Yvonne Culleton: If you want a mental lift, you should weight lift

Yvonne Culleton: If you want a mental lift, you should weight lift

Weight training benefits our mental health immensely

In my last blog I covered how weight training benefits weight management, fitness levels, body image, our bones and our heart health. It also benefits our mental health immensely.  It’s one of the main reasons I choose this type of training in my weekly exercise regime. I have spoken about this a small bit before but I have suffered from bad anxiety for as long as I can remember. 

I have a condition called generalized anxiety disorder which I am on treatment for. I also had bad postnatal depression after the birth of my second baby and carried on well after my 4th baby.

Without a doubt my saviour was exercising but mainly weight training, it helps me cope a lot more with my anxiety. I’ll always have it I know that but it’s a lot easier to manage, active body active mind and all that! If I’m really tired it can be bad enough, but I’ll make myself train and 100% of the time by the time my workout is over I feel me again.

I’ll just tell you a little bit on how bad my anxiety was and how much I’ve improved over the years. For as long as I can remember as a child I had severe anxiety. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs crying and waiting patiently for my Father to come in from work or if he was away at a match.

Always fearing the worst has happened, and as soon as id hear him coming in I’d relax.  Or the time my mother had a thyroid problem and I had convinced myself there was something seriously wrong and cried for days even though she had told me it was only her thyroid. I was 20 years old!!

My older brother Eoin got a black eye when he fell off his bike I think he was 10 or 11, and again my anxiety nearly sent me mad because I couldn’t look at him as I taught his eye was going to fall out or something. I’d hide every time I seen him.

My poor parents were drove demented. I don’t know how many times I  have been to the doctor’s  thinking I have severe illnesses, which I had convinced myself so much I had that I’d have all the "symptoms."

Alcohol definitely didn’t help, my God when people talk about the ‘fear’ the day after been out, I had the fear for weeks after! Drinking made me forget about my anxiety every time I drank and to be honest I began drinking 3-4 nights a week, sometimes I’d start early in the day. Alcohol never agreed with me anyway it made me physically sick, I’d black out and my personality completely changed. I was becoming more dependent on it and the hangovers were horrific.  

My anxiety got very bad when I was drinking a lot, day to day was like living in my own nightmare.  I knew drinking was not helping it in any way so I decided to give it up. That was 10 years ago, and  I haven’t touched a drop since and never will again.

After I had my second baby Abigail I developed postnatal depression which wasn’t  diagnosed for a year after. I had developed an eating disorder too and my weight had dropped to under 7 stone. My husband dragged me (not literally) to the doctor's after months of trying. At this time my anxiety was very hard to live with, I wonder sometimes how I got through it to be honest. I fell pregnant then a few months after that with Rory. Again after that I got postnatal again, and my eating disorder came back. But I started walking and getting out and more. Then Jack arrived 2 ½  years later.

I could feel postnatal creeping in so I bought myself a fitness DVD and began training at home. I also went running with him in the buggy.  Slowly I started feeling better and coping a little more with my anxiety.

But my anxiety is always there. As mother’s we will always worry about our children and we always will until the day we die, but my anxiety can be extreme at times. I remember bathing the girls and noticing a beauty spot I hadn’t noticed before on Abigail’s back and instantly thinking there was something not right with it, like it was some disease and for months and months I’d worry that it had grown bigger (it hadn’t).

I was too afraid to bring her to the doctor’s. It got so bad that I’d get my husband to bath the kids because I didn’t want to look at it, and then while he was upstairs bathing them I’d be downstairs beside myself with anxiety in case they’d drown. How stupid does that sound, my husband is very capable of bathing them but I couldn’t see that.

When Amber started school I’d worry all day that she didn’t go into the class room even thought I seen her go in and at the 2 o clock pick up my heart would be pounding in my chest waiting on her to come out. It is torture some days it really is. I could go on and on about what else goes on in my head but I’ll spear ye all.

What I am trying to get across is that I have improved a great deal and I’m not saying weight training will completely heal you but it does impact a great deal on how I can manage it now. I’m a lot more focused, my brain feels a bit clearer and I can talk myself out of my worries more now.  And a pure sense of accomplishment when I lift a certain weight, or complete an extra set of squats does wonders for my self esteem.

Weight training is brilliant for endorphin release. Endorphins are chemicals released from the brain which trigger a positive feeling in our bodies. Weight training also targets our central nervous system, even at moderate intensity we challenge our central nervous system which in turn positively effects our mental health. When we have more confidence and self esteem in ourselves, and you will if you weight train, everything doesn’t seem as bad. Exercise really is a very effective way of controlling anxiety or mild forms of depression.

This year on our holidays I brought the kids swimming 3 times which might not seem like a big thing but to me its massive. My anxiety always stopped me from bringing them, even when they have swimming lessons with the school my mind is going crazy in work until I know their time was over in the pool. Or if my phones rang the same time they’d be in the pool I’d be afraid to look and see who it was fearing it was the school ringing.

Anxiety effects people in different ways and some more severe than others and it is a horrible thing to live with, some people would say “Oh cop on and get on with it”, but I wish it was that easy. I haven’t gone this deep before to be honest but if my story helps someone else it’ll be worth it.

My job has also helped improve my anxiety. I am very lucky as I get to meet the most fantastic women and their children every day at LOL, plus I’ve made amazing friendships along the way too.

I actually have some anxiety now after writing this because I’m a bit anxious of what people might think, but I think people should know that everyone is fighting their own battles and there is always a way to help it or improve them. My therapy  really is weight training and other physical activities like running HIIT, Boxercise etc.

I do apologies for rambling on.

Thank you for reading,

Yvonne. X

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