Meandering Musings

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The Best Self-Help That I Have Found

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I think I have prattled on about how much psych issues suck enough. They do but there are things that can be done to not let it get out of control. Whether it is fighting to not lose a grip on reality and self-awareness or the symptoms that make it hard to do anything; I believe a large piece of the puzzle is exercise. It has a stronger effect on me than any med or therapy and few bad side effects, all of which have to do with my broken body. Another plus is that there is no rebound or exercise losing effect over time like meds can do. Getting into shape also has far more positives than just helping with MH issues.

Of course, this is an extremely difficult thing to do when doing the simplest tasks takes a massive effort. It is not easy to force yourself but I can say that I have never regretted doing it. Not once. I just ignore my brain screaming and fighting about it and it quiets down soon enough and the session ends with happiness. Yes, that is possible!

Growing up I was a pretty decent long-distance runner, 15-20 miles in less than 2 hours wasn’t a big deal. That is my thing, long cardio-based exercise but you might like something else. I detest lifting weights and get no mental benefit from it but I do it. Not as much as I need to but it is all about doing what will motivate you the most.

This is where a lot of my physical issues get in the way but I do what I can to minimize it. You might have issues that can get in the way but don’t let it stop you. Pretty much anything can be worked around so you can get all the benefits from exercise. A long time ago I was diagnosed with Chondromalacia, which causes pain in my knees with every stride and swelling if I run too much. I also have swollen nerves in my feet (The podiatrist called it a neuroma) that make it feel like I have lumps in my feet. I wear orthotics that keep the pain down but it is annoying and distracting. So what I do is walk/run. I bought a runners watch to keep track of distance and alternate between walking and running every half mile. I go for about 2-3 miles just to keep the pain the next morning down but I really want to go longer and run the entire time.

I can’t do that every day so I try to get out every 2-3 days. I also try to hike when I can as a break from the pounding on my knees. My knees don’t hurt nearly as bad when running as it used to many years ago when I tried biking. It is not as enjoyable to me and it used to make my knees feel like a dagger was coming up from my lower leg. But since my knees are a little better I might try that again to help add variety. I also love to swim so I do that occasionally but it really hurts my shoulder. I have a Hill-Sachs fracture, the repaired rotor cuff and tendons in one shoulder are calcified and I have small bone flakes floating in my shoulder along with a developing spur digging in. Naturally, lifting weights or doing pushups can be extremely painful. I haven’t found a good enough work-around yet since what doesn’t hurt in one rep or session might hurt the next time. I really need to see a physical therapist to get ideas.

Sadly, where I live we have fires in all directions causing hazardous levels of pollution right now so I can’t do much outdoors. I do have an elliptical I was gifted but it is so boring that I don’t use it as much as I should. I really should since it lets me get exercise without hurting my knees and feet. I seem to need a change of scenery to keep motivated. It was always like that. I could run 3 miles on a hilly cross-country or road course much faster than I could on a nice track.

Whatever activity you decide to do, get the best equipment that you can afford. Especially shoes if you are going to do activities that will impact your feet, knees, and legs. Safety equipment is also important. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. You can get good shoes for under $60. I got a nice pair of New Balance 481 all terrain shoes for around $55 on sale and it is good for running and hiking on a good trail. They are especially great for me since my ankles are easily twisted. I severely twisted them in cross-country during high school and since then I can twist them just walking in a store but I never have in these shoes. The sole on the heel is extra-wide.

The benefits to my little walk/runs are immediate. I get what is referred to as a “runner’s high”. I feel full of energy and my mind feels clear and fast. My body might be tired but it also feels stronger. Right after a run is the closest to feeling normal than I have ever gotten in decades. Anxiety is gone. Depression is gone. I have never had a psychotic episode in that state either. It does fade somewhat quickly but the fade is gradual. It takes a few hours to start really feeling the depression and anxiety. Ideally, running twice a day might keep everything away for a good part of the day but my knees couldn’t handle it.

Getting out the door is the hardest part so try to make it as much of a habit as you can so even when your MH issues win that day, you will know you are missing something which will motivate you to get out tomorrow. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t do it every time you try, that will only cause a downward spiral.

If you do have physical issues go see a doctor and make sure what you want to do is advised, especially with things like heart and balance issues. Regardless of any medical conditions I am sure there are things you can do to help your mind and body.