Exercise To The Rescue

One of the most holistic solutions within our control for managing & reducing depression & anxiety is exercise.  A new study published in a recent Forbes article states “…research analysis suggests that moderate aerobic exercise may be one of the most effective approaches available for treating major depression.  It’s the latest in a convincing docket of research showing that exercise, perhaps more than any other single method, can serve as a curb against a tenacious condition that affects millions, with tens of thousands of new patient added every year.”   

Wow – exercise helps “more than any other single method”!  Participants in the referenced study did about 45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for a little over nine weeks.  The types of exercises included walking, biking, swimming and jogging & team sports.  The results showed “a large and significant antidepressant effect from aerobic exercise on par with or even surpassing typical results for antidepressant medications.”

Best results were achieved with about 45 minutes a workout session, three to five times per week.  Measured health benefits of regular exercise – strengthened mental, physical, emotional, social, personal & professional health & functioning:

Sounds great, right, sign me up…but where do we get started if we’re not already physically active but believe in the benefits of doing so?  A few tips to help get started…

  • Make your health a priority. Find the time to work out.  Start small & don’t quit.  Put it on the calendar & challenge the reasons why you don’t want to follow through.
  • Dig deep on your motivation for wanting to exercise more – why specifically is it that you want to make this time for your health & prioritize your self-care?  How will your life be improved?
  • Little things make a big difference.  Just get started doing something, somehow, someway more days than not.
  • Set short & long term goals & take things one day at a time.  One daily push-up is better than none!
  • Buddy up! Find a personal or professional partner to help motivate you & keep you accountable to staying committed to a regular workout routine.  An added benefit to exercising with a partner is social interaction which is also a very holistic way to help manage stress & treat anxiety & depression.
  • Be kind to yourself & enjoy the journey. Breathe – meditate – stretch…get outside & enjoy life & nature if you can.
  • Do what you can, when you can, how you can.  Meet yourself where you are at each & every day & if nothing else just do one small thing to be happy & healthy & care for your mind, body & soul today.

Lori Corrigan, MA, LCPC – Foundations Owner & Clinical Counselor – Lori@FoundationsCounselingCenter.org

 

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

I was talking with a neighbor of mine this morning about the recent tragic passing of a young local school teacher by suicide.  My condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, students, parents & community members who have been affected by this sudden loss – may peace and strength be yours as you mourn.

We cannot change what has happened but what we can do is learn & take action toward solutions moving forward.  So today, tomorrow & the next day let us find ways to talk more openly about what it’s like to experience mental illness & what we can do when ourselves or someone we know is feeling depressed, hopeless or feeling that life is no longer worth living.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide each year and can affect anyone:

Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.

The shame & stigma attached to mental health issues & suicide often prevent those who are suffering mentally & emotionally from talking to someone or seeking help for their pain.  The creation of September’s  #SuicidePreventionMonth is designed to change that by:

  • Sharing resources & stories in an effort to shed light on these highly taboo and stigmatized topics
  • Reaching out to those affected by suicide
  • Raising awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services
  • Ensuring that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention
  • Giving people tools, resources & avenues to help when they need it most

What can I, you, we do to help?

  1. Know about crisis resources.  If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.  If you or someone you know are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the #NationalSuicideHotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) immediately.  If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
  2. Know the warning signs for suicide:
    • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous
    • Increased alcohol and drug use
    • Aggressive behavior
    • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
    • Dramatic mood swings
    • Talking, writing or thinking about death
    • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  3. Assess for imminent danger.  Any person exhibiting these behaviors should get care immediately:
    • Putting their affairs in order and giving away their possessions
    • Saying goodbye to friends and family
    • Mood shifts from despair to calm
    • Planning, possibly by looking around to buy, steal or borrow the tools they need to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication
  4. Know the risk factors for suicide.  Research has found that about 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness. A number of other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:
    • A family history of suicide.
    • Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
    • Intoxication. More than one in three people who die from suicide are found to be currently under the influence.
    • Access to firearms.
    • A serious or chronic medical illness.
    • Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
    • A history of trauma or abuse.
    • Prolonged stress.
    • Isolation.
    • Age. People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
    • A recent tragedy or loss.
    • Agitation and sleep deprivation.
  5. Know that mental health issues including anxiety, depression & mood disorders are treatable & suicide is preventable.  We need to be able to identify & talk about what is happening in our lives when we are not feeling well mentally & emotionally & ensure that everyone has access to the support & treatment they need.
  6. Take action when you notice people are not themselves, behaving differently, seem sad, hopeless, depressed:
    • Ask if they are OK
    • Practice reflective listening.  Provide empathy & understanding & reflect emotion.
    • Don’t judge
    • Let them know they are not alone
    • Connect them to a counselor or mental health professional.  Mental health professionals are trained to help a person understand their feelings and can improve mental wellness and resiliency.  Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, can help a person with thoughts of suicide recognize unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior, validate troubling feelings, and learn coping skills.
    • Build hope.  Breathe.  Slow things down.  Try & get through life’s challenges one minute, one hour, one day at at time…together.