from a run to help kickstart my recovery by empowering me to reach out for help, or even to jolt me out of a low grade depressive episode.

How exercise helps me battle #depression and #anxiety #fitfluential Click To Tweet

2) Centering

There is a misconception that depression is selfish. In fact, at my most depressed times, I have thought about everyone else but myself. I would describe depression instead as skewed perception of your relationship to the world (at least in my case).

How to do Upward Facing Dog Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. Did you know that yoga can help depression? @suzlyfe

Activities such as yoga help me to feel a greater connection to my self and the physical and spiritual world; thus I begin to realize that I am out of focus. Yoga is also incredibly beneficial for helping me cope with and get through anxiety attacks: I cannot tell you how many times I have relied on my breathing and savasana to help me calm my nerves and ride out the attack.

3) Distraction

Sometimes, you have to distract yourself from what is going on just in order to survive. For example, you might be tapering off or onto a medication, going through a rough patch, or simply needing to avoid triggers. Having something that fills an hour or so of your day can help to change the inertia you are otherwise feeling and takes the focus off of your suffering. 

4) Physical Health

I am a great believer that mental health and physical health are inextricably linked (something talked about in that NPR podcast I keep referencing!). In fact, my Crohn’s Disease helps to prove my point: stress is a huge trigger for me to go into a flare. Maintaining good physical health can also have a positive impact on your mental health, as I think that you all witnessed over the months that I battled with pain as a result of my broken back.

Do you stay active on vacation? My favorite way to vacation involves staying active and fit |

If you want a pipeline to depression, trap someone in their own body. Being able to move freely and without pain and being able to accomplish new physical feats such as my marathon running has helped me to combat depression and anxiety.

5) Hormonal Health

This goes along with physical health, but hormones, as chemicals in our bodies, are directly related to our mental health, including stress levels and depression. This is one of the aspects of my oncoming attempts to start a family that I am particularly concerned about–how will the changes in hormones affect my anxiety and depression? The stress hormone cortisol is closely linked with mood instability, and times of stress for me are also triggers for depression and anxiety attacks. Regular exercise helps not only with coping mechanisms and stress reduction but also helps regulate hormones like cortisol.

There are a great many ways to exercise–from walking to lifting to running to yoga to barre to HIIT to pole dancing and on and on. I encourage you to find something that speaks to you as you continue your treatment, or perhaps just are getting started. Talk to your doctor, develop a regular schedule for getting out and active, and give yourself the time to develop the habit. Your body and brain will thank you.

Combating depression with exercise: why and how #sweatpink #anxiety #depression Click To Tweet

Again, if you think that you or someone that you know might be exhibiting signs of depression or anxiety disorder, I urge you to talk to a medical professional, counselor, or a trusted friend or family member. You do deserve to have happiness; you are worth the trouble. Most importantly, remember that your feelings are NOT your fault and they can be helped.

Has/How has exercise helped you work through times of anxiety or depression?

If you have clinical anxiety or depression, have you noticed a difference in your condition when exercising or not?

Linking up with Mar, Cynthia, and Courtney for Friday Five and Jill for Fitness, Health, and Happiness.

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