This morning I got up at 5:30am. Oh yes, you read that correctly 5:30am!
Why you ask? I went to the gym. I wish I could go in the evenings, but it fires me up too much and I struggle to sleep. Plus, it’s so busy after work and fighting for a treadmill with the local yummy mummies can be quite scary. Mainly because they could easily batter me… and they have all the fancy gear. I normally run in an old t’shirt and beach shorts. Sexy.
Walking up my street in the cold wasn’t pleasant, but it was ok once I got to the train station. Plus I was completely prepared (I wore my giant ear muffs) ain’t no icy windy getting through those bad boys.
Once at the gym I felt great. I did 30 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes of weights. It’s amazing what wonders exercise can do for stress and tension. If you don’t like the gym that’s fine, maybe go for a run or take up skipping? Anything that gets your heart pumping. *Disclaimer; always seek a doctor’s approval first, particularly if you suffer from a heart condition*
First piece of advice; If you’re not a used to exercise then I would highly recommend being patient and building yourself up slowly. Don’t expect to climb on a treadmill and suddenly transform into Mo Farrow, (even if you have those expensive Nike trainers.. it isn’t going to happen.) It’s much better to start slow and build yourself up over the weeks. For example, Today I ran for 6 minutes and walked for 14. On Thursday I plan to run for 7 minutes and walk 13. BOOM!
Second piece of advice; Prepare an amazing music playlist in advance. In my experience, exercise is 50% mental and 50% physical. If your brain is distracted and you’re enjoying a song then you’re more likely to feel positive and keep going. For example; Katy Perry – Roar, Chvrches – Lies and David Guette – Titanium were all on my playlist today and I was working it!
Third piece of advice; Eat enough food to sustain you. The last thing you want is to fall on your face because you didn’t eat enough (certainly not very Mo Farrow.) I usually go for carbohydrates and eat at least 45 minutes before I get there. FYI – I’ve recently discovered brown toast, with peanut butter and sliced bananas. YUM!
When I’d finished pumping iron I headed to the changing rooms. Fortunately they were empty, I normally run into someone naked who’s oiling themselves up (always awkward.) Just put some knickers on, why is that so difficult?! I need someone to explain this concept to me. Feeling comfortable with your body is wonderful and I’m really not bothered about being exposed to a bit of nip… but I do prefer the ‘nether regions’ to remain out of my eyesight!
Anyway, as I was traveling to work I started thinking about people and the lack of effort we make when improving our lives. (I know, a bit deep for 8:15! But I had some time to kill whilst being pressed against the doors on the tube. Ohhh it was busy today!)
For instance, I know for a fact that exercise helps my anxiety so why do I never want to do it? Why do I let it get to the point where I’m waking up with cramps because my muscle tension is so bad? Laziness I expect, I need to get into a routine again.
Another example is CBT. Although the ‘though chart’ exercises help, I haven’t done one in ages. I have all the information that I need, but it’s just sat in my draw. This one I can understand better, it’s two reasons mainly:
- I don’t want to acknowledge that anything is happening. It frightens me, so I don’t like to even think about it. Plus, what if I do the exercise and it doesn’t work?! Then I’ll really be lost. These are the kind of tricks that anxiety has in its pocket and I’m not ashamed to say that I still fall for them now and again.
- When done properly a CBT exercise can take 20 minutes to do, which isn’t a lot in theory. But when I get home from work I reeeeeeally can’t be bothered!
Both of my above excuses are frustrating to read because I’m only hurting myself. Anxiety makes it so easy for you to curl up with and if it had a voice it’d probably say;
- You’re tired, don’t go to the gym. Stay in front of the TV and relax – even though I’ll only make you feel guilty for it.
- Maybe if you just ignore everything then it might not flare up tonight? – I have no intention of giving you any peace.
- Don’t do any CBT, it’s too time consuming and might not even work – stay here trapped with me.
So in my opinion, this is just a case of spotting ‘unhelpful thoughts’ and making a responsible decision. Don’t criticise yourself for having said thoughts, as you can’t help it. How do you argue with your own brain?! Instead, feel pleased that you spotted them and act accordingly.
Realistically we can’t be proactive all of the time and some nights you really will just want to lie on the sofa or have drinks with friends… and so you should! However, if you suffer from anxiety then you need to make time each week to do things that will help.
On the other hand, I think a lot of therapists set unrealistic goals when deciding how much time you should spend on ‘self help.’ I appreciate that CBT results are 100% related to what you ‘put in,’ so a solid effort is required. However, my therapist advised that I dedicate 3 hours a week, which I think is too much. Everyone is different and obviously feel free to set your own goals, but 1 hour a week is a more likely target for me and I can spread this over 3 mornings (20 minutes each time.) In regards to the gym I intend to start off with 2 mornings a week and work up to 3. Expecting myself to go more than this is unrealistic.
So there you have it.. don’t be a lazy arse! Spend at least 1 hour a week doing activities or exercises that will help your anxiety and I promise to do the same.