GET.FIT.

We all should be celebrating this weekend. It’s EARTH.DAY and there is no better way to rejoice with MOTHER.NATURE than by being in the great outdoors. In NYC, several neighborhoods are going carless today and embracing the impact we have on protecting our beautiful planet.

What better way to show our appreciation of our world than by getting out there, breathing some fresh air, and finding your new favorite exercise. I’ve come to enjoy walks with my dog and running outside as a way to stay physically fit, as well as mentally sound. Being out in the sun, or on a brisk day like today, I notice natural beauty. Birds chirping to welcome Spring, trees and flowers blooming, the happiness my dog brings to me when she’s out and by my side: these are all reasons that fitness helps the body, mind, and spirit. I’d like to share with you my goals for getting fit, and ways I achieve them in a healthy way.

1. How can I start a GET.FIT plan?

Baby steps. The same way mindfulness teaches us to focus on one thing at a time, evaluate the first small step you can take towards your health goals. Write a list of ways you can improve your health. Prioritize and take the initial step that makes the most sense. I cut out red and white meat from my diet. I have gastrointestinal issues, so making this small change improved my energy, digestion, and metabolism. For exercise, I began hiking and walking with my dog, which evolved into jogging and running. Want to try something outdoors? Go to your local park and take a lap around it. Make a game out of it: how many trees can I identify. It may sound silly at first, but I assure you, there’s no harm in feeling a little goofy. You would be surprised by how great it feels to try something new in nature.

2. What’s the best way to keep up the GET.FIT momentum?

I use my iPhone much more nowadays, for the major reason that mood and fitness apps exist. It’s like having a physical trainer at my finger tips. I used Runkeeper to begin my running journey, and it increasingly improved my abilities, distances, and time. Knowing that I get a gentle reminder every few days to get outside has kept up the momentum. I feel I am held accountable when I can track my progress and feel the nudge in the right direction. Other apps can get you out there and meeting people interested in similar outdoor activities, like Meetup for instance. Building confidence through trying something fresh and new is healthy for your SELF.ESTEEM and MENTAL.STATE. Feel like giving it a go?

3. READY.SET.GO!

Just as the Nike tagline goes, JUST.DO.IT! Put one foot in front of the other, take it one day at a time, and get that momentum going. Some days I don’t want to be outside. I give myself a little push by remembering how amazing I feel when I get back after that brisk walk or run. We only have one life to live, and it’s never too late to begin a GET.FIT plan. Talk to your doctor about what exercise is appropriate for you. And look in the mirror when you get back, say that positive affirmation you love, and believe in yourself. Why not get it started on this lovely EARTH.DAY weekend? The planet will thank you. And there’s no day like today.

Ahh, Earth Day, the only day of the year where being able to hacky-sack will get you laid. — Jon Stewart

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DONT.PANIC!

Staying aware of my anxiety sometimes leads me to more…anxiety. There is a delicate balance between avoiding and prepping for an anxiety attack, and staying calm in the throws of one. But, DONT.PANIC! Let me tell you what my attacks feel like, and ways I stay CALM.COOL&COLLECTED.

1. Have a gameplan.

Easier said than done, because anxiety may creep up on you when you least expect it. I try to have a toolkit of DBT.SKILLS for when I feel anxiety, or a full blown attack, and use them to calm me. We cannot always drop and meditate in the middle of the workday, but we can use a quick deep breathing exercise and count our breathes. Try breathing in and out to the count of ten. Focus on the feeling of your chest as it rises and falls. Stay grounded, and enjoy the small break while in the moment.

2. Know your triggers.

We do not always have the luxury of avoiding our daily life triggers. Stress at work, an unexpected loss, or a flashback to a traumatic event are difficult to predict. So get to know some of the foreseeable triggers. Maybe you get social anxiety at the supermarket. I get anxiety in crowded places like at concerts. Avoiding triggers like these is not reasonable or helpful. But if I make myself aware of the stress I am going to be placed in, I can gain an understanding of why I feel the way I do. And I can cope with it as exposure lightens the load of anxiety. There are triggers that may be important to avoid: for instance, I like to steer clear of eating at bars simply because I want to keep myself away from alcohol. Get comfortable with your triggers, and you might save yourself from HEAVY.ANXIETY.

3. Get through it, it won’t last.

I have heard and read many times that the ultimate fact is this: you cannot die from an anxiety attack. It may feel reminiscent of a heart attack. Keep breathing. I make sure to drink some water or tea, or lie down and close my eyes if it sneaks up on me late at night. Ride it out. I don’t know the world record for longest anxiety attack, but if it does not pass, call your doctor or 911 in the case of an emergency or worsening pain or tightness. I’ve gone to the emergency room for anxiety, and get piece of mind that I am safe and with professionals. Notice that you are in the midst of one, and gently accept that it is a feeling that will soon alleviate.

The more ready I am for my anxiety symptoms, the more capable I am of soothing myself until it drifts away like a feather in the wind. Remember, even people who are not diagnosed with anxiety have stressors in life that may cause feelings difficult to overcome. We are all in this together. And DONT.PANIC! You got this.

Try out some simple breathing practices found here at PsychologyToday.com.

“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self.” — Søren Kierkegaard

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SPRING.FEVER

Since my first diagnosis was Bipolar I, it is only fitting to mention that CRAZY.MANIC time is upon us: Spring. As it gets warmer (when will it?? PLZ.NOW), I notice my moodiness lift as the frigid air of winter dissipates. The sun starts showing its face, and my mood is generally up. I track it with a nice app called Moodnotes and regularly check in with myself to get a sense of how I am feeling each day. Here are my thoughts and opinions on mania, depression, and the role the weather plays.

What is a manic state?

Basically, I see it in the form of an upped mood, heavy in pleasant and productive feelings, also high in agitation and restlessness. I used to lose sleep, work like a racehorse in the final stretch, and think I was queen of the world in my grandiose thoughts. It doesn’t last (for me, no more than 3-5 days) and it comes with a pretty heavy CRASH&BURN.

In greater detail, mania is marked by some of these symptoms:

  • rapid thoughts
  • fast speech
  • aggitation
  • elated mood
  • risky behaviors
  • lots of energy and activity

What is a depressive state?

For me, it is major anhedonia, or a lack of desire to do the things I enjoy doing. I don’t want to go for a run or exercise, I don’t want to eat well, I struggle with daily tasks that were once second nature like getting the laundry done or tidying up. The depressive states bring me SMH.

Other depressive symptoms may include:

  • low activity
  • loss of desire in enjoyable activities
  • hopelessness
  • forgetfulness
  • thoughts of suicide
  • excessive eating or loss of appetite

Why am I concerned about SPRING.FEVER?

Well, because I think the weather affects my mood and mental well-being a great deal. I have been tracking my mood fairly regularly for about 10 years now, and find that often I would feel depressed in the winter, and more manic as spring came around.

Why is mood change important?

I plan on keeping fluctuations in my mood in check as I remain in a sort of remission from my major health struggles. The more aware I am of how I am feeling, the better prepared I can be for a dip or rise in mood. With any luck, all the extra effort of keeping my life balanced will benefit me in the way of avoiding and preventing major episodes down the line.

So, my advice to you is this: keep it cool this summer, don’t get caught up in SPRING.FEVER — and if you struggle with a mood disorder like bipolar, try out a mood tracker for that extra bit of preventative care. Good luck!

Check out more on bipolar disorder at NIMH.

This post is meant to raise awareness of bipolar disorder, and by no means is a substitute for professional support. Please contact your doctor in the event that you are struggling. And always remember, you are not alone.

There are a lot of studies that suggest a higher rate of creativity in bipolars than the general population. — Kay Redfield Jamison

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