Exercise As Therapy
Exercise as therapy
I've mentioned elsewhere that I wasn't told of my illness until I was 42 years of age. What that meant is that, without medication, I found a whole raft of ways of coping with episodic mania and depression. Most of them were destructive as they entailed self-medication and abuse, but during relatively stable periods of a year or two, I found only one way of coping with the massive energy jolts and morose depressions that didn't involve those destructive tendencies--I pursued physical activities with a vengeance. Unfortunately, without the stabilising effect of lithium, eventually an episode would succeed in overcoming the best of my protections. Now, with lithium, and moderate exercise, I have been stable for over five years.
First let's distinguish physical activity with a purpose from meaningless pacing or obsessive behaviours. What I am talking about here results in an elevation of mood and the release of tension, an end to agitation, and a general improvement in our sense of well-being. Enjoyable physical activity can break the cycle of self-absorption and negative self-talk that less positive techniques leave unfazed. So what kind of activities are we talking about then?
Beneficial exercise encompasses virtually any aerobic exercise that you can think of. Everything from cycling to brisk walks on a beach or around the neighbourhood can provide excellent benefits to mental stability. My personal favourite was (and is) to pursue endurance riding which is a form of long-distance horseracing covering up to 100 miles in a 24 hour period. Obviously, this is a bit extreme for most folks, but you needn't devote such intenseness to your fun, just find something pleasurable and physical to do for an hour a day and you should begin to feel your troubled mind ease a bit. Besides, physical exercise is a great way to meet people as well as to slow the inexorable "march of pounds" that accrue due to the various psych-meds some of us take.
Books on exercise as therapy
Email discussion forum on exercise as therapy
Activity for Mental Health - A new and wonderfully supportive
discussion list where members share their experiences with utilising physical
activities like cycling, walking and others to aid them in stabilisation.