Recently I lost my husband and my entire life changed in an instant. I am struggling to make sense of how my life looks and feels on a daily basis, and I wonder every day about the future that stretches ahead of me like a desolate empty road. That’s what it feels like, anyway. They keep telling me only time will heal this heartache. In the meantime, I am supposed to go on living somehow.
Besides the love and support of my family and friends, there are only two things keeping me grounded and functioning: working and exercising. In a crisis, the energy to exercise may disappear entirely. People have been known to not be able to get out of bed for months and everyone who encounters trauma will react differently. But if you are going through a tough time, and you have the energy, exercise can make a tremendous difference.
I feel uniquely qualified to offer a simple guide to exercising through a crisis (this is not the time for a complicated guide to exercising or any other complexity, for that matter.)
1. If you can do nothing else, walk, even if it’s just around the block. Fresh air will stimulate you, getting out of the house is great for shifting your mood, the act of walking is grounding and balancing to the body and mind. It’s also something you can do every single day. Walk alone or with a friend(s), whatever it takes. If you are already a runner, biker, hiker, don’t stop, keep it going. Any repetitive outdoor exercise will carry you through the pain ultimately, even if doesn’t feel like that.
2. Go to the gym, if you can. Companionship and activity around you, even if you don’t know anyone there, will make a world of difference and take you out of yourself for a while. If you don’t know how to lift weights, get on a cardio machine or take a class or get a good trainer. If you know how to lift weights or you already were lifting, alter your program if necessary but do it regularly. Strength training is empowering, confidence-building and grounding.
3. Fuel your body, mind and spirit. Some people lose their appetites, and some eat more to cope in a crisis. Regardless, the quality of food you consume has the ability to support your mind and body in navigating through the sudden shock and loss, as well as providing you with energy to exercise consistently. Less alcohol, more tea/coffee/liquids. Less processed foods, more protein. Veggies and fruit in whatever form works for you. If you can’t eat at all, protein drinks. If you are eating too much, at least avoid junk food. Fueling your body is crucial to keeping up your strength and getting you through this.
One last thing: Be kind to yourself. You’re navigating an unknown and precarious situation and doing the best you can. Treat yourself as you would treat a dear friend asking for your advice in a similar situation.
Time heals much. We just have to give our bodies, minds and spirits the best chance to endure while time works its magic.
Pritam Potts, owner of Advanced Athlete LLC, is a NSCA-certified trainer and strength coach with 12+ years of experience working with athletes and clients of all ages. Her specialty is in functional strength applications, developing core and overall strength and coordination specifically for the purpose of enhancing the body’s ability to function optimally and safely in athletic movement. Connect online at www.facebook.com/mrsathlete and www.twitter.com/mrsathlete.