As I mentioned in an earlier post, shortly after my mom passed away, I used exercise as a coping mechanism. In those days I was in the best shape of my life, even though I was feeling my worst.
Now that my mood has relatively evened out, it has strangely been more difficult for me to find the motivation to exercise, even though I know how important it is for not only for my physical health but especially for my mood. Exercise is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of self-care for someone with anxiety/depression, but it’s something that we easily overlook.
For a while I was running regularly, but after a severe ankle sprain that kept me from being able to run for over 6 months, running hasn’t had the same hold over me that it once did. I was also getting bored of the yoga classes I’d been enrolled in for over a year (which sometimes felt more like people were trying to show off than workout) so I ended up cancelling my membership. It was time to find something new…
Recently I came across an article about how Emma Watson works out–a 30 minute workout composed of 3 S’s: stretching, strength, and stillness. There weren’t many other details in the particular article I read, but the relatively short time period combined with the components of stretching, strength, and stillness seemed perfect for someone with a mood disorder like me. For the stretching I could incorporate parts of yoga, a known stress-reliever. For strength I could get my muscles moving and cardio going–an important endorphin releaser. And for stillness, I could do some meditation that my therapists are always recommending but I always “forget” to make time for. I modified the original a bit, but let me tell you– I now actually look forward to working out. Below I will detail my modified version. You can find Emma’s exact workout here.
Step 1: Stretch
I set a timer for 11 minutes, turn on some music, and begin stretching. Usually I just stretch whatever areas feel tight. It’s a good way to get your body moving by slowly easing it into working out. Once you start, your motivation increases to get you ready for the strength part of the workout. Plus, as we all know, it’s good to stretch before working out! Here are some of the stretching moves I do, largely stolen from yoga classes 😉 :
Step 2: Strength
Here I alternate between arms, legs, and abs. I set my timer for 10 minutes and do 30 reps of each exercise. Even though it’s a short amount of exercise, I’ve been sore the next day after most of these workouts. The best part is you can modify it however you want in terms of speed, reps, and even the types of exercises. Here are some of the exercises I currently mix and match:
- “Fire hydrants” (straight leg and bent leg)
- Lunge jumps
- Side lunges
- Curtsy lunges
- Plie squats
- Calf raises
- Modified pushups
- Mountain climbers
- Hand stand kick ups
- Tricep dips on a bench
- Arm circles
Step 3: Stillness*
This part for me is key. As someone with anxiety, I tend to worry about problems that don’t even exist, or about problems that do exist but are magnified in my brain. I’ve been told by many a therapist to try mindful meditation. However, it’s VERY hard to find time to meditate, even though it’s so important. Usually by this point in the workout, a rest is welcome 🙂 So it’s actually the perfect time to meditate!
I have an app on my phone for meditation that I love called Insight Timer. It’s free and you can find it in the App Store on your phone. It allows you the option of selecting guided meditations of several different categories and lengths. At this step of the workout, I’ll choose a guided meditation around 10 minutes long, or I’ll use the timer feature that you can set to however long you’d like, and it plays a calm bell sound (you also have the option of a wood block) when you start and end your meditation. For those of you new to meditation I recommend the guided meditations to start.
*Sometimes I skip this step in the moment but then make sure to find time for it once I get home to a quieter setting.
Step 4: Run
I added in this last step because although there is some cardio in Step 2, I really benefit from a cardio-intensive workout. I set an alarm for 10 minutes and run until the alarm goes off. Sometimes I do my workouts on a grassy hill, and hill running has never been my forte, so sometimes I don’t make it the full 10 minutes. However, I take whatever time I have left to cool down with a walk, and I’m sure the benefits are still there.
So, that concludes my workout, based on Emma Watson’s! I’m not kidding when I say I truly look forward to it. I feel accomplished when I finish and it doesn’t even feel like too much work. Yet I’ve seen huge results in my mood, my energy levels, and even my body! I’m hoping to increase the duration of my workouts eventually, especially the running portion, but I’ve learned to be easy on myself until I feel ready to kick it up a notch.
As someone who lives in beautiful San Diego, I’m lucky that I can do these workouts outside and get the added benefit of some vitamin D from the sun. Also, a beautiful or calming place really helps motivate me to want to go there. I highly recommend doing this outside whenever possible, but I know not everyone is able to do that. It can easily be done inside, in a gym or even in your own home, and you can always skip the run and/or replace it with something that works better for you!