How Becoming Physically Active Made Me More Mentally Fit
As someone who helps people maintain their mental health, it is essential that I also remain mentally fit. When my clients feel like giving up I have to always reassure them that there is light during their dark days. To be able to spread hope, I have to make sure I de-stress on a regular basis. Vacations and girls nights out are always nice, but I choose to relieve tension at the gym. Four nights out of the week I sweat it out for at least 45 minutes to an hour at the nearest Blink Fitness.
After I run a few miles or do some high intensity interval training, I feel energized not only physically, but mentally. According to research, exercise is linked to having a better mood overall and alleviating symptoms of long-term depression. Due to me working as therapist, it’s crucial that my mood remains in a good place. Being active is more than just a pastime for me. It helps me keep my mind clear so I can maintain balance between the work place and my personal life.
Being active helped to boost my confidence as well; I was surprised at my own determination. Before I started my weight loss journey, I had never committed to anything so seriously besides college. Throughout the ups and downs of my academic and professional career I always made working out a priority, no matter what my schedule looked like. When the gym didn’t quite fit into my schedule, I grabbed my exercise mat and worked out with a Jillian Michaels DVD in my basement. When I became bored, I tried more challenging workouts or visited different group exercise classes. I didn’t give up or allow my rest days to turn into year-long sabbaticals. Cheat days didn’t become months of munching on junk food. I even tried two-a-days at one point. I used to tell my friends that I wanted to lose weight but to actually see myself doing it consistently and see results made me feel proud of myself.
Therapists gets angry too sometimes. It’s not easy to see people rejected by loved ones, learn that my clients experience intense bullying, be greeted on the phone with screams from not-so understanding parents about their rebellious teenagers or attempts trying to manage a child who has poor listening skills and lacks self-control. When my patience is running thin, I can’t tell the client because my feelings are not a focal point, so it’s important that I address them in a healthy way. Instead of pouring up the wine when my stress levels are high, I do some heart-pumping cardio. Whether I’m running on the treadmill or throwing my fists with some boxing moves, exercising helps me release my angry energy. As I’m working out, I’m processing my thoughts about whatever is bothering me and by the time I’m finished I’m able to reframe the situation as a learning experience and move on from it. Even when my personal life gets rocky, going to the gym helps me let off some steam so when I enter my office I’m refreshed.
When I weighed in at 245 pounds my junior year of college in 2010, I decided to cut out the carbs and candy and whip myself into shape. I had no idea about the mental health benefits of exercise. I wanted to be healthier and happier, but wasn’t sure about how to achieve the latter. I’m satisfied that I was not only able to be more fit but actually achieve a higher self-esteem and a more positive outlook on life in general. Now that being healthy is a part of my lifestyle, I look forward to going to the gym and trying new workouts and I feel accomplished every time I leave the gym or shed a pound.