From Panic Sweat to Happy Sweat
My heart pumping, short of breath, drenched in sweat, dizziness, nausea, that feeling of my brain keeping time with my pulse. This feels SO much like a panic attack. But it’s good for me – this is my return to fitness.
High intensity exercise feels exactly like a panic attack
I’m teaching my mind that it’s OK to feel like this. That it’s GOOD to feel like this.
My resting mind is willing but my mind during high intensity exercise wants me to curl up in a ball and cry. I force myself past that point and instead I cry on the way home from the gym or the pool. These tears are a release and they feel triumphant. I’m not able to stop them flowing just yet.
During our daughter Lara’s 800 days of treatment for cancer I began to experience panic attacks.
My panic attacks were mild at first and then curled up on the floor of the shower shaking.
Mine isn’t an uncommon story for a parent of a medically complicated child. It’s never just the story of your own child that impacts you. It’s the friends who weren’t so lucky. It’s the guilt that your child lived when their friend didn’t and it’s the crushing gratitude that your child got to stay.
I started experiencing panic attacks about a year into Lara’s treatment. The really high-risk treatment had finished. It was almost as though, because we were no longer in acute ‘please save her life’ treatment, that the moment I got to rest, my brain went to town on the worrying.
I took a little holiday on happy pills
I medicated while I worked with my psychologist around better ways to cope. Thinking pathways, breathing exercises, allowing myself to cry and feel my genuine and legitimate pain instead of forcing myself through on relentless optimism.
For the years since, I’ve been reluctant to begin exercising.
Those first 15 minutes of exercise, the ones that really start ramping up your heart rate, they feel like I’m INVITING a panic attack.
It’s not just the panic attack itself, there’s a good slice of self-judgement there too. There’s a part of myself who judges me for these episodes. It says, ‘You couldn’t manage that, look at the human puddle of emotions you were’.
If I begin exercising and quit, that’s another failure to judge myself upon.
So, for years, I didn’t start.
In study after study aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and the symptoms associated with it. Getting friendly with the initial feelings of a panic attack through something as wonderfully life changing as exercise is the key out. For me and many others.
For me these workouts are to reprogram the way my mind thinks about anxiety and the way I respond to it.
I am one week into a six-week challenge with Exquisite Fitness and about five weeks into joining this amazing little community of happy sweaters. My sweat has begun to feel like happy sweat. I get up at 4.45am to make my 5.15am workout feeling happy, looking forward to it. The rest of the day I feel happily fatigued.
I still cry in the car on the way home most days, but I think some of those tears are gratitude, because I can feel myself changing.
I’ll drop in next week to let you in a secret I’m learning – how, when done well…
Exercise is the BEST antidepressant on the planet.
Other Blog you may like
The Body Keeps Score – my story of Cortisol an Adrenaline overload
Medicating with Busy – some people medicate uncomfortable feelings with booze or chocolate, I choose busy. It’s no more healthy than the bottom of a bottle.