Spring is finally here! Bring on the patios and barbecues and let’s have a party! We can finally say goodbye to winter’s cold, dark days and welcome a warmer and brighter season. It’s time to come out of our hibernation and celebrate with a more social and active lifestyle. Most people enjoy Spring for these reasons, but for many of us who live with mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression, this time of the year can provide an even bigger boost to our mood.
Everyone has a story to tell. This is my story of how I live with anxiety and depression. I’m not the first, and definitely won’t be the last to share this type of story. Unfortunately, more and more people are being affected by these illnesses. You may know them; they are your friends, family members, and colleagues. They are struggling, and you may not even know it. If you know what it’s like to be in pain emotionally, mentally and physically, this is a story for you. If you haven’t felt this pain, more than likely someone close to you has. At the very least this story may help you gain some perspective. I will share with you how I feel and what has helped me during my more challenging moments. Most importantly this is about hope and never giving up!
What’s it like for me to be anxious and depressed? Let me tell you, I’m not happy. That may not be very surprising! I’m in a fog with no desire to do anything, even the things I really enjoy. I feel disconnected from myself and from everyone around me. I sleep. I mean I will sleep a lot, like 12 or more hours. I don’t want to get out of bed. I can’t focus or concentrate, and I’m on edge and very irritable. I’m consumed with my thoughts that are stuck in the past or future. I feel like I’m not good enough and everyone is better. I’m angry, I’m sad. I’m a mess! I have no sense of what matters in the moment. I’m far from thriving. I’m in a survival mode, and every minute ticks by painfully slow. So where do I go from here?
I decided to seek treatment 17 years ago. First I met a psychiatrist who talked about my childhood and prescribed me anti-depressants. The drugs worked, but they were not addressing the root cause. So I decided to visit a psychologist to get more help with re-working my mindset and thought patterns. This was valuable and I continue to see great benefit to this day. However, my most effective strategy to help me live with anxiety and depression is regular exercise.
What I realized works best for me is finding a way to express myself. Moving my body is a way for me to feel alive. It adds meaning to my life. I’m present in time and space. I find comfort in exercise. It helps me focus on me, and all the things that matter. I reconnect and I find myself in the moment. I breathe, sweat, and feel the rush of blood to my brain and body. Fitness is an important part of my life. It’s not all that I have, but it sure means a lot to me.
Exercise is very therapeutic. It makes me feel better. By better I mean, calm, happy and focused. It resets the switch of my depression and anxiety, and brings me back to a peaceful moment.
Exercise works. It works for me and it works for most people to alleviate the symptoms of mental illness. I will not go into all the science of why it works, but doing exercise stimulates our mind and body to enhance our health. Whether we run, bike, or dance the results are all positive. It can be in the form of yoga, weight lifting, or simply walking. Just moving is all it takes. When I’m stressed out, I workout! When I’m depressed, I workout. When I’m anxious I workout. Can you see a pattern here? I do it because I know it works. I have found it is just as effective as anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drugs. I may not always want to do it, but I know if I don’t exercise I will feel even more terrible. When I don’t want to get out of bed, the last thing I’m thinking of doing is exercise. It just seems like too much work. But I go because I get relief, and that reward is worth the effort. You may ask are there other options beyond doing exercise? Of course there are. Doing anything that you enjoy can help clear the fog. I enjoy writing, listening to music or watching a good movie. Talking with friends and family helps because I realize there are people who care, and that love is powerful. It’s all about finding what works for you. The trick is to develop healthy habits. They make your life better in the long term.
If you or someone you know is living with a mental illness, know that help is out there. Talk to a health professional, a friend or family member. You’re worth it!
If you are currently inactive, I strongly encourage for you to get moving and build a more healthy lifestyle. It’s a game changer! Your brain, your body, your mood and your outlook on life will forever be changed for the better. The power of exercise to uplift our moods is second to none. Embrace the feeling, and make your life worth living.
It’s much more than just being fit, it’s feeling well. If you want to get better your mind and body need love. That love comes from good things and good people. Surround yourself with these, and you will heal. Exercise is a good thing that gives back, and that reward is your health. If you don’t know the way, find the people to show you the way.
I have been through it myself and I know what it is like. It’s hard! It’s scary! I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I’m willing to listen. What I do know is you can do it, and I’m here to help.
If you would like more information on training and a program that would be right for you, please contact me:
I would be happy to answer any of your questions.
About Peter Koutras
Peter operates Fast Track Fitness at Prime Personal Training, a private studio located at 429 St Laurent Blvd in Ottawa, Canada. Peter’s mission is to empower people to achieve a healthier mind and body through fun exercise, delicious meals, and a positive mindset. He will keep you on track with a variety of custom programs and ongoing support. Peter is specialized in health and fitness programs for mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and dementia. He also offers general health programs that focus on weight/fat loss, and injury/disease prevention and rehabilitation. He has coached hundreds of clients to stellar results over the last 15 years and looks forward to celebrating your success story.