Anxiety and depression are the worst.
There’s really no other way to say it. Mental illness effects every single aspect of one’s life. It affects how you see yourself, your physiology and how you experience the world around you. And if you’re a chronic sufferer (like me!), managing your anxiety and depression takes up a large part of your day-to-day.
So, this is a little bit of a self-serving post. Yes, I want to share what helps me and hopefully help others. But also, I’m hoping this post connects me with other women who have chronic anxiety and depression and who are passionate about health and fitness.
Mental illness is something you have, not something you are.
Now, before I get into what works for me when anxiety and depression start to interfere with my fitness goals, a few quick and necessary words on the subject. I am not a doctor or any sort of medical professional. Depression and anxiety are extremely serious and if you are experiencing death fantasies, thoughts of self-harm or contemplating suicide please click the necessary link for assistance.
Survive or thrive.
Depressive episodes can vary in length, from a few weeks to months. And if you have chronic depression or anxiety, it is something that will interfere over the course of your life (unless there is a cure, of course). Now, knowing this about yourself you really only have two options, a.) simply survive or b.) attempt to thrive. If you’re reading this post, chances are you desire option B for yourself. And I’m right there with you! I made the decision a couple of years ago that I wouldn’t just survive my anxiety and depression, but rather I would try to thrive despite it. That simple change in self-perception is what started my health and fitness journey.
The only way to thrive despite your mental illness(es) is to have a plan for when the wave of darkness inevitably hits. A plan to make sure you don’t quit anything, let alone your health and fitness goals. Below are my tips for staying on track when mental illness threatens your goals.
Tips for staying on course.
- Acknowledge what is happening. This is first and foremost. Acknowledging that you are having a high anxiety period or an episode of depression that may be different from your true reality is important. For example, depression will make you feel isolated and alone. And those feelings are absolutely real but they don’t necessarily reflect your reality. And the reality of most people on earth is that they have at least one person (if not several people) who values and cares about them.
- Tell someone. Have a person in your life who knows what’s going on with you. If you don’t have someone in person who you feel comfortable confiding in, join an online community. Personally, I’m a big fan of both. My husband is my go-to-person when depression hits but I also find being a part of a tiny Facebook group very helpful. Either way, talk to someone who will help you find and keep perspective.
- Rely on your healthy habits. Depression can make it hard to get out of bed and shower, let alone get to the gym. So, to stay on track, you need to commit to sticking with your regular routine. This will be hard but sticking to your regular routine is the healthiest thing you can do. So if you regularly workout after work on Tuesday’s then make sure you keep doing that workout. Have your trusted person help keep you accountable, and ensure you are keeping up your routine. Work to maintain habits you would typically have on autopilot.
- Get your sleep. Depression and anxiety are exhausting. Like any illness, they take a physical and mental toll on your body. So, make sure you are getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night and take advantage of getting extra rest whenever you can.
- Eat well. Do your best to continue to eat healthy. However, if you find yourself wanting to give into a binge or heading into “who gives an F*%k land” reach out to your trusted person. If you have a complicated relationship with food, pay close attention to how your depression is affecting your food choices. But binges and questionable food choices still happen and if they do it’s important not to dwell on it, instead focus on getting in-control of your eating as quickly as possible. Read my post about getting back on track after a food binge here.
Depression and anxiety suck. And having mental illness does not make you lazy or weak. It does, however, take work to get out of a depression and to keep your goals from getting derailed.
Do you have depression and/or anxiety? What do you do to keep your health goals on track?