Don’t you just love the one-two punch of depression making you not want to do anything and anxiety making you obsess about the things you’re not doing?
Science shows that thirty minutes of exercise three times a week is an effective tool in managing depression and anxiety. (Source, Another Source, Another Source) But on days when you’re finding it almost impossible to get out of bed, the idea of a working out is daunting at best.
Here are five simple things you can do to beat back the depression monster.
1. Put on your Exercise Clothes and Drink some Water
Depression, for me, tends to turn planning anything into staging the attack on the Death Star. It’s big, it’s daunting, and I’m probably going to fail, so why even bother. Hey look, Parks and Rec is on… all of my executive functioning has gone straight out the window.
This is the time that you have to remind yourself that nothing happens all at once, and every process has a first step.
This is the point where you tell yourself you don’t even have to work out, all you have to do is put on some workout clothes and have some water. Even if you don’t get around to exercising, you’ve got yourself some hydration and a fresh change of clothes which are key elements of s
2. Commit to 10 Minutes
Okay. Eventually, you’re going to hit the point where it feels super silly to be sitting around in exercise clothes and not actually exercise. Still, thirty minutes feels like a long way away and that is way too much of a commitment right now.
Ten minutes is 0.7% of your day – which leaves 99.3% left for sleeping (which honestly sounds awesome to me right now.) A little bit of physical activity is better than no physical activity. At ten minutes, if you want to stop, give yourself permission to stop.
Remember, if you stop at ten minutes you have not failed. You did ten minutes more than zero, and that is awesome.
Sneaky tip: It takes about five to ten minutes for your body to make all the physical switches from a sedentary state to an active one.
At that point, you may want to keep going.
And again, even if you choose to stop at ten, you’ve increased the flow of oxygen around your body, your muscles and ligaments are looser, and your body should be feeling better than before.
3. Go for a Walk
Chances are this is not the first place you’ve come for fitness information, so you may have heard about HIIT – high-intensity interval training which promotes short bursts of maximal effort. HIIT has a slightly lesser known cousin called LISS – Low-Intensity Steady State exercise and it is just as important to your health.
Walking may not seem like “bad ass superhero” exercise, but it’s one of the best, simplest, cheapest forms of exercise out there. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise so it’s going to strengthen your bones and your muscles, which are pretty critical to being alive. It has a low risk of injury but still improves your aerobic fitness.
Also, going out for a walk will give you a change of scenery. That gives you a chance to break the monotony that depression feeds on. Sunshine and fresh air can also play a big part in improving mood and decreasing anxiety.
RECOMMENDED READING: I Have Depression and I’m Running the Spartan Super
4. Have a Go-To Routine Prepared
Whether you’re at the gym or at home (and let’s face it, depression loves for you to stay at home) if you don’t know what workout you’re going to do, you probably won’t be working out at all.
Have a couple of workout printables on hand, use a fitness app, stream a workout. Planning ahead will remove the guess work. Then you don’t have to plan. You just have to do.
When depression’s getting the upper hand, my executive functions go right out the window. That makes coming up with a plan all but impossible. Those are usually the days I’ll pull up a Beachbody video instead of hitting the gym.
If you want some ideas, check out my pinterest board for short on time workouts!
5. Treat it like your Meds
My lives Cymbalta by my bed so that I remember to take it every morning when I wake up. It’s just part of my daily routine to manage my mental health.
While I don’t work out every day (rest IS part of the program!) I have to approach exercise and eating well with the same mentality.
I do this to manage my symptoms.
If I don’t workout out I feel like crap.
If I feel like crap, I eat like crap.
If I eat like crap then I hate myself.
If I hate myself, I don’t work out.
See how vicious this cycle is?
Sometimes, I think of depression and anxiety as viruses – they want to thrive. They want to survive. They do not want you, the host, to do anything that would hurt them. Which is why depression and anxiety don’t want you to grab that thirty-minute workout.
It is thirty minutes less that depression and anxiety run your life.
Is a mile walk or a single cardio dance video going to cure your mental illness? Of course not. But it is how you take your life back.
That is when you become your own hero and you work on saving yourself.
Now, I want to hear your go-to’s for fighting back when depression is kicking your ass? How do you get yourself going when you don’t want to get out of bed?
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