Dealing with mental illness

How do you deal with mental illness and still hit your fitness goals?


  • Luke_rabbit
    Luke_rabbit Posts: 1,031 Member

    Two things have been critical for me. 1) This has to be an act of self-love. I am here to be healthy, not skinny. If that means I don’t lose weight, but I’ve improved my fitness, diet, and mental health, then I have achieved what I set out to do. It also means I am less fixated by the number on the scale and don’t freak out if I have an off day. 2) Eating a balanced diet, especially getting enough protein. If I only restrict calories without getting the protein in, it eats up my spoons real quick no matter how small the calorie deficit.

    (not the OP)

    Thanks! I needed to read that today!
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 27,972 Member
    My brother takes mood stabilizers and antipsychotics known to cause an increase in appetite. When he was in a hospital setting, he gained weight while eating hospital food and not getting much exercise. Now that he is home, eating Mom's cooking, helping her with extensive yard work, and walking several miles per day, he lost all the weight he gained in the hospital and has maintained a healthy weight for over three years.

    He doesn't count calories. He does eat lots of whole foods - fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, etc. There's very little, if any, junk food in the house.

    He's had lots of medication adjustments over the years. Some posters here seem afraid to try that. I guess for my brother when his meds aren't working, it's really really bad, so easy to justify the change. However, I just have mild-to-moderate depression and went through 5 or 6 ADs over the years before I settled on Wellbutrin.

    I know that regular exercise is, for me, just as critical to my mental health (if not more) than my AD, so I force myself if I need to. I don't wait for motivation - I created a habit, applied discipline, and stick to it.

    The below refers to spoon theory, which can be very helpful. My depression/anxiety doesn't cause me to run out of spoons, but my very heavy menstrual bleeding due to uterine fibroids does, and on my two heavy days and a few recovery days nothing in my exercise paragraph applies. Today is day 3 and I may not have enough spoons to run to the store, let alone get in any cardio.
    It depends what exactly the issue is. Are you too symptomatic to have the spoons necessary to plan, shop for, and cook nutritious food? Are you on a medication that increases appetite? Are you an emotional eater? Does actively trying to lose weight feed into anxiety or depression?

    Two things have been critical for me. 1) This has to be an act of self-love. I am here to be healthy, not skinny. If that means I don’t lose weight, but I’ve improved my fitness, diet, and mental health, then I have achieved what I set out to do. It also means I am less fixated by the number on the scale and don’t freak out if I have an off day. 2) Eating a balanced diet, especially getting enough protein. If I only restrict calories without getting the protein in, it eats up my spoons real quick no matter how small the calorie deficit.
  • peachvine29
    peachvine29 Posts: 400 Member

    Honest and for true the habit of LOGGING EVERYTHING has helped me communicate better data to my doctors and find trends in my own health that helped or hurt me.

    It's not just logging food and exercise. It's logging my mood, logging other symptoms, logging sleep, water consumption, medication compliance, periods, even medical appointments...

    When your balance is delicate a lot of surprising things matter, and building logging habits, short hand, and even a collection of useful apps has helped immensely in more areas than my health. It's an entire skillset that has made me so much more efficient about a lot of things, and much faster at tracking down and identifying problems, leaving more spoons for what's important.

    I am curious as to what apps you use for logging health related data? :)
  • aokoye
    aokoye Posts: 3,495 Member
    Now that other people have replied, I should note that my answer was only really about fitness, not calorie counting and/or weight loss. For that it's really been a matter of making a habit of using MFP. Eating has never been a coping mechanism for me (for better or worse).
  • healingnurtrer
    healingnurtrer Posts: 217 Member
    I have never heard of spoon theory, that was a interesting, thanks for sharing.

    OP, personally, I didn't attempt to lose weight until my anxiety got better. I still went on walks/ exercised because that was helpful to my mental health but didn't attempt calorie deficit. When I got better I felt ready to work on personal goals and learn to stop emotional eating. Maybe I could have when my anxiety was moderate-mild but I couldn't when it was (briefly) severe. I couldn't function.
  • ElizabethKalmbach
    ElizabethKalmbach Posts: 1,416 Member

    LOL. I have ADHD, so like... ALL OF THEM. But also, my most favorite thing is my electronic BUJO, day planner, google keep, or whatever combination thereof I'm using to keep my act together which allows me to make checklists and charts with as many comments as I want, in whatever shape, size, and duration I want to track whatever data I want.

    A lot of my tracker hardware (MiBand, Fitbit, etc) will track periods and sleep and stuff. There is an app for reminding me to take my meds at specific times, but I find it's easiest to set the vibration alarm in my tracker band with a little reminder message. It usually says snarky stuff like "TAKE YOUR PILLS, YOU SPAZ." Anymore, I only log if I FORGOT to take pills. I use the pill sorter things with days of the week on them that can show me which day I forgot, and if I can't remember if I took them or not, I can just check the section of the day/time and correct my mistake.

    I'm just in the habit of taking note of things, and writing about how I feel, and having ticky boxes or symbols for them so that I can go back and make sense of them later if something is weird. And it really, really helps, because there's a whole lot about me that's weird. :blush:
  • monaleerez
    monaleerez Posts: 73 Member
    aokoye wrote: »
    Off the top of my head I go to therapy, try to make a habit out of my various forms of exercise (this can be very hard), lower the barrier to entry in terms of exercise, take breaks when I need to, and I do a lot of forcing myself to do things even though I really don't want to though that's just life.

    I have severe and chronic depression as well as a lot of generalized anxiety and, while I'm significantly more functional than I used to be, I struggle a lot. When push comes to shove, none of what I do would be possible if I wasn't in therapy with a therapist who I have a very good therapeutic relationship with. That's especially true given that meds don't work for me (nor does activity or sunlight enhance my mood). Also by "take breaks", what I mean is that I work on figuring out when I'm pushing myself too much emotionally. The balance between making myself go to practice because it's good to push myself vs not becuase I actually do need a break.

  • CalgaryMac
    CalgaryMac Posts: 19 Member
    The best thing for me is to ease up on myself. I have had life long anxiety and panic attacks. A few years ago I discovered that the medication that I taking to help manage the anxiety was contributing to spontaneous bleeding. It turned out that it combined with a blood thinner and exercise was enough to trigger bleeding. My physician had not cautioned me that the antidepressant that I was taking could impact blood clotting. Anyway I had to stop the antidepressant and adjust to life. I needed to change my exercising as it can become part of my problem - becoming fixed on how often I go, how much time I spend at the gym, etc.. I think that actually exercise - as healthy as it is - was becoming a symptom of my anxiety in an unhealthy way. I was healthy but used exercise as a distraction from the symptoms of the anxiety. Now I try to be in the moment and when anxiety seems to be rising I find that walking meditation is the answer. I walk and be aware of what my senses are picking up - smells, sounds, textures, colours . It gets me focused on being fine just as I am. I don't exercise much anymore and I am losing weight and staying on target. I might be able to lose weight faster if I exercised more but I am done with the gym after about 50 years.
  • IAmWomanHearMeRoar15
    This is my struggle.

    I have PTSD and a history of eating disorders and self-harm. I am very worried about relapsing as a result of losing weight.

    I am finding success in doing things that double as mental and physical self-care. The example I can think of is walking. I especially like walking outside, though I am not sure how that is going to work this winter. One thing I have found useful in the past is trauma sensitive yoga. Pioneered by Dave Emerson and Bessel van der Kolk, it addresses trauma symptoms through movement.

    Other mental health tools I use are medication, 1-1 therapy, trauma support groups, Department of Mental Health social workers, a weighted blanket, online recovery groups.

    Recently my therapist explained that eating when emotionally distraught is one way to calm the vagus nerve, which is partially responsible for fight/flight/freeze/fawn/fatigue/flood response can be calmed by eating since something warm in the mouth can sooth the nerve which runs from the neck to the navel. She suggested having a warm cup of tea instead. I have found it helpful- to the point where I ask those around me to remind me to have a cup of tea when I am upset.

    More info:
    Trauma Sensitive Yoga:
    Weighted Blankets:
  • unstableunicorn
    unstableunicorn Posts: 216 Member
    edited November 2019
    monaleerez wrote: »
    How do you deal with mental illness and still hit your fitness goals?

    Severe anxiety and some depression here. The anxiety tends to make me unable to sit still, so I’ve been slowly building up my jogging intervals, started swimming again, and am looking into boxing classes. It’s also been helpful at work in that I am constantly grabbing the heavy lifting jobs in my department when I can and have really built my strength the last few months. Physical activity is definitely my beat friend during anxiety episodes.

    When it comes to depressive spells, I’ve learned to keep mindless munchie foods like chips out of the house, and if I get into a bad spell I remind myself I’ve got a large weekly deficit, so I can either justify a large latte or hot chocolate to self-comfort or skip exercise that day and try to sleep or get lost in Skyrim.

    I also revisit Laurie J Cameron’s “The Mindful Day”, as it covers a number of therapeutic exercises that I was introduced to in counselling. I prefer the audiobook as it is much more functional for the meditation exercises, but the physical book is also helpful.
  • steveko89
    steveko89 Posts: 2,217 Member
    Undiagnosed anxiety and depression over here, low-grade compared to most I've come to realize. I've also had significant issues with imposter syndrome, personally and professionally, for years. For me, having my own home gym made a huge difference in terms of allowing myself to seek and achieve fitness and physique goals. In college, despite having access to a pretty decent weight room, I never felt that I had any business being in the weights section, under the justification that I'm not a "weights guy". I also find that music is counter-productive while working out as I have a tendency to get lost in thought spirals where if I'm listening to a podcast (usually sports or fantasy football) that I can focus way more. In terms of my professional imposter syndrome issues, feeling comfortable with the right people to talk about my issues and see their disbelief and encouragement has been game-changing in how I view myself at work. Mindset-wise, going from feeling like I needed to fix my broken thoughts to allowing the belief in what others see has been the most productive shift.
  • Danp
    Danp Posts: 1,561 Member
    mbaker566 wrote: »
    being nerdy, i prefer hit points
    (depression, autoimmune disorder, social and general anxiety)

    I really like that analogy!

    Sometimes you just need a short rest to roll a few hit-dice and get some HP back. But sometimes you need to take a long rest to fully recharge and replenish all those spell slots and class abilities

    #dndnerd =)