Self Care: Exercise

August 15, 2016


I know all too well how easy it can be to plop yourself on the couch with the TV, computer or book as your escape, your way to spend your free time. When you’re grieving or hurting, mourning the loss or the baby that may or may not ever be, it frequently feels good to check out, I’ll be the first to admit it. Grief is stressful; infertility is stressful.

I didn’t “bounce back” from any of my pregnancies, but I was about 15 lbs away from losing all the baby weight from my first, Ethan, when I got pregnant with the second, Austin, and I had lost all of the baby weight from E and about 10 more lbs before I got pregnant with Colin (chasing two kids around plus breastfeeding equals much quicker weight loss and less time to eat!). So, I was plenty active, even if I wasn’t exercising as much as I should.

I am a certified yoga teacher–I got my certification just before I got pregnant with Ethan. So, I know how important exercise is. After all, one of the sub-specialties of yoga that I learned to teach was a slow flow class meant for people with back problems, developed after much research by our teacher.

Years ago, a doctor named John Sarno found that most peoples’ back pain was really caused by stress. He only came to this conclusion after diagnostic tests revealed that these patients had no structural abnormalities: no slipped or herniated discs, no stenosis, no disc degeneration, no torn muscles–no physical explanation for their pain. They did, however, have stress (all kinds of stress). After having them participate in stress-reducing activities, including yoga, their pain was gone, or greatly diminished. Similar studies have been done with aerobic exercise and depression that have reached the same conclusion. Think of how uncomfortable it can be to remain still in any position for a length of time. We are meant to move.

So, as a person suffering the loss of a pregnancy or an infant, or as a person who can’t bear to read one more negative pregnancy test, you are no doubt under tremendous stress. You may also be depressed–you are likely depressed. I can honestly say that, even after counseling, there’s this little trickle of low-grade depression that gets smaller as time goes by, but that is still here for me at two and a half years out.

But you can counteract the effects of the grief and depression.

How? Get moving. Exercising can lead to relaxation, and is a great way to channel anger, frustration and sadness into an activity that will ultimately benefit you, and improve your emotional state AND your physical state. After all, when we exercise our brain releases feel-good chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and dopamine. These are the very same chemicals that are dampened by stress and the lack of which can lead to depression.

What can you do? Well, you can do something structured like a yoga class or an aerobics class. Or you can do something on your own that’s fun, that doesn’t seem like exercise. Do an activity that you enjoy. Dance around your house! I recently discovered hooping and LOVE to spend an hour hooping in my backyard by myself or with friends at a local park or farmer’s market. Just get out and go for a walk to spend time in nature while you exercise. The point is to move–plain and simple!

Not only will you feel better–I promise–but if you have any residual weight from a pregnancy or from stress eating, it will start to come off. Eating right helps, too, but exercise completes the equation.

Has exercise helped you with grief, depression and/or stress? I’d love to hear how it worked for you! I practice yoga still, but have really found that hooping is so much fun it makes me happy even while I burn 7 calories per minute!

  • Rachel Kain works in IT to make ends meet, but her real passions are writing, music, food, and yoga. She blogs about motherhood, CHD, child loss, and anything else that interests her at Writers Write. Follow her on Twitter: @rjkain

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