For anyone following along with my series on what I have to offer by way of how I’ve learned to deal with upheaval in my life, you’ll be all caught up. For those who might be behind, or who’ve missed the initial post on how one day I totally lost my shit, you can find that post HERE. You’ll find the follow-on posts up to now HERE and HERE.
So far, I’ve talked about my love of aromatherapy, how writing has helped me deal with stress and can help you, too, and how I conquered my fears of being vulnerable and the reward is I now have a standing monthly appointment with J, my awesome massage therapist. (At least when the world is open, I have that standing appointment.)
Today I wanted to talk about getting physical, because exercise and good nutrition just does the body and mind good in so many ways it’s actually incredible.
I may have mentioned in my first post that in the beginning when learning to deal with and manage my anxiety disorder, I walked…a LOT. I had a friend, one of the three who didn’t abandon our friendship when shit got real, who designated herself my walking buddy. We had a standing walking date early in the morning, especially during those first few months which landed during the summer. Summers on the Carolina coast can be brutal. The humidity is so thick being out in it and trying to breathe is like swallowing a wet blanket. The earlier you can get out to exercise down there, the better.
I think now is a great time to insert a truth. I was the kid you remember from school who always got picked last for every single PE and sports thing to ever come along. Dead. Last! In our small, rural school, PE was basically used as an hour on any given day for the “jocks” to practice their sport, whatever the season happened to be at the time. The kids who didn’t play a sport, they got to be the practice dummies. If you were a smart kid (ie in those days geek or nerd) God help you. I was that kid. I wore glasses. I read all the time. I made straight As and was testing out years ahead of my peers on some subject matter. I wasn’t great at sports, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t willing to learn. However, no one was ever willing to take the time to teach me. All of those things led to: I got picked last. This made me hate physical activity of any kind. I hated exercise. I hated PE. And, on some levels, I hated the people who made me hate it.
Back to the brutal humid heat and walking. After being rescued by my knight in dusty cammies and moving away from my childhood hometown, I started to come out of my shell a bit and with the help of my knight I’d gotten a bit more physical off and on over the years. I never forayed into sports too much, although the opportunities were there, but I did stop being afraid of the gym so much. My big fear was I’d get pointed and laughed at for even being there because that kind of treatment had been my experience up until that point. All that being said, I wasn’t a frequent flyer of the gym nor was I consistent in my efforts to be more physical.
All that changed when the anxiety diagnosis came in. I knew I had to change my thinking, own my space, and forget whatever was holding me back from trying new physical activities because getting fitter was part of the cure. Walking was where it started. On the sidewalk, out in the open, not on a tread mill in the remotest part of the house. Where people could see me. And I didn’t care that people could see me because I could no longer afford them that brain space. My brain space was all used up with things that were more important. Like getting healthy, whole person healthy.
I still walk a great deal to this day and I’m going on over ten years now since the great revelation that I had to get healthy. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, and freely, the last year to eighteen months I’ve been a tad slack. You see, MarshFox retired from active duty service after thirty years and we’ve had a huge adjustment in our life. Huge! My routines and schedule have taken a hit and I’ve eaten one too many things not great for me and walked too few miles. I’ve gained a few pounds, but nothing that’s not manageable. I just need to find my stride again. Being confined to quarters (that’s what they’d call this in the military) has given me the opportunity to take stock and adjust. I’m now back to walking every single day and it won’t be long I’ll be back where I feel is healthy for me. Secret? Not only does walking help keep my anxiety and stress in check and help me maintain a healthy physical body, it’s great for my muse. When I’m walking and have my earbuds in, that’s when magic happens and my characters talk to me the loudest. I’ve written entire chapters on a walk in my head and had to run to the car if I’m on a trail for pen and paper to get it down before I forget, or run to the computer from the tread mill and get busy on the keyboard.
As you can probably guess, walking is probably my number one go to for getting physical, but it’s not the only thing I’ve found I love over the past few years. I enjoy strength training, dancing, I have a barre system, and I do yoga. Sometimes I’ll even join my hubby out in the garage gym for a bit of CrossFit. My new favorite fitness thing I’ve gifted myself is a subscription to a streaming version of Body Groove with Misty Tripoli. Not only do you get to dance it out, she gives these great self-wellness chats. Plus, there are the most amazing, feel-good yoga, stretching, and stillness bits worked in. Well worth every penny! If you spend less than a hundred dollars on yourself this year, spend it on a years’ subscription to Body Groove on Demand. It’s only fifty-nine dollars for a year, y’all.
Like the benefits of massage therapy, exercise has a plethora of benefits to offer. Did you know it only takes 10-15 minutes of exercise to improve your mood? That’s a few laps walking around your living room. OR one short dance video off YouTube or the Body Groove streaming. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel good. They’re the stuff chocolate helps your body release. How good does chocolate make you feel? Exercise can do that, too! (Since I’m a romance author, I’ll throw this out there…sex? It counts as exercise AND you get a huge hit of endorphins afterward PLUS it boosts your immunity. Win-win, no? Orgasms for all!)
I mentioned at the beginning the other part of the physical equation, nutrition. I’m not going to endorse this, that, or the other program. I’m not going to preach at you what you should or should not be eating or drinking. What I will tell you is each person is a unique individual with unique needs. Each person must experiment and find what works for them. If it’s unsustainable for you, it’s not for you. Nutrition isn’t a cookie cutter thing. The only constant in whatever you do is this: calories in vs. calories out. Where the calories come from is important, but not everyone can sustain a low-carb lifestyle. Not everyone can totally give up sugar. Not everyone can drink nothing but water. Not everyone can get rid of caffeine. What works for me and is sustainable for me? Many things. I don’t subscribe to any one plan or school of thought. I have cherry-picked bits and pieces from many plans and do things my way. I like to tell people I’m on the Dixie Jackson paleokemediat plan. What that amounts to is this. I watch how many carbs I intake and where they come from, because not all carbs are created equally. I get enough good fats. I have a healthy grain once or twice a week. I eat a lot of fruits, veggies, and lean meats, but I also eat a nice, thick, marbled steak at times. I still eat baked goods, but I use alternatives to white flour and sugar, and do my own baking. And I keep track of how much of that I’m doing with an app on my phone. Like I said, not going to endorse any particular program. I’m not a nutritionist and not a doctor. I do me. Easy peasy. You have to do you. I can tell you this much, when I’m eating right, I feel like a million bucks and my anxiety virtually evaporates. When I eat like shit, I feel like shit.
I’m writing this in April. It’ll go live the first week in May. I’m not sure what the world holds for us the next couple of weeks, but I do know this, sitting on the couch during all this isn’t healthy. And it does nothing for managing the anxiety and stress you might be feeling. I know many people may not live in a house with a big living room like I do. You may not have greenways along your waterways to utilize like we do here in our small mountain town. But you can still move. Streaming services, the internet, and YouTube are FULL of exercise ideas and videos. There are apps for your phones and tablets. Pick something and try it! If you don’t like what you chose, pick something else. And the great thing about all this right now? If you’re self-conscious, no one will see you until you’re ready and they let us outside. Now is the time! If not now, when?