submitted by Grace Morin / Morin Law Corporation
“Exercise”, I tell my clients, “will really help you with your recovery”. As I say these words, I am keenly watching their attention and reaction. Mostly I feel like the teacher in Charlie Brown; “waaa, waaa, waaa, waaa” I am sure they hear me saying (immediately after they hear the word exercise). Pretty sure this isn’t going to happen. Occasionally I do get a positive response, as if the client has actually experienced this benefit before and is being reminded to put it back into their routine again. I am moderately hopeful they will do something. Rarely a client actually hears me, pays attention, gets it, and goes home and puts it into practice. Love it when this happens, and it is so sad that this is so seldom.
So why is it that you can find endless amounts of research on the benefits of exercise, but yet so many sufferers of mental illness or trauma or motor vehicle accidents find it so difficult to take it seriously?
In my own practice, I truly believe that if everyone who came to see me did take exercise seriously as a part of their recovery, I could be out of business. That would be a glorious day if I had to find something else to do because no one needed help! Now obviously that’s and oversimplification and I in no way do I mean to diminish the challenges associated with suffering from a mental illness. My point is only that exercise, as part of a treatment plan, is more important than just a suggestion.
Earlier this year (see March 3/14 blog post) Jon McComb from CKNW spoke about his own struggle with mental illness and was raising awareness to support the new facility at VGH. I love it when high profile people self disclose their own battle with mental illness as I hope it continues to demystify the stigmas associated with it. I also hope that people can come to realize that there are many forms of help for recovery, from larger hospital institutional facilities right down to the counsellors or doctors office.
Once you have made the decision to say it out loud and do something about it, change gets easier. And if you would like to start on your recovery right away, let’s talk about something that is right at your fingertips: exercise.
Perhaps one of the reasons that people glaze over when they hear this word is because of the cultural connotations that immediately may arise upon hearing exercise: pay money and join a gym; buy fancy workout gear; embarrass myself in front of my peers; lose weight; take some more time out of my day that I already don’t have any extra of . . . do those voices sound familiar??
Let’s simplify it: do something free, everyday, for 20 minutes, that involves getting outside and increasing your heart rate. How about that? Research shows that you will stimulate endorphins, change your brain, reduce anxiety and depression, heal emotional and physical pain, and quite frankly, feel better. Huh? Sounds worth it to me.
I do not need to reinvent the wheel to support these claims. Jeff Haden printed an article online in December of 2013 entitled “10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Incredibly Happy” . The first on the list is exercise and he does an excellent job of referencing his sources and research. You will find this at: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/10-scientifically-proven-ways-to-be-incredibly-happy-wed.html. The rest of the list is also very well done and worth pursuing as you strive for personal well-being and in aid of recovery from a setback, or in treating mental illness.
Depression, anxiety, or the effects from a trauma or a loss – all no fun. They zap us of our energy and affect all areas of our life. Finding a good counsellor whom you trust and can help guide you through a co-created treatment plan is an excellent start. And when your therapist says the word “exercise”, please don’t glaze over and not do anything about it. It is important – and it will help.
by Jennifer Hammersmark, Ph.D., R.C.C.
Morin Law Corporation
15245 – 18 Ave.
Surrey, BC V4A 1W9