We’ve all heard it a thousand times: exercise regularly; exercise is good for both your physical and mental health; exercise every day… But it’s like recommendations about nutrition: we know what a healthy diet includes, but do we necessarily follow the guidelines?
I’ve made a huge effort to include regular exercise in my day since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And I have felt much better as a result. I wish it hadn’t taken a mental health crisis to prompt me into action!
Find an exercise buddy
In the early days after my diagnosis, before I was stabilized, I was so deeply depressed – lying immobile on the bed or couch – that the mere thought of moving, let alone actually exercising, made me want to cry. My daughter, Karrie, who was a nursing student at the time, took it upon herself to “force” me to do exercises with her in the basement each day. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Later, my younger daughter, Tami, and my husband, Rob, took over as faithful exercise buddies.
Having someone to work out with made a huge difference. I highly recommend it.
Get your endorphins flowing!
If you find you can’t summon the energy to do vigorous cardio exercise, just start with some gentle stretching or beginner yoga poses. Anything to get your body moving, and the fluid in your inner ear swirling again! Let’s get those endorphins flowing! Although there are obviously no miracle cures for depression, I guarantee you’ll feel better after the physical effort than you did before. Just the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel from having pushed yourself to exercise will surely lift your mood a bit.
Different types of exercise for different moods
When I was manic, I favoured relaxing and soothing forms of exercise like yoga, stretching, or a slow, mindful walk outside or on the treadmill. I was consciously trying to slow and calm myself down. On the other hand, when depressed I tried to do more upbeat, vigorous cardio exercise, to speed myself up and try to “chase” the depression out of my system.
As I say in my memoir, Mad Like Me: Travels in Bipolar Country: For depression prevention, you can’t beat regular exercise. Brisk walks. Karate. Ballet. Hockey. Yoga. Tennis. Whatever works for you. As the ad says: “Just do it.”
To your health,