Getting started with an exercise program may be the most difficult part for some, and staying motivated for others, especially when suffering from anxiety or depression. Starting anything new is often daunting for most. It’s all too easy to find comfort in making excuses and developing a negative habit of sticking to those rather than committing to a positive plan for your wellbeing.
Any level of success any human being has ever achieved started somewhere and all took a leap into unchartered territory. You can too. The most important thing to remember is that you are in control, so the more positive you are, the better the outcome will be.
To overcome the challenge of getting off the starting block, you can use the following steps to get you moving in the right direction:
- Decide on an activity: The best kind of activity is one you are most likely to enjoy doing. Think about things to do which you like. These are the types of activities you’ll most likely stick to and commit yourself to doing regularly. These can range from gardening for an hour or two in the late afternoon to a quick neighbourhood jog, early in the morning before work.
- Talk to your mental health care provider: By keeping your doctor in the loop, he or she can help to guide and support you through your activity goals. He or she can also factor your
favoured activities into your overall treatment plan, ensuring that you are able to live a lifestyle that gives you maximum opportunities to get the better of your condition. It’s important to be 100% sure that your chosen activity is safe for you and what intensity level will best benefit you. This is especially important if you’re taking any medication. It’s also important to understand that exercise may improve your mood and help you to feel better, but it should not be used to substitute your therapy sessions or medication.
- Adjust your attitude: If you think of exercise as another “should” thing to incorporate into your life, you’re setting yourself a stone to trip over. If you have to labour through something, realistically, you’re already anticipating a negative effect, such as failure. This won’t prove beneficial for you. Exercise and activity is one other important tool for your well-being, just like your therapy sessions and medications. It shouldn’t be regarded as a chore. It’s going to help you get better.
- Understand any limitations or barriers: You may be self-conscious about exercising in public. Perhaps money is tight. Things that may stop you in your tracks and think twice about committing to a specific activity can easily become excuses. You may even be able to easily convince yourself they’re completely reasonable and understandable ones too. There’s a way around many limitations – if you’re self-conscious, exercise at home instead of at the gym. There are plenty DVDs, online videos and free mobile apps that you can conveniently use without a pair of peepers ogling your activity. If motivation is a problem for you, consider organised group activities, such as weekly running groups in safe environments. You’ll all be there for similar reasons and can easily motivate one another, and develop social, friendly relationships.
- Set goals to accomplish for yourself: You need not think regular exercise will require being on the same level as a cyclist training for the Tour de France. Your primary goal, at the start, may not be anywhere near training for a major endurance race. Your goals need to be realistic for YOU and serve your purpose of well-being. Somewhere down the line, participating in the London, New York, Boston or Comrades Marathon, can be a goal to work towards if you enjoy endurance running. At the start, you will need to set goals that you can actually achieve, such as walking for 30 minutes, working in the garden for an hour or setting out on an organised hike for an hour. Be reasonable and your goals will be attainable.
- Be prepared for possible obstacles or setbacks: Some days, things will fall through. Remember that it happens to everyone. You may have planned a quick jog after work and by the time you leave the office, the heavens opened up. Weather can spoil an outdoor activity. Having to work a little late can too. It’s just one day. One setback, every once in a while, shouldn’t mean the end of your routine. Several in a row will make it more difficult to get back into, but one or two can easily be overcome the next day.