Cardio Saved My Mental Health

As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression for the past couple of years, I know and understand there is no one-step cure-all. Reaching a place of peace and well-being mentally looks different for everyone. Personally, I have tried therapy, meditation apps, even aromatherapy, but what has been working best for me is exercise.

When I started working out regularly in March, I wasn’t in the best place. The unknown of COVID-19 and the overwhelming sense that the world was going to end only increased the anxiety that naturally rages through me. Needless to say, quarantine really took its toll on my mind. At the recommendation of TikTok and a friend, I decided to spend the next couple of months devoting my newfound free time to getting in shape. I had heard about different studies that showed that moderate exercise helped reduced anxiety, so I wanted to give it a try for myself. During those months, I would work out for an hour to two hours a day. I tried all kinds of different workouts. I did yoga, YouTube videos, kickboxing and running. I figured out what I like to do (HIIT and the elliptical) and what I didn’t like to do (running). I found that working out allowed me to take my mind off of the things out of my control and focus on whatever workout I was doing.

weights and smoothie Photo by Derick Mckinney from Unsplash

The more I exercised, the less anxious I felt throughout the day. As someone who hated change and would regularly panic about it, I discovered I was able to handle changes much better on the days I exercised than when I didn’t. Things that would typically send me in a downward spiral, were much more manageable now. So, when I came back to FSU, I decided to make it a priority to exercise once a day during the school week. I know what you’re thinking: “you workout 5-6 times a week?” Yes, I do. I wake up before my morning classes and go to the gym. Once I got in the habit of waking up and going to the gym, I found it was pretty easy to continue to stick to my routine. I think it’s important for me to say that I am not trying to look a certain way in the mirror. I do cardio for the sake of my mental health. Having this mindset has really changed the way I see going to the gym. It is no longer an impossible chore, but an act of self-care. 

girl workout video Photo by Kari Shea from Unsplash

If you are someone who struggles with anxiety, I cannot recommend working out enough. Finding a style of exercise that you can enjoy, even if it is just going for a walk, will do so much to help you feel more positive and reduce some of the stress you may feel. I can honestly say that I am in a much better mental state now than I was at the start of this year, and so much of it is because I found a healthy way to deal with my anxiety. 

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