I got diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression around 4 years ago. The first few years were chaos, but I’m happy to say that I’m healthy and thriving after putting in the work, facing the baggage and getting the help I needed. I never thought I would truthfully be able to say those words, and it feels SO good.
One of the greatest battles of PTSD (many mental illness/injuries) is being controlled by our emotions. It’s so important to feel them, cope with them and deal with them… It’s also so important to realize emotions are always real, but not always true.
Let that sink in.
The shame you feel? It’s real.
The belief that you are worthless and not worth loving? Not true.
Feeling rejected? It doesn’t actually mean you got rejected.
Feeling scared? It doesn’t mean what you fear is happening or will even happen.
I have to regulate my emotions 24/7, and one of my greatest tools is fitness. I don’t do huge workouts every single day. I do about 20 minutes of intense cardio/HIIT at least 4 times a week. Right now I have a subscription with Beach Body on Demand, and I am doing Transform:20 with Shaun T.
I wanted to give a little list of the significant ways it helps me.
- Discipline. I like to do my workouts in the morning, because it gets my mind in a positive space right away. It takes me from auto-pilot and makes me focus on rational/practical fact. It starts my day out on a self-empowered note, leaves me so energetic and confident for the day! I get way more done, feel like I have a greater purpose and get out of a funk instantly.
- Choice. It teaches me to choose my actions, regardless of my emotions. I often don’t “feel” like working out. I procrastinate getting out of bed, because I don’t feel like dying through a workout. (I am not your natural fitness girl who gets addicted to it out of pure love. It’s the greatest love-hate relationship you’ll ever see.)
So it teaches me to choose my actions, even if my emotions aren’t quite there. This helps in dealing with triggers or urges that aren’t healthy. You learn to say no, follow through, cope and come out the other side.
- Self-care. I am a workaholic, a people-pleaser and often feel anxious when trying to sit still. Therefore, self-care is SO easy for me to push to the side. Making the choice to invest in myself with a quick workout, and then do all the other stuff/see all the people? It makes me feel strong, self-validated and boosts my self-esteem. Plants need to be cared for & watered otherwise they suffer. You need to be cared for too, and the greatest way of doing that is practicing self-care.
- It gets my heart rate up, and keeps it up for 15/20 minutes. I often wake up feeling anxious, which can really draining. Working out hard enough to get my heart rate up seems to reset my system, and bring me to solid ground. This is also a “distress tolerance” skill in DBT.
- Listen. Fitness helps me get inside my body. I begin to feel the muscles coming alive, I feel when I need a small break, I feel when I need water. Sometimes, especially when I have my period, my body simply tells me to rest. Sometimes my anxiety will try and convince me to procrastinate, and my body tell me it’s ready and needs the workout. Fitness helps me listen, and therefore my gut instincts get stronger and more reliable.
There’s my list. Start where you are. When I first began working out consistently, I could hardly do 5 pushups. I did 40 today. Be patient, be invested in your journey and choose you.
Also, I know fitness isn’t for everyone? What helps you be your best self?