Exercise and Mental Health

Even before I learned that I was an HSP, and before I fully understood how important mental wellness was for my life, I enjoyed exercise.

Now I know this isn’t the case for everyone…some people just don’t find it fun! (And believe me, some days I don’t either) but do read on – I have some tips and advice that may help because hey, whether we like it or not, it is good for us. ❤

Exercise has been an escape for me throughout my life.

If I had a bad day at school as a kid, I would go to rhythmic gymnastics practice after school knowing that I would have a very different experience there.

I would find a calm, centered place in my stretching, excitement and pride in my routines; it was just me and my body, and my determination…mind over matter a lot of the time.

As I grew up and moved away from gymnastics and dance, I discovered long distance running. Again, I found it to be an activity of solace, something in my life that I could take control over and give to myself. Perhaps it was a form of alone time for me before I really realized how much I needed it.

*Disclaimer:

As a typical HSP who thinks of all sides of the story, I would like to say that I am also aware that exercise can correlate with mental health in an unhealthy way too – i.e. over exercising, body image issues, etc. This is an entirely different issue than the angle of my topic today, though of course worthy of just as much attention.

Today, I would like to focus on how exercise can help improve our mental health and combat anxiety and depression. It is also a good activity for HSPs as we process our thoughts and experiences.

When I endure changes and have decisions to make in my life, I know that ideally I should be giving myself a lot of mental space and time to think and to process. I also feel this way about experiences such as a great weekend getaway, a fun girl’s night, a deep discussion with my partner or a good friend…

If I don’t give myself the time to absorb the aftermath and dive deep about certain points and moments, then I miss out, in a way… I don’t get everything that I could get from the experience… if that makes sense!

Exercise gives me the space I need to do this. I actually thought of this post while on a run!

When we exercise, we create space in our minds.

Sometimes while running or at the gym I am surprised at what comes into my head – little things that don’t seem significant. But hey, those are thoughts for you, and I don’t think thoughts should be taken so seriously.

They usually just need to be acknowledged and taken for simply a thought, and nothing more (it is when we let our thoughts turn into feelings and our reality that they can take control of us).

So, just recognize your thoughts as a thoughts, and let them drift away. What will you have left? A cleansed mind.

Exercise also naturally increases serotonin function in the brain which is a recipe for happier moods, ultimately combating imbalances that lead to anxiety and depression. For more details, check out one of the many articles on this topic here: http://www.livestrong.com/article/22590-effects-exercise-serotonin-levels/

Unfortunately, HSPs are more prone to anxiety and depression if they’ve had a difficult childhood or experienced trauma at some point in their life. Exercise can be extremely beneficial and effective for HSPs struggling with mental wellness issues.

And remember, your physical activity of choice could be anything: a brisk walk in the park, yoga, pilates, long distance running, hiking, biking, weightlifting, water aerobics, whatever you are drawn to! Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t like, take time to explore and find an activity that you enjoy.

I would like to tie back into one of the first posts I wrote for The Sensitive Trait: Self Care and Refueling for the HSP, for a moment. Exercise may fit well into your self care and refueling practices, but if you’re like me, you’ll need alone time and down time as well. 🙂

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I would like to take this opportunity to extend a special offer to all of my HSP followers:

As you may have seen from The Sensitive Trait’s Facebook page, I am holding a draw for you to win three FREE HSP Coaching sessions!

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The Details:

As an aspiring HSP Mentor & Coach, my intention is to help Highly Sensitive People not just survive, but thrive in this world and hone into their abilities and talents. I will be selecting three volunteers on October 27th, 2015 with whom I will conduct three FREE one-hour Skype or phone call sessions.

During these sessions we will discuss what being an HSP means for you and identify some areas where you would like to thrive instead of struggle as an HSP.

Why am I doing this and why is it free?

I am doing this in order to get more experience and to learn and grow as an HSP mentor and coach by helping others individually, one on one. So it will be a bit of an exchange – you will help me learn and experience this next step in my journey to help other HSPs, and I will do my best to help you in return.

To enter the draw, please send me an email at: thesensitivetrait@gmail.com with some words about why you feel drawn to this opportunity! I look forward to hearing from you ❤

Until next time,

XO your fellow HSP, Chelsie.

 

 

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HSPs and Decision Making

I was recently on a business trip to represent the marketing & communications work I do for a corporate company. As a fairly experienced HSP with regards to work trips and travel, I knew I would be in for a whirlwind of busy airports, short flight connections, back-to-back schedules, non-stop interaction, lobby bars, constant hotel air-conditioning and very little sleep.

For most HSPs, I can guarantee this doesn’t sound like a fun agenda if there are no breaks in between.

In my position, luckily these trips are usually only three or four days long so I can charge up before, and power through with brief breaks in my hotel room literally self-loving myself with words like:

“You got this, you can do it… PROUD-A-YOU!”

And then recover afterwards with sleep and honestly pure quiet time alone in my house doing absolutely nothing.

I do wish there was something more that I could recommend to do during busy jam-packed events like this, but I honestly think the best thing to do is to give yourself reassurance, and if you absolutely need time out, perhaps miss a scheduled dinner or an evening event.

Lucky for HSPs, although we burn out quicker due to overstimulation and lack of downtime, we are extremely resilient in brief periods of high demand.

What I wanted to talk about today is something I have noticed in myself as an HSP in the past; and something that really came to the forefront of my mind again during my company’s large group discussions and meetings.

The process of decision making…

For an HSP this probably means: deciding on how we feel about a topic, gathering what our own introspects are, depicting what other sides of the story or point of view could be, considering the outcomes, and about 500 other analytical thoughts that run through our minds… including whether or not we should pipe up about our insights during a group discussion.

Last week I couldn’t help but think:

“Man, it seems so easy for the guy sitting 3 chairs down from me to blurt out his opinion or suggestion instantly… unconcerned about whom he may be contradicting or even offending.”

“Why is it just not that simple for me?”

HSPs like me are more inclined to sit and mull over their thoughts first until they break them down and categorize them so much that they may not even make sense to the average person…

That right there, is our analytical mind; something that a lot of people have, ESPECIALLY HSPs. It is most definitely an asset, but sometimes I think we can get lost in the woodwork of our thoughts and even talk ourselves out of speaking up, because we can see things through more than one lens.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have learned a few things about decision making as it relates to me, an HSP, and I hope that all my lovely readers will be able to get something from this too. 🙂

  • Usually the points that I think of are good, but are often not the “obvious point” that someone would make. If I don’t feel the time is exactly right to say something, then that’s ok. I will store my thoughts away for another time, or to help inform another topic down the road (I am learning that it shouldn’t be a race or a competition to speak up as much as possible in these meetings).
  • Once I formulate my opinion, even though I have thought of the “counter argument” maybe even before others have, I still need to stick to my opinion. In the past I have voluntarily stated the counter argument to my own opinion! But that, for obvious reasons, can be self-sabotaging.
  • Sometimes sitting back and observing everything, even for 3 full days – like I did during these business meetings – can be the best thing. I absorbed so much (I know that this is second nature for many HSPs, but for me personally in the past I have tried to fight this tendency to make sure I feel heard and valued).

Finally, during a wrap-up discussion at the end of the week, I was ready to share my thoughts; the decision I had made on what the most important thing that myself and my team could do moving forward.

It was a hit!

My boss and a few others came up to me afterward acknowledging my comments, and elaborating on the thoughts I stated by contributing some of their own. Because I hadn’t spoken much throughout the week, I think people were even a little stunned with my insight.

So HSPs, and non-HSPs (because this can totally apply to you as well!) I would like to encourage you to take your time and observe.

I think a lot of times HSPs may be a little self-conscious or too hard on themselves for being quieter in groups. We may beat ourselves up for appearing “shy.”

But you know what? That’s how we are wired!! We have evolved this way for a reason… to add dynamic –  to observe, TO be different. These are good things.

So instead of fighting your trait in collaborative situations, let it guide you.

You have A LOT of SMART things to say. And you will say them, when the time is right. Being the quiet observer in the back IS a good thing. When you do speak, it will be strong.

Thanks so much for reading this week, and for letting me share with you some of my personal findings as I, like you, continue to develop as an HSP. Of course, through this process, my intention is to help you as well. ❤

I invite you to share some of your stories about decision making. Is it hard for you? What are some of the best decisions you have made? Can you attribute them to being an HSP?

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With love and compassion & until next time,

XO your fellow HSP, Chelsie.