Updated: Dec 27, 2022
I am going to split this blog in two sections as this is a very important topic. The first half will be my thoughts, and the second half will be off the NHS website with some contact details at the bottom in case you need urgent help.
When you have anxiety or depression, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. However once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference, regular exercise can boost your mood especially challenging fitness classes.
Exercise should be something you enjoy; otherwise, it will be hard to find the motivation to do it regularly.
One of the most frequent reasons for anxiety is unused energy. Your body was made to move, and unfortunately when it doesn't move it creates tension. If you want a clearer example; we see this with dogs often - dogs that don't get their daily walks often become anxious and high strung, because if they don't work out their energy, the energy turns first into physical tension, and then into mental tension.
Exercise works as an effective anxiety management solution because exercise actually has some of the same effects as some anxiety medications. Exercise releases feel-good brain chemicals such as endorphins in your brain, which are your body's natural painkillers. They're technically released to prevent exercise from causing pain, but they also play a role in regulating mood and relaxing the mind.
Exercising can help you in a variety of ways when you are suffering from anxiety or depression.
It can help you gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
It can help take your mind off anything worrying you. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
You will get involved with more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialise with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you enter the gym or your class can help your mood.
It can be used to help you cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.
I am specialised in GP referral so if you do want a chat, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will help the best I can. Do not suffer in silence, I'm more than happy to help.
Here are some further details off the NHS website for you to have a look at. If you would like a confidential chat, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me and I will help you the best I can!
Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days.
Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you're depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.
Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They're wrong – it is a real illness with real symptoms. Depression isn't a sign of weakness or something you can "snap out of" by "pulling yourself together".
The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most people with depression can make a full recovery.
How to tell if you have depression
Depression affects people in different ways and can cause a wide variety of symptoms.
They range from lasting feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, to losing interest in the things you used to enjoy and feeling very tearful. Many people with depression also have symptoms of anxiety.
There can be physical symptoms too, such as feeling constantly tired, sleeping badly, having no appetite or sex drive, and various aches and pains.
The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe. At its mildest, you may simply feel persistently low in spirit, while severe depression can make you feel suicidal, that life is no longer worth living.
Most people experience feelings of stress, unhappiness or anxiety during difficult times. A low mood may improve after a short period of time, rather than being a sign of depression.
What causes depression?
Sometimes there's a trigger for depression. Life-changing events, such as bereavement, losing your job or even having a baby, can bring it on.
People with a family history of depression are more likely to experience it themselves. But you can also become depressed for no obvious reason.
Depression is fairly common, affecting about one in 10 people at some point during their life. It affects men and women, young and old.
Studies have shown that about 4% of children aged five to 16 in the UK are anxious or depressed.
Treatment for depression can involve a combination of lifestyle changes, talking therapies and medication. Your recommended treatment will be based on whether you have mild, moderate or severe depression.
If you have mild depression, your doctor may suggest waiting to see whether it improves on its own, while monitoring your progress. This is known as "watchful waiting". They may also suggest lifestyle measures such as exercise and self-help groups.
Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), are often used for mild depression that isn't improving or moderate depression. Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed.
For moderate to severe depression, a combination of talking therapy and antidepressants is often recommended. If you have severe depression, you may be referred to a specialist mental health team for intensive specialist talking treatments and prescribed medication.
Living with depression
Many people with depression benefit by making lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise, cutting down on alcohol, giving up smoking and eating healthily.
Reading a self-help book or joining a support group are also worthwhile. They can help you gain a better understanding about what causes you to feel depressed. Sharing your experiences with others in a similar situation can also be very supportive.
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life – for example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal.
However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives.
Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including:
phobias – such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
However, the information in this section is about a specific condition called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event.
People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. As soon as one anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue.
GAD can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person, but can include:
feeling restless or worried
having trouble concentrating or sleeping
dizziness or heart palpitations
When to see your GP
Although feelings of anxiety at certain times are completely normal, see your GP if anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress.
Your GP will ask about your symptoms and your worries, fears and emotions to find out if you could have GAD.
What causes GAD?
The exact cause of GAD isn't fully understood, although it's likely that a combination of several factors plays a role.
Research has suggested that these may include:
over-activity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
an imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and nor-adrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
the genes you inherit from your parents – you're estimated to be five times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition
having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis
having a history of drug or alcohol misuse
However, many people develop GAD for no apparent reason.
Who is affected?
GAD is a common condition, estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population.
Slightly more women are affected than men, and the condition is more common in people from the ages of 35 to 59.
How GAD is treated
GAD can have a significant effect on your daily life, but several different treatments are available that can ease your symptoms. These include:
psychological therapy – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
medication – such as a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
There are also many things you can do yourself to help reduce your anxiety, such as:
going on a self-help course
cutting down on the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink
With treatment, many people are able to control their anxiety levels. However, some treatments may need to be continued for a long time and there may be periods when your symptoms worsen.
Useful Contact Details for you all...
Charity providing support if you've been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 08444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 09.30 - 17.30)
Charity for sufferers of depression. Has a network of self-help groups
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)