6 Ideas: How To Exercise When You’re Depressed

6 Ideas: How to Exercise When You're Depressed
6 Ideas: How to Exercise When You’re Depressed

Exercise is one of the best tools we have in managing stress and fighting depression. I have bipolar disorder. For people with depression or bipolar disorder, managing stress is critical. Mental illness, in and of itself, is difficult. When you add to that the pressures everyone faces—deadlines, annoying coworkers, relationship problems, the cable company—stress can be overwhelming and trigger depression. While exercise is no substitute for professional help (like talk therapy and if prescribed, medication), exercise releases endorphins, also known as “the feel good hormones.” They help us combat depression. Endorphins make us feel better about our lives and ourselves. If I’m really stressed and I exercise for only fifteen minutes, I start to feel better about my life even though my problems haven’t disappeared (see 4 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise). Of course, the cruel irony is that being depressed can make it impossible to exercise. However, there is hope.

6 Ideas For Exercising When You’re Depressed:

 1:  Take it minute by minute—Once I was telling my therapist how I was too depressed to do thirty minutes of exercise even though I wanted to exercise five times a week. She said, “What if you could do ten minutes?” When I’m depressed, “thirty minutes of cardio” seems like an intimidating task. However, I’ve learned to take it minute by minute instead of setting out to do thirty minutes of this or one hour of that. If I finish ten minutes, I congratulate myself. Ten minutes is better than no exercise. Sometimes, in taking it minute by minute, I end up finishing a full session.

2:  Find indoor activities—Depression can make transportation difficult. Think about it: Every single task requires energy like getting out of bed, showering, changing clothes, walking/driving to the gym, and exercising! Exhausting, right? Have a few activities you can do at home whether it’s abdominal crunches, push-ups, weights, or DVDs. The cool part about exercising from home is that you can do it in pajamas. I often find the strength to get dressed after I’ve exercised.

3:  Instill variety—Even for people without illness, monotony and boredom can erode motivation. To stay motivated, mix it up so you don’t have to do the same thing everyday (unless of course you want to). I have a lot of DVDs that include Richard Simmons Sweatin’ to the Oldies Collection, Mari Winsor Pilates routines, and Tracy Anderson’s Metamorphosis.

4:  Add your favorite music—Another way to stay motivated is by adding music you love to your workout. I do a lot of Tracy Anderson DVDs. Having done her cardio workout more than a hundred times, I now play my own music. Dancing to my favorite music gives me something to anticipate everyday.

5:  Get a partner—One of the hardest things about being healthy in our society is that we eat together but exercise alone. To “hang out” with friends, we go out for wings or frozen yogurt. We usually don’t say, “Let’s be healthy. Wanna come over Saturday? We can exercise!” Even some people without illnesses need partners to stay healthy. Find someone who will go jogging or go to the gym with you.

6:  Give yourself grace—Mental illness is an opponent that doesn’t play fair. Some days, it wins. That’s the nature of chronic illness. If you didn’t exercise today, just know that you tried your best. When I have a day where depression takes away my ability to exercise (or do other things), I tell myself, “Okay, I lost this round. But I’m gonna win the next one!”

BONUS: For more on this subject, download your free Depression Tool Kit by signing up here at www.fashionablyillgift.com.  The kit comes with a map of the top 10 tricks for getting stuff done when you’re depressed + 4 Scripts for explaining your situation to loved ones, professors, and employers.  

–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno

JessicaGimeno

Hi, I have five illnesses--bipolar disorder, myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular autoimmune disease), polycystic ovarian syndrome, asthma, and psoriasis. Most of the organs in my body are affected. I'm dedicated to being a stylist for sick women. As someone who has experienced changes in my appearance due to my 12 meds (including Prednisone), I know how hard it can be when your face and body change overnight. (In fact, because of treatment, between 2008 to 2010, I went from a size 0 to a size 10. While I lost the weight, there are permanent changes in my face and body, which I've grown to appreciate.) My blog will also help women deal with other issues like surviving chronic pain and fatigue. Healthy people can also use this blog as a window into what life with illness is like. Let this website be a place where we can draw strength from each other despite our illnesses and find solutions to our everyday challenges!

6 thoughts on “6 Ideas: How To Exercise When You’re Depressed

  • September 5, 2015 at 4:37 pm
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    aNOTHER TRULY EXCELLENT POST, jESSICA. yOUR DOWN-TO-EARTH ATTITUDE MAKES IT VERY EASY TO “HEAR” WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY AND TAKE IT TO HEART. nEVER THINK FOR A MOMENT THAT YOUR HARD WORK ON THIS WEBSITE–AND EVERYTHING ELSE YOU DO–ISN’T NOTICED OR DOESN’T HELP SOMEONE. yOU’RE AMAZING.

    i OUGHTA DO SOME SIT-UPS NOW. ;O)

    Reply
    • September 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm
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      AWWW THANK YOU! FEEDBACK LIKE THIS ENCOURAGES ME TO KEEP WRITING DESPITE HOW BAD I FEEL MANY DAYS. I APPRECIATE YOUR SUPPORT MORE THAN I CAN EXPRESS. –XOXO, JESSICA

      Reply
  • September 5, 2015 at 4:38 pm
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    Please pardon the caps. When I write into the comment box, caps is all it shows.

    Another challenge! ;o)

    Reply
  • September 14, 2016 at 2:35 am
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    Hello Jessica. I found you through Ted – X and I feel very proud of you. I suffer from bipolar too. I really appreciate your power your attidute and your work. Your articles gave me help and felt supported. Us with the same disease understand.

    Keep the good work up.

    Kind Regards

    George

    Reply
    • September 14, 2016 at 8:58 am
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      Hi George! Thank you for the kind comments. Indeed, we do understand each other. I am glad to hear that my articles are helping you. I have a book coming out later about the subject of getting stuff done when you are depressed. I got an agent recently. Please let me know if there’s a subject you’d like me to write about on Fashionably ill and I’ll try my best. –Jessica

      Reply
  • October 15, 2016 at 5:55 am
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    Hi Jessica,

    I’ve found you via Ted Talks and I’m so glad I did 🙂 You are so inspiring and positive. I love how you are winning against your ilnesses for yourself and others. I think it’s great when we conquer our difficulties and use them as opportunities to grow and also to give back to othere people. And you’re doing it beautifully.
    I have been battling chronical pain due to migraines most of my life and now I also suffer from depression. I have been collecting ideas for a while for a project that involves using makeup, art, color etc. to help sick women. It started as self-help in my circumstances and developed into the idea to help others. I’m still very weak myself but I am experimenting with this approach. As a first step to help another person, I gave a depressed friend a beautiful red pedi.
    Exercise-wise, I couldn’t agree with your ideas more. Very sensible. I’m trying the same approach. At the moment my biggest challenge is going to the yoga studio where I left my mat (I used to practise there on a daily basis, I left my mat there to avoid carrying it every day). I cannot face going there now and want to exercise at home. I know it souds crazy to people who haven’t experienced depression – it’s fairly easy: just go and get the stupid mat! Or go to the shops and buy another one! Or buy one online if you don’t want to go out… In fact, that is what I might do. Try to get the mat as soon as I can. If I don’t manage by the end of next week, buy another one online 🙂

    It’s great that you’re there, Jessica, and that you’re doing what you’re doing. Keep it up:-)

    Love,

    Aneta

    Reply

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