THE BLOG
07/10/2015 05:39 BST | Updated 06/10/2016 06:12 BST

Working Up a Sweat to Overcome My Mental Illness

When a friend of mine first suggested going to the gym could help with my mental illness, I reacted immediately with anger towards them for merely suggesting it; but I realised, I was being as closed minded as people who don't have an understanding of mental illness and fuel the stigma. I should be willing to try new means to help myself overcome my mental illness, as my friend wouldn't suggest doing something which would cause me distress or harm, so I agreed to at least try something new.

In my mind, I was anxious and guarded fearing the thought of people in the gym looking at me, forming opinions based on my appearance or actions in the gym and what they would think if they knew I suffered from mental illness; then I realise something the moment I walked into the place - 'They don't know me or my past and the time, I spend in the gym is about improving myself and my wellbeing, not about their opinion of me'.

When you suffer from anxiety, depression and stress, it can become a destructive mixture of unfounded fears and low self-confidence; though in placing on my headphones, hearing the music begin and starting to cycle at a comfortable pace, I closed my eyes, focused on me and what I wanted to achieve whilst in the gym.

For me, exercise is not a competition because I am merely seeking to assist my body in staying mentally and physically healthy and as I cycled, I felt more comfortable in myself, less concerned about anyone in the gym and opened my eyes content in myself for overcoming the initial fear. After 20 minutes on the exercise bike, I looked around eagerly looking for the next gym equipment to enjoy, as my fears were being replaced with excitement, new found energy and motivation.

As someone who enjoys going for a walk in my local park or by the river on a regularly basis, I really didn't want to get on the running machine and sought instead to try the rowing machine. Again I spent the first couple minutes, eyes closed and concerned of the opinions of the people around me, then I again realised I was caught up in my own fears again and needed to overcome them. Then, I realised something which inspired and motivated me to continue - 'by being in the gym, I was seeking to confront my fears, I was succeeding by my actions and I wanted to continue because it felt rewarding and empowering.'

Before I knew it, another 20 minutes had gone by and though I had a good sweat going, I felt free from any concern of what people thought, my anxiety, stress and fears evaporated. I felt in control of my thoughts, at ease with myself, proud of what I had achieved and I wanted to really challenge, my new found energy and motivation.

I saw a group of 8 people walking into the Yoga session and asked the Personal Trainer, if I could join in as I felt, I needed to really unleash my emotional baggage and push my own personal boundary limits. She happily invited me to join her and the class for their hour of Yoga.

Never had I imagined myself doing Yoga, but from the first minute to the last in the session, I felt I had found something that no medication, I had been given for my own mental illness had provided me. I was in control and felt able to clear my mind of any negative aspects of the past few days / weeks and focus on myself, I felt no anxiety or stress and I had clarity on what, I wanted to do going forward in my life.

Following a series of simple stretches and breathing techniques, I found my mind cleared of clutter and any emotional imbalance, which I had hoped for years ago. Not only were the exercises simple to follow, but I found I could do many of the stretches at home and the breathing techniques at any point of the day in meetings, travelling or resting, when I felt overwhelmed by anxiety, depression and stress.

Since my first visit to the gym till now, I have been feeling more comfortable in myself and less overwhelmed by my mental illness. When I feel anxious or stressed, I start to recreate the breathing techniques, I find I am more comfortable and able to control my emotions and actions without fear or allowing anxiety or stress to control me.

I invite you to find out for yourself, if exercise can help you because the results may be different for everyone, but you don't know until you try and if you feel, as positive in yourself as I do now on a regular basis from exercise, then it will have been worth the effort.

CLASP Charity, Pure Gym, Rethink Mental Illness and many more invite you, this Saturday 'World Mental Health Day' to participate at 12 Pure Gym locations across the UK and learn new techniques to ease anxiety, depression and stress, as well as be an inspiration to your community and across the UK by motivating people to increase Mental Health Awareness and Wellbeing.

You can participate by attending the Pure Gym's in Edinburgh Ocean Terminal, Glasgow City, Manchester Urban Exchange, Manchester Exchange, Leeds North, Brierley Hill (Birmingham), Coventry, Mansfield, Portsmouth, Newton Abbey (Belfast), Acton and Finsbury Park (London).

You don't have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits or enjoy the day. No matter your fitness level, this enjoyable event will help to improve your emotional and mental health.

Register TODAY and receive your Pure Gym 'FREE DAY PASS' by clicking on the link - http://www.active.com/various-locations-uk/pilates/races/walking-out-of-darkness-mind-body-and-soul-2015

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