We talk a lot about physical health on Muscle Made Simple, but I want to talk a little bit about mental health too. We’ve discussed the importance of self-care and accepting things that can’t be changed. Today we’re going to talk about anxiety.
One thing that many people don’t know about Todd by looking at him is that he struggles with anxiety. At times it can be debilitating. When it gets really bad he lacks motivation and energy, making working out hard. And as his partner, both in and outside of the gym, his struggles affect me. Since both of us use the gym as a stress reliever, not going to the gym or working out intensely, really affects our mental health. And when you lack motivation and energy, working out becomes a chore. See the cyclical pattern and how easily it can spiral? Mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand. You work hard on your body… don’t forget about your mind!
Studies have proven that exercise produces endorphins, chemicals in your brain that are feel-good neurotransmitters. It also reduces stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, in your body. In addition to that, exercise helps you sleep better and can also improve your self-image. All of these things are positives when dealing with mental health. But what happens when your mental health gets in the way and you can’t push yourself to move?
In the last few months, I noticed Todd’s anxiety starting to take control. He was struggling with motivation, energy levels, and depression. Although he was still pushing to workout with me, he would fizzle out half-way through, or get angry with himself for not feeling like doing it, which would lead to him being too frustrated to put in the work. He would then just sit and stew as I finished working out… which, obviously made me feel bad for still trying to get in a good workout when he was unable.
Things came to a head and we had a serious conversation about how much his anxiety was truly affecting his life and our relationship. And I pushed for him to seek help. When anxiety takes over a person tends to fall back on old, negative coping mechanisms. Todd generally knows how to handle his anxiety… until it gets too much and he stops being able too. He reached out to Patrick Decelles, a friend that is also a licensed mental health counselor. Todd is comfortable speaking with Patrick, something that is very important when trusting someone with your emotional well-being.
Todd is an emotional guy – his emotions are just as big as his body! He’s not afraid to cry, he’s a big hugger, and he’s an over-communicator. Therapy is taxing, but it is teaching him positive coping skills and other techniques that he can use to deal with his anxiety so that it stops over-taking his life. It’s making it manageable and that is important.
He’s only a few sessions into therapy, but he’s already back to enjoying the gym, allowing him to get the stress-relieving benefits of working out again, which will only help with his anxiety. I have my workout partner back and that means I’m pushing harder too.
Being the partner of an anxious person can be challenging. You don’t want to enable co-dependency, but you also want to help the person with the challenges they are facing and you want to remove the pain that they feel. But, at the same time, sometimes that anxiety is directed at you and that causes stress for yourself too. If you’re on the other side, like me, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself! I’ve attended a couple of sessions of therapy with Todd, and if I feel like I’m being too overwhelmed, I will reach out for help so that I can learn coping techniques myself.
I hope that by sharing Todd’s story, there will be people that realize they are not alone. A big, strong man can be brought to his knees by an intangible thing… but with hard work and perseverance, this obstacle can be overcome. Remember, don’t just work on your outside, work on your inside as well! A happy life comes with balance. Being okay with who you are as a person inside and out takes work and seeking outside assistance to get there is not a weakness, but a strength.