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Coping Skills for the Depressed and Anxious, Part Two

Updated on December 11, 2014

Swimming With the Dolphins

A few weeks ago, I went out with a group and played a few hours of volleyball. My left knee was swollen for a week. I whiffed on several spike attempts. My mind and body were not in the same book, much less on the same page. I just can't do what I used to do. I switched to kickball.

Other than appropriate medication, probably the most common advice given to emotionally challenged people is exercise. Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! As much as I hate to admit it, the advisors are right. The more we exercise the better we cope with our anxiety and depression.

My therapist says I should break a sweat every day. My psychiatrist tells me to give myself 30 minutes of elevated heart rate per 24 hours. This is tough for me. I have never been one to exercise for exercise's sake. I don't like to walk or run. I hate going to the gym. What is a man like me supposed to do?

Brain Chemicals

According to webMD, exercising our body releases chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins interact with receptors in our brain, that trigger a positive feeling similar to morphine. I call this "Swimming With the Dolphins." the more endorphins (dolphins) released the better we feel.

I have a friend (I know, surprising I have friends) who referred to getting the "runner's high" for the first time. It is a common experience among runners that can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.

I don't like to run. I can't see myself as one of those people who lap the mall each morning. So what?

I do like to play softball and basketball. I would often play catch with my kids or run around the yard with my dog Lucky. Now that my kids are older, though, I don't have the experience and excuse of coaching and practicing with them. I have to make more of an effort.

Using the Web

In Indianapolis there is a web site called meetups.com. I have found people with whom I can play play wiffle ball, frisbee, tennis and kick the can. There are people who meet to walk park trails and go canoeing. There are even those who meet to play cards and quilt or meditate.

I remember someone telling me that if I left a person by saying that we would have to get together sometime, we probably wouldn't. But if we set a time and date, I would likely keep it. We need to make appointments to exercise, especially when we are anxious and depressed and our motivation level is low. Knowing that someone is waiting for us makes it more likely that we will appear.

With the internet it is so easy to find those who share an interest that is similar to ours. I know that first time is a bit difficult, but if we can make it, those dolphins are waiting for you. We all can use a good swim in the positive energy that those endorphins produce.

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