I Am A True Believer…

… in exercise as medicine for both Anxiety and Depression.  I have many friends who agree and many who disagree.  I think for those that disagree it is a matter of finding that 1 particular form of exercise that you absolutely LOVE.

It wasn’t easy for me to find it.  Let’s go back in time… back to my bout of Depression in 2008.  My daughter had just turned 2.  I was having a stressful time at work and once again I recognized my Depression symptoms just a tad too late.  My psychiatrist put me on Lexapro, the occasional Xanax and Trazodone for sleep.  The medication helped a great deal but I still had this constant sad or mopey feeling.
Enter my therapist (who I still see now).  He would constantly tell me to exercise.  Exercise releases endorphins or feel good chemicals.  I heard him loud and clear and even attempted some Nintendo Wii fitness.  I just didn’t love it.  I would schlep down to the basement to do 15 minutes 3 times a week to feel mildly better.  My therapist suggested hiking.   Hmmm…. hiking… I did live right up the street from a city owned park with many hiking trails.  Could I really do this?  One day in late fall, probably Thanksgiving weekend, I put on my sneakers and took a twirl around the white trail at the park.  The white trail circles Parks Pond and is about 1 mile in length.  At the end of the trail I felt… refreshed!  I felt rejuvenated!  This was just what I needed!  I finally found a form of exercise I enjoyed.
Then problem #1 hit… hello… it’s winter in Connecticut now.  How does one hike in the snow?!  Don’t worry, my therapist had a solution for that too… Snowshoeing.  Snowshoeing?!  Was he out of his mind.  I would fall over.  I’d look like and idiot.  Isn’t snowshoeing for older people?!  He said to try it.  The cost is minimal (just the price of snowshoes and poles) and the learning curve is very quick.  I was doubtful, but I did want to enjoy a sport in the winter that had me outside.  Being outside made me happy in itself.  So I had my husband buy me snowshoes for Christmas that year.  He spent all of $75 for the shoes, poles and carrying bag.  Like my therapist suggested, not a high cost sport.  I opened the snowshoes on Christmas.  I even tried them on…
…but it was a year before I actually took them outside.  The fear of me looking like an idiot plagued my brain.  So winter of 2009 came around.  We finally had a decent snowfall and after another year of talking with my therapist I finally had enough confidence to strap the snowshoes on and go out.  You know what… it was fantastic!!!  I actually enjoyed Snowshoeing more than Hiking!!!
There is this peacefulness when snowshoeing that isn’t quite there when hiking.  The peacefulness lies in the fact that most people do not venture outside when it snows.  Under that sun that first time producing a fresh trail with my snowshoes it was a rebirth.  I made these footprints.  I exist.  That year I went out snowshoeing probably about 10 times which was fantastic because the next 2 years did not produce enough snow.
Last year, my last snowshoe of the season was perfect and fell on my birthday.  It was a great end to that day.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still yearned to strap on the snowshoes but it was a nice way to say goodbye to the snowshoe season and hello to the spring hiking season.
With my Depression back this year, I had a very hard time pushing myself to exercise.  First off, I wasn’t eating enough for me to burn calories.  I was barely eating 1000 calories a day.  In addition, I mean after 6 bouts with this disease I fell victim once again to not enjoying what I used to.  Once released from the hospital and on my antidepressant for a week and a half I felt more and more like myself and because of that exercise was on my brain.  So when 6″ of snow was forecasted last Friday night into Saturday morning I told myself I was going to snowshoe!  Sunday, I strapped them on and took myself into the city park and walked my usual snowshoe path of the 3 hayfields and you know what… It was euphoric!!!
True happiness… not hiding under this smile (Snowshoeing 1-25-15)
If suffering, and you’ve tried many forms of exercise that you just seem to trudge through, try something new.  In addition to hiking and snowshoeing, I love Zumba Fitness… so much so I became an instructor last summer although I’m not teaching anywhere right now.  I admit as a gym goer I hate doing cardio there.  I trudge through it.  I’d rather hike… but I go because I love to strength train with weights there.  Maybe you’ve tried hiking and it wasn’t your cup of tea.  Maybe for you it will be Yoga, or Crossfit, or Running.  Try something new, you may be surprised at the affects it has on your mood.
Here are a few more pics from my snowshoe adventure on January 25th, 2015:
A view of the silo from the 1st hayfield

Love the sunspot!

My fresh snowshoe tracks!

Rustic shed with snow… so peaceful
Did you notice… not one other person was out there with me?  It was perfect!

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