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Exercise and Mood

Ever feel so overwhelmed that you don’t know whether to scream or cry? Welcome to life as a woman in 2021. I have always felt stressed and overworked, but lately it has taken on epic proportions. I barely stop moving; seriously. Between housework, my career, taking care of my family and working on my own personal projects, I am constantly going, going, going. I crawl into bed exhausted, and get up and do it all over again. Sometimes I dream about a time when my to-do list won’t have anything on it, and I hear a voice saying, “That will never happen.” As I am writing this I realize what a negative and self-deprecating thought that is, but I can’t deny it is floating around in my brain. It feels as if things will never slow down, and that is not a healthy way to live.

I know I am not alone. My girlfriends have shared their own similar stories and feelings and it seems like most of us are in the same boat.

While feeling overwhelmed is not particularly out of the norm, life since Covid has increased this feeling in a big way.

Here’s a list of some of what I did yesterday: cleaned, drove my daughter to a tennis practice, worked, ordered groceries, helped out a friend, played with the dog, did more work, sent texts, made calls, walked the dog, made a doctor's appointment, and worked once again. Not to mention that I answered almost 26 texts that came in over the day and found the time to shove some food into my mouth.

By the time 6pm arrived I was ready to cry. I could feel it coming on and although feeling that didn’t bother me, the stress and strain was so intense I felt like I was going to explode. I could see myself lashing out at my husband or daughter, or falling to the ground and feeling sorry for myself or my favorite: getting out a pint of ice cream and eating my way to temporary comfort.

In the end I did the right thing: I put my daughter and her friend in charge of making dinner, put my headphones on and walked out the front door. When I returned from my walk I felt so much better and in the headspace to tackle whatever might come my way. I may not know much but I know that when I’m feeling low, exercise is a lifesaver. I have been doing a lot of walking since Covid started. While I used to be an avid runner, my knees can’t hold out anymore. In the past year I’ve come to discover how much I like to speed-walk. In many ways it takes even more energy out of me than simply running, and my knees don’t complain. Even during the winter I kept up my walking routine and it was great for my mind and body. I’m proud to say that rain and/or snow hasn’t stopped me. There is something soothing about hitting the pavement, taking in nature and giving myself some room to look at my thoughts. When I walk I sometimes listen to a talk on mental health or music that I love...anything to stop the habitual negative self-talk tapes in my head.

I believe that moving your body is one of the best things you can do when you are stressed out. Experts agree that moving your body can improve your mental health. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, “The benefits of exercise may well extend beyond stress relief to improving anxiety and related disorders. Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Some studies show that exercise can work quickly to elevate a depressed mood in many people. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache.”

I implore you to find some time in your day to squeeze in a walk, particularly when you are feeling down or overwhelmed. Even just walking around the corner will provide you with a break from your habitual thoughts and feelings. It’s the perfect way to interrupt negative habits and give yourself a chance to detach yourself from them. In essence, walking is a free and easy way to let off some steam.

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