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Thread: Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

  1. #1
    St Fidgeta
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    Background: I'm out of shape (about 40 pounds overweight, not a lot of energy, not very strong) and trying to get in shape for really the first time, and using New Rules of Lifting for Women to do it. This is my second attempt; with the first I was going strong until my workplace hit crisis mode with the economic downturn, and then the stress and insecurity of that got me off-track.

    In addition to being physically out of shape for years and years, I've also never had the best mental health. Bouts of major depression, constant anxiety, episodes of racing thoughts, lack of focus, low self-esteem... you can package these symptoms into different disorders, and different therapists have done so, and they seem not to agree with each other. But basically I'm your basic sensitive/creative type with way too much emotional lability and difficulty focusing on one thing at a time.

    Here's my problem: Both times I've attempted NROLW, it's helped tremendously with the depression, but has kicked me into a state of anxiety and hypomania. I can't seem to sleep soundly, I wake up a lot, I feel panicky in my chest, I'm even more sensitive to criticism (real or imagined) than usual, my thoughts go in twenty directions at once, and I can't just say "I need to get this done" and then do it. On the other hand, I'm getting these bursts of creativity with my writing and with some art projects I've been working on. All in all, it's better than depression, but I'd still like to just be even and normal-feeling. The one medication that has ever made me feel just *normal* (not racing, not depressed, not deadened, just focused and able to handle stuff) was Restoril, which I take very rarely to help me sleep. But since that's a narcotic I don't want to rely on it.

    In fairness, this last bout of racing thoughts and jitters has coincided with the time I'd expect to get PMS, so that's certainly a factor.

    For supplements, I'm taking N-Acetylcysteine for the intrusive thoughts and general mental health; a supplement for joint health; and vitamin C with the NAC. I know I should be taking fish oil, but I haven't had a chance to go to the health food store yet. I will do so this weekend.

    I really want to get *healthy*, physically and mentally. Can anyone point me in a good direction? Thank you in advance!

  2. #2
    BunnyRabbit
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    Have you ever tried meditation? It would quiet down the mind and stimulate the parts of the brain that would help you to deal with the stress and difficulties of life.

    I'm no expert on meditation, but I am an expert on having a mind that's all over the place, so I can definitely relate to what you're saying :-) Just try to find a quiet place and a comfortable position and "mentally step back" and just become an observer of yourself. What ever thoughts come to your mind, acknowledge them and then just let go of them. Do not start thinking about them, just observe. Notice what your senses feel and just feel them, don't think about it. Focus on what's happening inside your body, which basically means just to focus on your breathing as that's pretty much the only thing you can feel (unless you're suffering from indigestion!) Being an observer means that you don't have to live the stressful situations and chaos, but just focus on what it feels like to be human.

    Becoming more mindful can also help with getting into shape, as you become more aware of what you actually need and what's just mindless activity.

    I do hope you'll get it sorted. I know it's really frustrating and tiring to go through such things. Best of luck!

    EDIT: When I wrote "senses feel", I was actually thinking about just the skin, but realized that of course the word "feel" might not be appropriate for the other senses :-) Anyway, the point is to acknowledge what information comes in through the senses, but not verbalize it in your mind. So if you hear a noise coming from a train in the distance, don't start thinking about "oh, I hear a train". Just acknowledge the sound and don't think about it.

    Also, when observing yourself, the goal is to be objective and just acknowledge, not judge. You'll eventually notice that you'll have much more compassion towards yourself and through that towards other people as well.

  3. #3
    St Fidgeta
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    BunnyRabbit, what an incredibly kind and empathetic reply. Thank you so much! I've had meditation recommended to me before, but it wasn't explained very clearly, and I didn't really know what was meant by "don't judge," but you explained it so well. The train example really made it click. I will try that. I've been looking into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy -- "looking into" in the sense of "hearing about it and then googling to see if there are any therapists in my area who practice that modality" -- and it sounds possibly similar? So you've found it helpful? That's another tick in the "pro" column as I consider seeking out an ACT therapist, or at least one who knows about techniques of mindfulness.

    I really appreciate knowing that someone on the interwebs can relate to the feeling of having a mind going in a thousand directions at once. When I grade papers I often need to watch TV or I simply can't focus on it. It's like I have to give 30% of my brain something else to do, so the rest can get to the task at hand. Not being distracted seems not to be an option, or at least it hasn't been so far.

  4. #4
    BunnyRabbit
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    Quote Originally Posted by "St Fidgeta":2vrg7a0p
    BunnyRabbit, what an incredibly kind and empathetic reply. Thank you so much! I've had meditation recommended to me before, but it wasn't explained very clearly, and I didn't really know what was meant by "don't judge," but you explained it so well. The train example really made it click. I will try that. I've been looking into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy -- "looking into" in the sense of "hearing about it and then googling to see if there are any therapists in my area who practice that modality" -- and it sounds possibly similar? So you've found it helpful? That's another tick in the "pro" column as I consider seeking out an ACT therapist, or at least one who knows about techniques of mindfulness.

    I really appreciate knowing that someone on the interwebs can relate to the feeling of having a mind going in a thousand directions at once. When I grade papers I often need to watch TV or I simply can't focus on it. It's like I have to give 30% of my brain something else to do, so the rest can get to the task at hand. Not being distracted seems not to be an option, or at least it hasn't been so far.
    I know what you're saying and you're not alone in that. I also used to do a million things at the same time, because doing just one was impossible. I just couldn't focus on just one thing. I haven't actually even thought about it that much, but now that you mentioned it, it's not a problem for me anymore. That wasn't the reason I sought to change things for myself, but I realize now that that was one of the side effects that has now been toned down. Just know that there will be spurs when you "get it" and then there's the euphoria after that, and then there will be relapses which might feel discouraging. I think it's always going to be a struggle, but I do think that there is a tipping point when things start to work out much better.

    Meditation has helped, yes, but there's been a lot more to my process as well. In a way, it's all really simple what I've done, but if I would start explaining it, it would take ages. I am thinking about writing about it at some point, and have even started that process already, so you telling me that I managed to explain something in a way that was understandable was actually very nice to hear and makes me think that I'm not all mad thinking about doing all that work :-) So thank you for that!

  5. #5
    Administrator Roland Denzel's Avatar
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    I've read a lot about lower carb, gluten free, paleo, primal, grain free, legume free, dairy free, low sugar, and others helping people with both mental and physical ailments. Not to say that these diets are a cure all, but many conditions seem to be exacerbated by some diet choices. Also, I'm not saying that you have to eliminate all of these things now or forever. That was just a list of diets that have shown to have some positive feedback in these departments.

    On a positive note, whether there's evidence for a mental 'cure' or not, these diets also tend to help with physical issues and weight loss, too. They rarely require any sort of counting, weighing, or measuring, and are extremely nutrient dense. There's little downside, aside from feeling like life isn't fair because you might not be able to eat bread or cheese (for instance).
    Roland Denzel @ EatWellMoveWell.com

    Author of Man on Top and The Real Food Reset

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  6. #6
    St Fidgeta
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    Roland, thank you so much! (I'm having a bit of a fangirl moment, since I've lurked at your blog.) The part about not requiring measuring, counting, etc. is very appealing to me, because I just find that so... boring. Eating great and feeling great is wonderful! Lifting weights is sort of perversely satisfying! Tallying up numbers is a snoooore. For me. (Can you tell I never enjoyed math?)

    I just bought New Rules of Lifting for Life last night, because I wanted to substitute planks for the swiss ball crunches in NROLW and needed guidance on how to do them properly... but anyway, I found myself reading the bit about "fire" meals, "fuel" meals, and... um... the other one whose name I'm forgetting. That sounds SO doable, and similar to what you're suggesting, maybe?

    And BunnyRabbit, holey buckets, you should totally write about meditation! And please send me the link when you do!

  7. #7
    Senior Member LisaS's Avatar
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    If you want to jump over and do NROL4L instead of NROL4W - no one here will fault you.
    Approach with caution - I'm keto-adapting

    WARNING: Written in minutes and fact-checked in seconds via Google. May contain unsafe levels of self-righteousness. Past cleverness is no guarantee of future results.

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  8. #8
    Administrator Roland Denzel's Avatar
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    Quote Originally Posted by "St Fidgeta":1ykv418n
    Roland, thank you so much! (I'm having a bit of a fangirl moment, since I've lurked at your blog.) The part about not requiring measuring, counting, etc. is very appealing to me, because I just find that so... boring. Eating great and feeling great is wonderful! Lifting weights is sort of perversely satisfying! Tallying up numbers is a snoooore. For me. (Can you tell I never enjoyed math?)

    I just bought New Rules of Lifting for Life last night, because I wanted to substitute planks for the swiss ball crunches in NROLW and needed guidance on how to do them properly... but anyway, I found myself reading the bit about "fire" meals, "fuel" meals, and... um... the other one whose name I'm forgetting. That sounds SO doable, and similar to what you're suggesting, maybe?

    And BunnyRabbit, holey buckets, you should totally write about meditation! And please send me the link when you do!
    I'm with Lisa! Jump over to life, then go back to women. I might need to rephrase that...

    I do recommend everyone start with either NROL4A or NROL4L and then go to any other NROL book. They are the most up to date, and do a great job of preparing us (and repairing us) for what's to come. They are great programs on their own, and worthy of preparing us for any program, routine, or training (even non-NROL programs) going forward.

    Thanks for reading my blog, assuming it's TheFitInk.com, then you've probably read Galya's stuff, too. You might not realize that Galya (my wife) is the one who put together those fuel/fire recipes for Lou.

    Talk to you later!
    Roland Denzel @ EatWellMoveWell.com

    Author of Man on Top and The Real Food Reset

    Stop by my training log The Madness of Roland


  9. #9
    St Fidgeta
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    Quote Originally Posted by "Roland Denzel":1ggxi6kv
    You might not realize that Galya (my wife) is the one who put together those fuel/fire recipes for Lou.
    [is stunned]

    Ha! No, I didn't put that together at ALL! Well, my goodness, please give her my thanks! It's funny, but I'm terrible about transferring knowledge of people over different contexts. There was a woman I saw pretty much weekly throughout my childhood, at my house, because she helped my mom with some stuff. Then a few years later when she turned up at my family's church I was like, "Wait. I know her. How do I know her?" Could not figure that out. I mention that just to say that in my mind, Lou Schuler is that fellow who lives in the book on my shelf, while Roland and Galina are that lovely couple who live in my computer, ha ha!

    Well, it sounds like I can't go wrong heeding Lisa's and Roland's advice (and please don't rephrase it, LOL, it's charming!). New Rules for Life it is! Woot woot!

  10. #10
    Administrator Roland Denzel's Avatar
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    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    Awesome! Good luck!
    Roland Denzel @ EatWellMoveWell.com

    Author of Man on Top and The Real Food Reset

    Stop by my training log The Madness of Roland


  11. #11

    Help! Exercise making parts of my my mental health worse?!

    If you come to the Summit (held in KC, MO in May) you could meet Lou, and possibly Roland and Galya (along with a few other forum folks).
    Tom

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