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Exercise Helps Depression

How the Gym Saved Me From My Depression

The past year has tested every part of my being and reached into just about every corner of my world. Whether it was work, my divorce, or parenthood, this year has been a marathon of events in which the bottom line always required that I just keep on running . . . or swimming. Depends on your sport of choice. Wink.

I was moving. I was dealing with a difficult person. A child undergoing many changes. Job changes. Health issues. Money issues. It felt like once one thing had resolved, another major issue was waiting for me right on deck. There were certain times in which I was so stressed, eating was almost impossible. My stomach decided to take on all of my stresses for my brain, and I just wasn't myself.

I wondered quite a few times why this was happening. But as time has gone on, I have realized that no matter the reason, I am getting stronger and tougher, mentally and physically.

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After my Summer of "no food," I finally felt well enough and looked to the gym with open arms; it was like I was reuniting with a lover. The gym had always been a great source of stress relief and fun for me, and so I was looking forward to getting back to "picking things up and putting things down."

It wasn't just that working out helped increase those happy, feel-good hormones in my mind. It wasn't just that being able to do real push-ups for the first time in my life got me into shape.

The gym saved me from succumbing to depression. It kept me from giving up.

Even when I couldn't look at my bank account without thinking, "How am I going to make this month?," I could go in the gym and do squats on the BOSU and side planks with hip dips.

Even when it felt as if I knew nobody in my town where my daughter and I had moved to, I knew how to reverse lunge with a medicine ball like no other.

Even when I felt as if neither my daughter nor myself would adjust to our move, I could learn to do plank with back rows and triceps kickbacks.

Even if I had no Saturday night date or no fun Sunday plans while my daughter was off with her dad, I had a date to run three miles. I had a date to make a HIIT class.

Although I may have felt alone and powerless to change many of the things that upset me in my life, I could change how my body felt and looked. I could go from just doing simple bicep curls to doing bicep curls to a shoulder press on a BOSU, like that. I could go from planking for 30 seconds to a full minute.

I didn't have the power to change all of my circumstances, but at the gym, I had the power to change just about anything and everything.

I had the power to change my body . . . and my brain. My outlook.

The gym . . . my workouts . . . they were and, in many ways, are the one place in which I can call the shots totally and reap all the benefits.

In addition to ballet, having one place in which I could just walk away from my stresses and worries helped me to believe that even when things are very bad, they don't last forever. That tough times make for tough people. That this too shall pass. That there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That I can do anything, even burpees (my utterly least favorite exercise), for 30 seconds and counting. That the pain won't last forever, but the rewards of my hard work, perseverance, and dedication to making things better will last with me for a lifetime.

That these rewards are also my daughter's rewards. That my daughter has seen how her mom commits to her health. When she asked me one day why I wanted to go to the gym in the first place, I told her simply, "Mom feels better when she exercises. It makes my brain, body, and heart happy."

"That's good Mommy," she smiled.

Showing her that her mom values caring for herself will pay off down the line.

A year later, she is happier and I am happier. And sometimes, we do squats together, and even burpees, but I never let on how much I really do hate those burpees.

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