I’ve never defined myself as sporty or athletic, I’m a control freak who likes certainty. If you’d told me 15 years ago that I’d leave a well-paid job to run my own business supporting women to love their bodies and lift there mood through movement, I wouldn’t have believed a word of it.
A Journey of Discovery.
After experiencing a life defining bereavement in my mid 20’s, it felt like nothing would ever be the same again. Attempting to get on with daily life and distract myself from the grief wasn’t working. As a mental health professional, I felt that I “should” know how to deal with it. After 3 years of ignoring my grief I was an anxious mess – velcro’d to the couch and letting daytime TV wash over me. It felt like I’d failed at getting to work and holding it together. I thought that after 3 years I should have “let it go”.
Tired, obese, anxious and down, it became obvious that I needed to break the cycle I was stuck in, so I made it my daily goal to walk to the end of the road to the post-box. The post-box became a destination to walk to, and even though I had nothing to post I’d do a 180 degree turn to walk back.
I started moving a bit more each day, until eventually I walked to a local gym and signed up. This gave me a place to go to for an hour each day. As a result of going to the gym consistently something interesting happened. I started to gain more energy, my coordination improved, and found that down days were easier to manage – it was becoming easier to be self-compassionate.
Soon, I gained the confidence to go to gym classes and even made friends in those classes that I still have 10 years later. I experimented with an amazing range of different physical activity, some I hated, some I didn’t enjoy at the time but felt great afterwards, and some I loved. Life wasn’t ever the same after my loss but it was a life I loved and valued which brought me meaning.
8 Reasons to Give Exercise a Go.
I recommend letting go of any preconceived ideas you may have about moving your body during grief. It may not be easy, but if you give something a go, you may experience the following benefits:
• Low intensity exercise reduces the stress hormone cortisol.
• The body can’t tell the difference between a mental stress and a physical one. Exercise improves our recovery heart rate. Each time we recover from a physical stress it gives our body practice at recovering from mental stress.
• It’s also shown to improve our heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is an indicator of our vagal tone and enables us to access our “rest and digest” relaxation state. Find out more about vagal tone in exhale on exertion.
• Being active gives us routine and structure.
• It’ll improve self-esteem and show you just how resilient and adaptable your body is.
• The NHS has shown exercise to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression, so much so, that it is recommended as best practice.
• Exercise provides proprioceptive input (feedback as to where your body is in space.) This is neurologically calming.
• Group exercise helps you connect with people and reduce loneliness.
If you are experiencing barriers in getting started, have a look through my suggestions.
Sarah is an Occupational Therapist and personal trainer who is passionate about helping people flourish. She is always happy to be contacted on Facebook if you want to find out more.