A few years back when I was in the midst of my daily panic attacks, going to the gym seemed like THE LAST thing on earth that I wanted to do. It didn’t matter that every blog/suggestion/doctor said that exercise would help reduce my stress and anxiety…For me and in my anxious mind, the gym was not the answer.
One of my biggest triggers was being a lone…(It still is the main trigger of my anxiety)…So the thought of going to a large over-crowded gym where I would be working to get my already high heart rate up, it just didn’t sound appealing. You see, when anxiety controls your life, it tells you where you shouldn’t go or what you shouldn’t do because of fear. Literal fear, as if you could die. Being anxious you avoid that fear at all cost because, why wouldn’t you?
Only, when you say it out loud it sounds so stupid really. You avoid walking in the middle of a busy freeway because it’s dangerous. You could die, among many other things that could happen.
But avoiding the gym because you’re afraid of a panic attack among other anxiety ridden thoughts just sounds…Stupid.
Now that we’ve addressed the why, we need to address the HOW. How do you go to a place that would benefit you so much in the long run, but it’s causing you incredible fear?
For starters you might think, what is the problem if I work out at home? I have a treadmill, weights, youtube…
Here is the thing. If gyms/studios aren’t your thing, that is ok. But part of dealing with constant anxiety is isolation. We isolate ourselves out of fear of something bad happening, and a lot of times we become agoraphobic. So whether it’s the gym or target, we make excuses for putting our selves in uncomfortable positions. Now I know that sometimes going to a place to workout really isn’t peoples thing, and I can only share from my personal (and some friends) experiences, going to a gym by myself, without my children has been one of the greatest hurdles for me. It was so hard, but in the end was one of the reasons why I was able to overcome daily panic attacks and anxiety.
I will be honest and say that it is sometimes difficult to get there. Sometimes I get on the elliptical and my anxiety starts to creep in. But having the tools to overcome it, and being so comfortable now in that environment, is SO FREEING. Whenever I leave the gym I am seriously so much more mentally strong. It’s time for ME to heal and to grow…and it has been amazing.
Whether you are in the thick of your panic and anxiety, or you just have a little bit, these steps will help you overcome that fear of going to the gym! You cannot give up. The way to overcome this is my going through it.
There very first thing I did was get out of my house. It was SO hard for me. I hired a babysitter and started to go on walks/runs near my house. I would tell myself to just go for 10 minutes. Then after 10 minutes, if I could go longer, I would. I kept pushing myself for a longer and longer time, until it was easier to leave my house alone.
Get a friend to workout with
The next thing I did was get a gym membership with a friend. We would meet at the gym, my biggest fear, and I would workout beside her and have that piece of mind that she was with me. It wasn’t easy, but having someone there forced me to stay and really helped me to reach that next step.
Start to go alone, slowly
Obviously if working out with friends is really helping, continue doing that. But also go a few times alone to really conquer those feelings of fear. It was so hard for me just to DRIVE there, so when I got there with an already elevated heart rate, the last thing I wanted to do was run. SO I started slow. I would walk around the track. And go back to the beginning where I would just try and stay for 10 minutes. And each time I would push my self to stay longer and longer.
Music is known to change an anxious mind into a calm one, there are so many studies on this. Create a play list of your favorite songs that excite you and listen to them. Save your favorite shows for when it’s gym time so you can watch them on a piece of exercise equipment. Or find a motivating podcast to help you. Whatever it is, these subtle distractions will keep your mind busy and less likely to bother you with a stupid, “What if?!”
Do not give up, even if you have a setback
If you are doing well and then all of the sudden you are lifting weights and have a full blown panic attack…keep going. Walk around a few times, get some water…but don't leave. Leaving just tells your body that you are in trouble, when in reality you really aren’t. Fight those feelings that something bad will happen, and stay. Or if you had a panic attack and left, and now you can’t workout because you remember that feeling…GO ANYWAYS. It’s scary, I know! But I promise you…When you go, you are telling yourself there is NOTHING to be afraid of. You are gaining control of that anxiety, and that is the best feeling.
Are you well rested? Drinking enough water before the gym? Taking the right supplements for anxiety, like magnesium? All of these things matter when it comes to anxiety. If you do these things, anxiety is less likely to creep in.
Have the right tools and resources
One of my biggest saving graces is my Anxiety Bible, as I call it. It’s really called DARE. But it gives you the tools to overcome ANY anxiety. It talks about everything you feel and go through, and how to work through them. A good resource will help you continue goin
Click the picture to find the book on Amazon!)
As always, make sure if you feel Anxiety/Panic Attacks/etc. that you tell someone, talk to someone, see someone, and get some help. It’s not easy to admit we are struggling…but I promise, it’s the first step into getting better and healing. Just remember, you would go to the doctor or tell someone if you had bronchitis! Mental health is just as if not more important than our physical health!