I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been really noticing the positive effects of exercise on my mood and energy level these past few months. I’m not knocking yoga or a good power walk, but it’s the days where I get some good cardio in and really sweat that seem to make the biggest difference. This is not new information in the world of anxiety and health, but it’s interesting how difficult it is to prioritize self care.
Between taking care of three children and getting a second wind around 10pm, I can find lots of reasons to turn my alarm off at 6am. Frequently my husband and I will say to each other, “Ok, this is the week we’re going to bed by 10:30pm and getting up early!” Signing up for a couple triathlons this summer certainly helped get me up in the morning, but my motivation can dwindle when race season is complete and daylight grows shorter. When I’m tired and not exercising, the world seems more overwhelming and my wheels spin.
This week, I’ve made a new pact with my husband to go to bed by 11pm-ish and I’ve gotten up the past five mornings to exercise. Depending on how much time I have, I’m doing a mix of running a faster 2-3 miles (a 10 minute mile is speedy for me); a favorite 20 minute video; swimming; and biking with a friend on the weekends. Even a little dance break in the day can help my body and brain play nice.
What’s changed? I had to sit myself down during the daytime hours and say, “Look, girl, this is good for you & it makes you feel so much better! You are not going to find time to exercise after 7am. Now get your butt to bed! Whatever still needs doing can wait until tomorrow!” Again, while exercise and enough sleep does not make anxiety go away for me, it helps make it more manageable by using up some of that super-power adrenaline and starting each day with a more rested brain.
Will I be singing a different tune, next week? Perhaps, but accountability is a good motivator, too! What effect does enough sleep and exercise have on your mental health and outlook? What’s working for you?
Sometimes, nothing works better to shake up all those stuck emotions than getting up and dancing to your favorite music. Dr. James Gordon uses dancing as one of his techniques to help people with depression become Unstuck. Why not give it a try? Now, you may remember that I have a special place in my heart for Stevie Wonder . . . seeing how he was really there for me during postpartum. So, we’ve gotta start with some Stevie on this first Wonder Wednesday. If you’re self conscious, wait until you’re alone; close that office door; or better yet, invite people to come dance with you! At our house, dance parties can happen just about anywhere. Come on now, turn it up and start moving!
Ok, so I’ve been a bit slow with writing lately. But when my lovely friend Patience mentioned me in her PBS Supersisters Blog (which you should check out if you haven’t already), I knew it was time to start carving out more time. If you have a moment, scroll down to the post on How Stevie Wonder Helped Me Get Through Postpartum and listen to two songs that always got me up and dancing. I bet you can’t listen with out getting up and shaking your booty – well, at least tapping your toes. Enjoy!
I remember sitting on the kitchen floor talking with my husband and brother, who was visiting from out of town, when “Uptight (everything’s alright) came on with that amazing horn section. It was like something switched on in my body & I couldn’t help but get up and dance.
I had pretty normal postpartums with my other children. So, I was surprised when postpartum was harder after my third baby – especially since she was a dream child. I felt overwhelmed and in my head way too much. I experienced my first ever bout of depression and my anxiety skyrocketed. For about a month I cried a lot, had panic attacks at night and wondered when I would feel like myself again. Feeling connected to my kids was never an issue – if anything, I felt like a Mama Bear, hypervigilant & wanting fiercely to protect my young. But I worried about what was happening to me. I worried about the kind of world I had brought them into. And, I wanted an off switch for my brain. The harder I tried to think my way out of this funk and sleep deprivation, the worse it got.
Dancing with Stevie became a family affair & helped get me out of my head & into my body. Many mornings, I’d set the alarm clock to wake us up to this music. At 7 o’clock the horns would begin, and even if I woke up feeling off, my legs would start twitching to move and I would get myself up to dance. Slowly the other sleepy heads who had made their way into our bed in the wee hours would begin dancing, too, and it was a party. My 6 yr. old always wanted to hear Signed Sealed Delivered & we would shout out the lyrics as we swung around the room.
As I look back on that time, now, I still remember how scary that unfamiliar emotional terrain felt. But, there were also many gifts in the challenge. Times that take you to your knees can be catalysts for opening, positive change, and surrender. Each child, it seems, helps loosen our grip on control and frees us to live more fully in the moment. And, I’ll always have fond memories of all of us dancing like crazy – the morning sun reaching in, touching us all with its golden light, inviting us to reach for higher ground.