A featured article by Katie Yacko
Life is hard, no matter what your life looks like: D.I.N.K., single, single mom with a full-time job and three kids, stay at home mom, married with kids and career, college student pursuing your dreams, global humanitarian showing the world light and love……our journeys are unique, but the same as far as how life can take a toll on us! This is where I get on my soap box. Self-care is a MUST. Treated as optional, we will be left to struggle with mental and physical fatigue, lack of motivation, impatience, irritability, and overall unhappiness possibly leading to feeling depressed and/or anxious. I know none of us want to feel like this, but we likely have struggled with any combination of these at various points along the way.
Why do we struggle with these things?
This world is broken. Society promotes a lifestyle that runs a 100 m.p.h. Women are typically the glue that holds things together. The fuel that keeps the family machine running. The chef, taxi, secretary, accountant, counselor, caretaker, homework tutor, nurse, referee, sports trainer, cheerleader, friend, mother, daughter, wife, lover, employee, homemaker, maid, stain remover super-hero, errand runner extraordinaire, etc, etc, etc!
There are endless ways that women pour out into this world. Can you pour out from an empty cup? No. You cannot, no matter how you try. Do your struggles matter? YES! So, you HAVE to make time to take care of yourself. Self-Care. It doesn’t have to be hours on end but I will share with you that regular exercise is arguably one of the best ways to practice self-care.
“In my personal journey, I have discovered exercise to be one of the best ways to take care of myself and I feel so much better having made it a regular part of my life.”
Self-Care In Practice
When we practice self-care, through exercise, we are hitting the “refresh” button, so that we release our stressors, overcome symptoms of anxiety and depression, and continue to pour out the best version of ourselves for those we love most and those encounter every day. Put your busyness on hold for 30-45 minutes a day and get active. 30 minutes is roughly 2% of your day. The benefits this will bring to your mental health will spill over positively to the rest of your life and relationships!
Dr. Sarah Gingell, PhD, states it clearly in her article for Psychology Today,” How Your Mental Health Reaps the Benefits of Exercise”: “exercise stimulates the body to produce ‘feel-good’ hormones (endorphins) which boost mood, make problems appear more manageable, and shifts our focus from our problems and negative self-talk to the activity we are doing.” Amen! Is anyone else flashing back to Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde right now? (“exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy, and happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t!” -Elle Woods, Legally Blonde)
Healing Through Exercise
If you are still a skeptic, let me be real for a moment. I have been off and on with regular exercise for the last 6 years. I am a living, breathing, example of the positive impact of exercise on mental health. I have used the last 6-8 weeks to intentionally be my own “experiment”, and my hypothesis and the hypotheses of professionals around the world proves right. Exercise improves mental health. Period.
I have taken anti-depressants in recent years. I have taken anti-anxiety medications, too. And guess what? For me, the treatment outcome of medication, does not compare to daily (or near daily) intentional exercise. I’m not saying you should stop taking your medication if you take any; medication is definitely and completely appropriate in some cases. Have that discussion with your doctor. I’m telling you to add in regular exercise to your treatment regimen.
Since I have been committed to making time for daily exercise, I have noticed the following: increased energy, clearer, faster thinking, increased patience with my kids/family/co-workers/relationships, improved sleep, I feel happier, I am more motivated, I am more productive, I can focus better, my mood is exponentially better, and my anxiety is significantly less (when I do feel anxious, symptoms are not as severe and it does not last as long compared to when I was not exercising regularly).
How does exercise help mental health? Dr. Gingell summarizes it best in her article.
“Regular exercise increases the blood supply to the brain, thereby improving delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Also, by improving brain growth and signaling through neurotransmitters- brain chemicals that help the nervous system communicate with our body.”
What type of exercise is going to get me these results, you ask?
Aerobic exercise and/or resistance training. Experts recommend a range of 30-60 minutes per session, 4-5 days per week. I love me a little yoga mixed in too! My personal experiment involved various exercise times ranging from a program that included 20-minute HIIT training 6 days per week, to a program of cardio and resistance training combo averaging 45 minutes, 6 days per week.
I have 2 kids who are busy. A husband who travels A LOT for work. But I make the time because I am important to my family. I want to feel good. My family needs me to feel good. My job needs me to bring my “A-game” every day. I want to be the best me for my family and my journey, so that I can be a positive light in this world.
Don’t have time to get to the gym you say?
Me either! I don’t go to the gym to work out, but that’s a great option if it works for you. I work out at home. Sometimes my kids join me (and I love that). Sometimes we go for a walk as a family. I’m considering getting rollerblades this summer to join in with my kids (pray for me). Fashion an exercise regimen that works for you.
You can feel better, no matter what you’re facing right now. No matter how you feel right now. You are not alone in your struggles with symptoms and challenges of mental health. You are worth making time for. You are worth investing 2% of your day on yourself! Schedule the time. Make yourself a habit tracker so you can see your increasing dedication to this process. Reward the non-scale victories like 30-days of regular exercise achieved! Journal the improvements you notice in your mood, so you can reflect back when things get hard again.
Will the results be instant?
Not necessarily, no. But just like other healthy lifestyle changes, we should all be working on, the benefits will be noticed over time, they will be worth putting in the time and effort for, and they will be sustained as long as you stay committed.
Start your self-care routine today!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention did a study that shows 1 in 10 women experience symptoms of depression. That’s 10% of women. It is time for women to start taking some time to take care of themselves. In her article, Dr. Gingell, says that exercise is essential for prevention and treatment of chronic mental illness.
“Exercise decreases the likelihood of depression, but also maintains mental health as we age.”Dr. Gingell
She lists positive impacts on a wide range of mental illness from depression, to schizophrenia, anxiety, to dementia! Think of the increased quality of life for all of those who battle any of these conditions! Think of the sweet release of your stress as it exits your body through sweat and cardio.
Maybe you’re not clinically depressed, but are experiencing episodic depression because of a current traumatic/difficult season of life. Start exercising to help yourself feel better. Use exercise as a healthy coping mechanism. Get started. Get moving. You are worth it! You are a Lady Well Loved!
By: Katie Yacko