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Preventing depression with early morning exercise

May. 12, 2015 Psych Central

Yesterday – Monday – a big dog walked right up to me in the dog park and peed on my leg. Totally unprovoked. Just like that, walked right up to me and lifted his leg.

That – coupled with a tearful call from a friend about a mutual friend’s cancer – kind of set my mood for the day. I could feel myself sinking all day. Obsessive, racing thoughts. Trouble focusing. Little energy. Frustrated. Anxious. Withdrawn.

I prayed. I told myself to start my day over. I tried to have a shift in perception but nothing seemed to work. That’s how my depression starts.

I realized my mental health was not good. My physical health is great. At 56 I can still do push-ups, pull-ups and deadlift 200 pounds. But I have not taken good care of my mental health lately. That has to change or I will get sick.

That dog peeing on my leg was a metaphor for how I was starting my days. I was not starting my days the way I used to: a big workout to boost my endorphins, followed by a healthy breakfast. For years, this was my routine and it worked really well.

I started the day with an accomplishment. If I accomplished nothing else the rest of the day, at least I had worked out in the morning. I had that going for me. And all those endorphins flowing through my brain put me in a good mood.

Why did I stop doing this? I started staying up later, sleeping in and working out at night – meaning I am rushed to get out of the office and already tired when I start my evening workout.

I am so tired that I get a crappy workout – which makes me mad and then – and go home just in time for a shower and bed. I am not eating regularly and not sleeping well.

When I am under stress, sad, anxious and dogs pee on my leg, it’s time to get back into a comfortable, reliable routine. A routine my body and mind are accustomed to. So, last night I went to bed early and got up and was at the gym at 5:45 a.m. I had a great workout, am eating a good breakfast now and am ready to tackle the day.

This is taking care of my mental health.

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