CBT GOT ME EXERCISING AGAIN AFTER YEARS OF STRUGGLING TO MOTIVATE MYSELF WHILE I BATTLED DEPRESSION
Regular exercise does wonders for my mental health and can drastically turn around a bad day. However, I found it difficult to get back into it after struggling with depression for a long time. It took months of CBT to finally get me out and about again.
I am sat writing this now after a run. I came home after the worst day at work, completely stressed and exhausted after a sleepless night last night. All I wanted was to get into my comfies, lie on the sofa and drink a glass or three of red wine. But I went for a 30 minute run instead.
By the time I finished my run the difference in my mood was remarkable. I felt relaxed and happy (a little euphoric actually). I no longer felt that foggy feeling in my head that comes with a bad depression day.
Then I started to reflect on how far I’ve come. This time last year I was in the grips of depression and found it damn near impossible to get myself out of the door. I found the idea of even a short walk or 10 minutes of yoga way too much.
I remember setting myself a goal to run / walk around the block once a week. My intention was to build it up to twice a week and then three times. But I struggled to even do the one walk.
Yet here I am six months later, happily and easily running again. And on a regular basis. I have Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) to thank for that.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy looks at the relationship between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It focuses on changing your thought patterns and behaviours in order to help you recover from depression (or whatever it is that you are doing CBT for).
You often focus on the behavioural element first as it is the easiest to put into practise. With CBT, I set the goal that I wanted to work towards which was running three times a week. I then set smaller more manageable goals to help me get there.
The lowest of the goals was designed to make a small amount of physical activity possible if I felt like I couldn’t manage a full exercise session. Small things like walking around the corner to the shop or doing a bit of yoga at home. Even just a bit of stretching. All of which I still couldn’t manage for the first few weeks of my treatment.
But then I slowly started to incorporate little bits of exercise into my routine. Small things like walking to the shop at lunchtime or doing 10 minutes of yoga at home. After a while, I finally started running again.
At first I ran once a week (sometimes even less than that if I’m totally honest), often alternating walking and running. But then I started running twice a week. As I got more into it, I started getting that positive mental feedback that CBT is all about and that motivated me to run even more regularly. Which brings me to now.
I’m currently running 3 to 4 times a week and I’ve signed up to run a 10k in a couple of months. I’m careful not to over-exert myself and I’m trying my best not to get into an unhealthy mindset with regards to exercise. I have exercise-free days between each session and try not to beat myself up when I don’t manage to exercise as planned.
I’m only 6 months in to CBT and I already feel so much further down the road to recovery. For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful and optimistic and I can feel that I’m starting to move towards a place where I’m able to successfully manage my mental health.
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