The life I had worked so hard to create was now collapsing beneath my feet. An unfamiliar sense of despair consumed me, as though I were pushed under water with no hope of resurfacing. Everyone around me looked so happy, so normal. I desperately wanted to trade places. Time moved on, but fear of the unknown continued to devour me. Looking for help, I visited a psychologist. I imagined lying on a couch recounting my childhood while being asked, “How did that make you feel?” I was wrong. Sure, I shared what I was feeling. But what I didn’t anticipate were two questions that would lead to change: “What is your diet like? Do you exercise?”
Studies show that making time for exercise provides serious mental benefits. Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. "Failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts,” says Michael Otto, PhD, a professor of psychology at Boston University. Working out can reduce stress, slow the cognitive effects of aging, sharpen memory, increase relaxation and, of course, improve self-confidence. Hey, it’s fun to look in the mirror when you see results, but no selfies please.
So did it work? Yes. Exercise helped me in so many ways. I felt calmer after each workout. I gained a sense of control during a period in which I felt I had no control. I felt sense of accomplishment. This in turn gave me confidence. Within weeks I noticed a mental and physical change. I was proud of the way I looked and I liked how I felt. These feelings enabled me to step out into the unknown as I began creating a new future. Nothing came easy. But I had something I was good at, something to take pride in. I began to love me again.