From a young age, we are taught about the human anatomy. In fact, one of my earliest childhood memories is my primary school science class. I vividly remember sitting at my table incredibly excited that finally the day had come for my class to learn about the human body. I appreciate at this point in the post you may have the impression that I was some young, eager intellect, let me assure you, this was not the case. The main reason I sat, wound up like a giddy coil about the anatomy class was, as part of my teachers attempt to engage us in the subject we got to play….
Does anyone remember that epic game?
I mean, in retrospect, I wonder how appropriate it actually was for Mrs. Gregory to make nine year olds pull a middle aged mans penis out from his body in the name of anatomy but anywhoooo…
As we pulled out the defected pieces of our poorly patient, I remember raising my hand to ask Mrs. Gregory a question
“Misssssssss. I have pulled out all of his pieces. Why can’t I pull out his brain?”
Mrs Gregory answered and for some reason her response has forever stayed with me.
“Rebecca, the brain is far too important to be simply removed. The brain looks after everything from your fingers to your toes, your muscles, you feelings and your thoughts. If you didn’t have your brain, you simply wouldn’t work”
At the time, I remember being highly impressed with my brain and the amazing things that Mrs. Gregory said it could do. I thought about it a lot, I remember flexing my fingers and my toes and congratulating my brains achievements, I remember crying at the rather brutal ending of Homewood Bound (#nostalgia) and again feeling rather impressed that my brain was the reason I shed a tear, but the most vivid memory I possess was not just the feeling of admirability but of feeling rather worried (even as a child). I feared, that my brain, as Mrs. Gregory had said, would one day, just disappear. The thought of my brain simply failing to function meaning everything else would also cease to work, well, as I naive nine year old – it scared the heeby jeebies out of me!
Fast forward twenty years and the thought of ones brain simply failing to work is now no longer a silly childhood fear but at times a very harsh reality . As a person that has lived with anxiety for a long time, when I have suffered challenging bouts of the condition, it feels as though my logical brain has actually disappeared and everything has indeed followed suit and stopped working. What Mrs Gregory had said was true!
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that over recent years I have learned to manage my anxiety through different means and now (a little older than nine) I still find the brain incredibly fascinating but for very different reasons. As I mentioned, Mrs Gregory’s words stayed with me, a couple of them now more present than ever before…
“The brain looks after everything from your fingers to your toes, your muscles, you feelings and your thoughts”
She was right, it truly does. Our brains have a tough old job of taking care of everything that our bodies throw at it. Now as a nine year old, I merely assumed that the brain was so incredible it would just keep going, the reality is (a bit like the reality that brains can’t disappear) is that our wonderful brains need some tender loving care and all those muscles and limbs that it takes care of, well, they are actually just as powerful and can give a little back when our think tanks become overwhelmed.
I am, of course, talking about one of the major coping mechanisms I have come to love and has been key to managing my anxiety: EXERCISE.
Exercise has been one of the most prevalent activities in enabling me to manage my anxiety. This is not just situational but for the long term too! As such, I wanted to share some of my thoughts, experiences and tips to inform and guide you into something that will hopefully help you, like it helped me.
Why working out?
Look, no matter where you sit on the spectrum of fitness, there is no wrong way or wrong time to start helping better your mind through fitness. The main reason I initially started to focus on my fitness was not because I wanted to win medals, it was solely to do with how it made me feel. Fitness is truly living in the moment. As a person with anxiety, there is no better feeling than not pondering over the past or fretting over the future, being in that moment whether I am in a class, running, on my bike, I am in that moment and there isn’t an awful lot of time I get to feel that way.
The Endorphin High
Aside from the mindful benefits of enabling your brain to “live in the moment” it is scientifically proven that working out lifts your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, endorphins make you happy and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.
I mean, if you can’t trust the wise words of Elle Woods, who can you trust?
On a serious note, if you want to get into the real juicy detail around the science of how endorphins work get onto How Stuff Works and have a read or listen to the podcast, it’s super interesting and really showcases why our brains are so phenomenal.
Don’t worry if you can’t work out what works you out!
Did you go to the gym, completely confuse yourself with the machines and feel totally out of place? Or did you hit up that Zumba class and hide embarrassed at the back feeling uncoordinated? Or did you go out on a run and find yourself panting against a wall after ten minutes…
Don’t worry, it takes time to work out what you enjoy in the world of exercise. I have been to countless classes, joined gym after gym and tried (and failed) at so many hobbies. What works for me, could be a total dud for you, so take your time and find your passion.
Okay, maybe not as small as Carrie, but you know where I’m going.
If you are anything like me with your anxiety challenges, you will likely fear failure, so go in hard at most things. Or you could be on the total opposite end of the spectrum and your anxiety may hinder you getting out and about. However your anxiety effects you, I would advise starting small with your workout plan, try and avoid the desire to go in 100% initially so you don’t overwhelm yourself.
The little lull
As much as exercise has truly helped lift my mood, there have been a few occasions post work out where I have experienced a low feeling.
After panicking something was wrong (obviously), I did what every anxiety sufferer does and conducted an extensive internet search on my little lull. On this occasion, the search was a productive one and turned out, after a period of intense exercise, my body was experiencing low blood glucose levels. If you experience this, don’t panic (no pun), this is an extremely common side affect 24 hour after a particularly intense exercise sesh! The post-exercise hypoglycemia is often referred to as the “lag effect” and can be easily countered by ensuring you eat a sugary snack after your workout. So, my advice, stock up on apples and protein bars, the last thing we want is to feel sad.
Lastly… Enjoy, don’t over do!
If your work out plan starts to feel obsessive or, for whatever reason, stops making you happy, change it up or take it down a notch or two.
Remember, exercising is a mechanism to help your mental well being and that is how it should stay.
I hope you guys have enjoyed this read. Next week, as part of my fitness plan and exploring new ways to help improve my wellbeing, I will be writing a post about my experience trying a month of Veganism!
As always thanks for reading.