Using exercise to heal

person standing infront of waterfall with rainbow

Apologies for my lack of recent blog posts.

The last month of my life has been heartbreaking to say the least and I would have felt inappropriate writing about something trivial during this tragic time. I’ve been debating channeling all of my feelings into a blog post, but honestly I will never find the right words to express what has happened, nor would I be happy about sharing it with the world. Maybe I will feel differently in a few months, but right now I choose to keep it private.

However, this blog has always served as an outlet for my emotions. Although I have never used it to delve into a darker side of my life, I have always found writing cathartic, even if it’s just by making sense of words written down on a page. Writing helps me to become present in the moment and puts the brakes on my troubles for the time being.

What I really wanted to write about today is how exercise can help you when you feel down. (TW: I’m talking about depression and anxiety) I’m actually surprised I haven’t written this post before, because I have used exercise as a healing process for quite a while now. Like many other people, I suffer from anxiety and have been through depression in the past. These kind of conditions are very personal, but I truly believe exercise is one of the best coping strategies and now whenever I face something difficult in my life, I will always turn to exercise. This is just my experience, I really don’t want to preach or make anyone feel bad about not exercising, but I wanted to share my story with you anyway.

My hope for this blog post is to help people who are struggling with something in their lives, and more selfishly, take my own advice and use exercise to help me through my own struggles. 

It wasn’t always this way, I used to have a terrible relationship with exercise. When I was growing up I was never a sporty kid and I didn’t come from a sporty family. At school I hated PE, I felt like it was two hours of torture. I couldn’t throw, couldn’t catch, could barely run and don’t even get me started on badminton (‘You can’t even do that?! It’s so easy, anyone can play badminton!’) Sometimes it makes me laugh imagining my old PE teacher finding this blog, she would be astonished, because I was the least sporty person ever. Shout-out to Mrs Walsh if you are reading!

It’s frustrating that during school, when my problems with anxiety started, I turned my back on exercise, when I now know that it could have eased my anxiety. Why am I telling you this? Because it demonstrates how amazing exercise is! I am not a sporty person, I hated it at school, but I LOVE it now and it makes me feel happy. So don’t worry, because there probably is a type of exercise out there for everyone, you just have to find what works for you.

Back to my story….

It wasn’t until I joined the gym 3 years ago that I discovered that exercise could be therapeutic. I joined the gym in my third year of uni, during the course of the year a lot of things happened and before I knew it I had sunk into deep depression. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing and I wouldn’t admit I had depression until it was almost too late. I didn’t start taking medication for about another year, but during that time I continued to exercise frequently. Exercising was the only time in the day where I felt free and happy, the endorphins elevated me and I could see clearly, even if it was only temporarily. I loved going to the gym, I went every morning as a way to set myself up for a good day. Exercise became part of my routine and the happy hormones that followed it were my medication.

It took me a while to recover from depression and I still take everyday as it comes, making sure I keep my eyes peeled for any warning signs that I could relapse. Since then, I have vowed that I will always exercise because I know how beneficial it is for my mind and body. In the past few months I have been trying really hard to embrace body positivity and only exercise because I enjoy doing and to keep myself healthy on the inside, instead of focusing on how it makes me look, and this is something I hope to stick by. I have never used exercise as a punishment because I have always enjoyed doing it, and I hope to inspire others to think of it in the same way.

Back to the present moment. Exercise is playing a huge role in helping me cope with what has happened. It provides me with a routine and something to focus on for a couple of hours.

Things are not getting easier, but I know that exercise will help me to deal with my emotions. I am finding lifting weights and running particularly cathartic. I have not practised yoga in a while but I am hoping to add it into my exercise schedule soon, possibly a quick practise before bed or first thing in the morning. Swimming is also becoming one of my favourites, there’s something soothing about being in the water, like a little baby in the womb.

I really hope I don’t sound patronising (or weird, come on, baby in the womb really?) It’s easy for me to bang on about the benefits of exercise because I know it makes ME feel better. I’ve had first hand experience of the positive impact it has had during dark times in my life. But it’s not my place to force people to exercise, because you need to decide that for yourselves and develop a love of it through personal experience. Sometimes you just aren’t ready to take that leap (pun intended) and that’s fine too.

This is a crazily long post but I just wanted to get it off my chest and communicate with the blogging world once again. Take care of yourselves, show yourself and everyone around you some love and stay positive.

Hannah x