Exercise doesn’t help my depression. I may very well be the minority, but I have never, not once, felt better after exercising. I know that exercising releases endorphins, which tells your brain “Oh hey, I feel good,” but maybe my brain misses the memo. Or maybe the endorphins that are released just isn’t enough for me to be able to tell a difference.
An extremely common piece of advice that counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists give to those of us with a mental illness or disorder is to get some exercise. “Go for a nice walk.” I’m sure some of them mean well, and the rest of them say it because it’s what they’re supposed to say.
That advice just isn’t helpful to me. From what I’ve been reading on Twitter, I’m not the only one who has the same opinion.
Exercise doesn’t help my depression
I’ve tried to exercise numerous times. Taking a “nice walk” outside has never worked out for me. Not only do I hate warm weather, but I also hate bugs. Especially ones with stingers, which usually flew near me during Spring or Summer. My anxiety also got in the way. Could everyone see how miserable and out of breath I was? Could they see how drenched in sweat I was? Were they laughing at the sight of my double chin and fat rolls jiggling?
Exercising in a gym was no better. I purchased a gym membership for only $1.00. That’s a steal, right? If you enjoy the gym, sure, but I didn’t. Anxiety got the best of me again. Were people staring? Could the people near me hear how out of breath I was? Were they thinking I was gross and disgusting?
I bought a treadmill a few years ago. Surely that would solve my anxiety problem, right? I could sweat and jiggle in peace. Hell no. I couldn’t even bring myself to exercise in front of my husband because I was so embarrassed.
That is the hell that is anxiety. I’m extremely self-conscious about my weight. I know that exercising will help me lose weight, but my anxiety gets in the way of that. That, in turn, makes my anxiety worse. It’s a vicious, exhausting cycle.
Anxiety wasn’t the only thing I dealt with, though. Exercise never helped me feel better mentally or physically when I was depressed. When I even mustered up enough energy to exercise, which was rarely, I felt nothing but exhausted, hot, and sweaty afterwards. Then comes the feeling of failure. “I couldn’t even go on a 15 minute walk? I’m pathetic.” In severe cases, that could bring on or contribute to suicidal thoughts.
What I find helpful (instead of exercise)
I have found that writing in my journal helps a lot. Maybe not right in that moment, but after I finish writing down a few pages of my innermost thoughts and feelings, I start to feel better.
Doing crafts also helps. I recently started making dream catchers (Etsy shop coming soon!), and I also plan to pick up crocheting again.
We are all different. Exercise is good for us, and I’m not attempting to dispute that. However, for some of us, it’s not necessarily the best thing for us when we’re experiencing a depressive episode. And that’s okay. What works for one person will not always work for someone else.
You might can relate to me. If exercising doesn’t work for you, explore different mediums or hobbies that entertain you or make you happy. Don’t force yourself to do something that could potentially make things worse.
What do you like to do to distract yourself or make yourself happy? Does exercising help you, or can you relate to me in that it doesn’t really help you? Please let me know in the comments!