Do you ever feel sad about yourself, or do you ever feel like the whole world is crashing on you and you feel so indifferent about the happenings around you? Or you lose interest in the things you love doing; the chances are that you are going through depression. And with depression often comes anxiety.
With improving mental health awareness, depression and anxiety have become widely talked about topics in the public space. Here, the focus is on re-educating you on two of the World’s biggest challenges and how they relate to your workout routines.
Depression, also known as a major depressive disorder in medical terms, is a common medical illness that negatively affects how you think, feel, and act. It affects how you view yourself and others and how you react to situations around you.
Depression presents with strong feelings of sadness. However, being sad does not automatically mean depression. The sadness felt in depression is prolonged and profound and comes with a loss of interest in once enjoyable and interesting activities. In addition, depression comes with physical and emotional problems and difficulty in dealing with various situations. Thus, depression affects performance and relationships at work or school and adversely deters functionality in the home.
The defining symptoms of depression are listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). The symptoms of depression range from mild to severe and generally include;
- Suicidal ideation or thoughts of death or suicide
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Frequent feelings of tiredness and loss of energy
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Hypersomnia or difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- Changes in appetite due to loss of appetite or weight gain
- Difficulty in concentrating, reasonable thinking, and making decisions
- An increase in meaningless physical activity such as the inability to sit still, handwringing, pacing, or slowed movements or speech happens when the depression becomes severe.
- Lack of motivation to engage in everyday activities
- Feeling worthless or guilt
According to the DSM-V, a person must experience at least five of these symptoms before they can be diagnosed with depression. Furthermore, these symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.
Depression is a common illness that affects about 1 in every 15 adults per year. Furthermore, 1 in every 6 people will experience depression at some point in their life. Anybody can experience depression at any point in their lives, but women and teenagers/youth are more likely to suffer from it.
There are different causes of depression. Some people are vulnerable to depression at some stage in their lives, and some depressions are due to experiences or situations that had happened previously in their lives. Common risk factors for depression include;
- Age: age is one of the biggest contributing factors to depression. Teenagers and young adults are most vulnerable to depression due to the pressures that abound around their age. In addition, elderly people are also at risk of depression, and it can be worse if such a person does not have social support or such person is living alone.
- Death or loss of a loved one: grief is also one of the major causes of depression. The death or loss of a loved one can increase one’s risk of depression.
- Abuse: emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a stranger or anyone close to you can increase your risk of depression.
- Conflict: personal conflict or conflict with friends or family members can make one vulnerable to depression.
- Medications: certain medications can change or alter the body mechanism and how the body reacts to situations. Drugs like corticosteroids, antiviral drug interferon-alpha, and isotretinoin can increase one’s risk of depression.
- Gender: hormonal changes in women make women more open to the risk of depression than men.
- Genes: genetics is also contributing factor to depression; a family history of depression can increase depression risk.
- Substance use: some drugs are depression-inducing; although they make you feel better, in the long run, they tend to amplify depression.
- Other causes of depression include; personal problems, medical illnesses, and major events like losing a job, divorce, getting married, graduating, etc.
Anxiety is normal human emotion. However, anxiety becomes a problem when it becomes more pronounced or prominent. Persistent anxiety is a mental illness characterized by worry, fear, distress, apprehension, and nervousness. Anxiety symptoms vary from mild to severe, affecting how people behave, relate with others and their day-to-day activities.
Anxiety is a common illness affecting about 40 million people in the United States. Worrying situations and potential harm are common anxiety triggers. This disorder occurs when there is a rush in adrenalin release, triggering fight-or-flight response. Raised heartbeat, sweating, and increased sensitivity to surroundings are symptoms that characterize anxiety. Anxiety is essential for survival, but becomes dangerous when it limits your daily life..
Anxiety symptom varies from from the almost beatiful to the heart wrenching. It can come in the form of panic attacks, nightmares, painful memories, etc., that you may not be able to control. Symptoms of anxiety are:
- Shortness of breath
- Dry mouth
- chills or hot flashes
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Apprehension and worry
- Headache and chronic pain
- Difficulty functioning at work or school
- Digestive problems
- Numbness or tingling
- Suicidal ideations
- Social isolation
Different factors can trigger anxiety symptoms. One of the most common causes of anxiety disorders is difficult life experiences such as traumatic events; other causes include:
- Certain illnesses: there are medical illnesses that can trigger anxiety symptoms. Heart disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome and tumors that cause adrenalin production are some common anxiety triggers. In addition, withdrawal symptoms from drugs like alcohol, psychedelics and anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) may also trigger anxiety.
- Genetic factors: a child of an anxious parent is at risk of suffering from anxiety disorder
- Trauma: children or adults who experience trauma either at a young age or grown-up can develop anxiety disorders.
A common symptom of depression is a lack of motivation and interest in pleasurable activities. Conversely, anxiety presents with social isolation, and a fear of being in public gatherings. When present, these mental disorders can adversely affect an athlete’s workout routine by causing intense social isolation and withdrawal. Depression and anxiety are silent killers. The worst part for athletes is that they’re forced to isolate themselves from an environment that would normally be of help to them, into a shell that worsens their suffering.
Beyond their psychological effects, depression, and anxiety also affect athletes physiologically. These disorders cause changes in appetite, muscle pains, insomnia or hypersomnia, and fatigue. Depression may also reduce an athlete’s pain threshold and overall endurance. All of these symptoms further reduce the motivation to exercise or engage in other physical activities, which makes depression and anxiety more difficult to break.
Athletes who suffer from mental illness need help. It needs to be a collective effort that involves them and their community. Thus, athletes, bodybuilder,s and gym users should learn to recognize the signs of depression in their colleagues and should also be encouraged to speak up when down.
There are lifestyles you can adopt and things to do that can help you deal with depression and anxiety. They are:
During the anxiety and depression phase, there is always a change in appetite, overeating, or skipping meals. However, it is important to note that the food you eat affects your mood and energy; hence, to overcome depression and anxiety, you need to eat the right food in the right proportion. You can eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and reduce simple carbs and foods with added sugar in your diet.
Going through anxiety and depression can be a very lonely journey but having strong social support helps you feel better, knowing that you have people you can speak to and reach out to. You can reach out to your family, friends, and colleagues or even join a support group. It helps relieve you of the stress, helping you stay grounded through the phase.
Exercise helps to improve the mood and boost self-esteem and self-confidence. Taking a brisk walk of about 10-15 minutes helps clear your head off negative thoughts that can amplify depression and anxiety.
Relaxation techniques help boost the mind while focusing on your inner self. Meditating or engaging in breathing exercises for about 2-5 minutes per day helps lighten your mood and relieve tension.
There are some steps you need to take on your own that can help you move past your anxiety and depression state. Steps like expressing yourself in writing, art like drawing, painting, sewing, baking, etc. Enjoy every moment like dancing, swimming and other activities that interest you. Train your mind to avoid negative thoughts, do not blame yourself for whatever happened, don’t be too harsh on yourself, and do not dwell on the problems. Lastly, make new goals and do something meaningful.
It is a common truth that exercise is a general cure for almost everything; depression and anxiety are not left out. One of the symptoms common in both anxiety and depression is tiredness and fatigue, and the last thing you would want to think about in such a state is exercise. However, exercise has been proven to be beneficial in preventing and improving certain health problems like diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, arthritis, etc. Exercise is beneficial not just for physical health but also for psychological health, as they help reduce anxiety and improve the state of mind. Exercise helps to improve the mood, make you feel better, and relieve mental stress.
During exercise, the body releases endorphins, a feel-good chemical produced in the body that helps enhance one’s sense of well-being. Exercise also helps one take the mind off negative thoughts and worries, which are the common symptoms of depression and anxiety. Rather than using the negative coping mechanism to break through from anxiety and depression, exercise is a healthy coping mechanism beneficial to the mind and body. Exercise also helps build self-confidence when you meet your exercise goals and look good in terms of body shape and appearance.
When struggling with anxiety and depression, there are chances that you might want to give up on the healing process, but the truth is that the healing process to anxiety and depression is not magic; it works when you are intentional about yourself, and you are willing to go through the healing process slow and steady. It might not like what it is, but you have to jump through hurdles leading to your final destination in the long run.