• Michelle Zunter

How Exercise Helped Me Overcome My Anxiety & Depression

Updated: May 17

I started working out after a particularly destructive relationship and subsequent break-up.

I found myself having extreme bouts with anxiety and depression to the point where I didn’t want to leave my own apartment.

What I had been going through felt so emotionally painful that I literally thought I was losing my mind. Sometimes I felt as though the walls were closing in and I could barely breathe.

I started drinking too much. I started smoking cigarettes as well.

I also gained about 20 extra pounds on top of everything else.

I didn’t know what else to do about my spiraling mental state, so I went to my doctor and asked for help. I was immediately prescribed anti-depressants.

After several months I realized the pills weren’t for me. Although they did bring about a vague sense of well-being and calm, they numbed my emotions. I realized I didn’t want to be numb. I missed the “old me.”

So, I stopped taking the pills after about 8 months (something you should always check with your doctor about first) and decided I needed to do something else to get myself back on track mentally, emotionally, and physically.

I started by signing up at a gym. Then I took a yoga class. After that, I tried Pilates.

As I began to focus on feeling and moving my body, I became more connected to all of me.

When I added walking and running outside into my routine, I felt even better. I was fitting into my old clothes again and my mind was finally starting to open up to all of the opportunities of living.

The clutter in my mind and the sense of hopelessness started to diminish.

I gave up dating for about 2 years. I drank less. I quit smoking. I ate better. I invested time in myself. I starting evolving into someone who could potentially be a better partner for someone down the road in life. I had more goals, more confidence, and more enthusiasm for the future.

When I go out in the world now I have pride in how far I’ve come from where I used to be.

Having intense anxiety on a daily basis is no joke. I had it and it affected every aspect of my life. During the period of my life when my anxiety was at its peak, I was not handling anything well at all. In fact, I was drowning.

Exercise alleviates my anxiety and helps my mind focus. I’m not exactly a fitness guru or the most amazing physical specimen you’ve ever seen, but moving my body and losing weight has brought me to a place in my life where all I can see are limitless possibilities.

Now, by no means am I suggesting that people with serious mental problems toss their meds out the window and cure themselves with yoga. I’m not qualified to say anything like that. But this is what ended up working for me.

There are indeed some people who dislike exercise and make fun of those who love to workout or who have made exercise a big part of their lives. But what many people haven’t experienced for themselves is how moving your body during exercise can actually be therapeutic for your mind.

Working out is not just about showing off or posting workout selfies every 10 minutes, although many people out there do it. I don’t post workout selfies. It’s not my thing. But I get it. I understand the sensation of being proud and accomplished when you make significant changes to your body and in your life.

Anyone can make time to exercise. I would say that if you’re working out rather than standing around criticizing someone else for their fitness choices then your life is probably a lot more productive overall.

I exercise because I learned how to treat myself in a way that’s not destructive. I found something that satiates my anxiety demons and keeps the darkness at bay. For my own well-being and not to please anyone else.

Now that I have a family and fairly busy schedule I still make time for working out. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 minutes of sit-ups and squats or a quick 20 minute jog. I fit it in.

If you don’t like to exercise, fine. But let other people experience healing and happiness in their own way. You don’t always know where people are coming from on their journey’s. Most likely they’re just trying to make themselves better people.

Anxiety and depression used to be a constant in my life until I started to take control of my fitness. Exercise may not work for everyone, but it did wonders for me. Either way, if you’re suffering from depression or anxiety — talk to someone about it and get help.

More from Michelle: To The Single Woman Who has Given Up On Relationships — But Still Really Wants One

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