The cure for anxiety and depression is exercise–just get outside more often. Go for a walk or run. Meditate. Do yoga. Many well-meaning people think exercise can cure depression and anxiety, or some suggest taking supplements instead of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Lexapro, or that there’s some essential oil out there that I can use to cure my panic attacks.
Truth is, none of that works for me except for medication, and there is nothing wrong with me taking it to relieve ongoing depression and panic attacks. I’ve been running since 2011 and began triathlon a few years later, and I used to get panic attacks while running. Yes, I thought I was having a heart attack and going to die while doing one of the activities said to relieve anxiety. Go figure. I would also wake up from a sound sleep in a panic with a heart rate well over 130 bpm. I know because I took my pulse.
So, to tell me all I need to do is exercise is insulting. I spend anywhere from 10-15 hours a week doing just that and most of my runs and rides are outside. Maybe I’m obsessed with the sport of triathlon? Probably. But even with exercise and medication, I still get depressed and anxious.
Oftentimes, after I finish a big goal race, I spend the next two weeks or so depressed, going to bed early and sleeping through my alarm, taking two hour naps on top of all of that sleep, procrastinating on housework and work, not caring what I make for dinner or even eating that much. I know that happens; I recognize it and get my butt moving anyway, but it’s hard.
I’ll get over my post-race blues, sign up for another race, and move on. Anxiety is always there like a radio inside my head, blasting annoying music. Medication and exercise turn the volume down, but it’s still there as background noise, and each day I have to choose whether or not I turn up the volume or leave it as is.
If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you’re not alone. Even if you get the post-race blues, you’re not alone. Many athletes cycle through periods of depression or anxiety. Please get help if you need it. Keep swimming, biking, and running, and see a doctor if necessary.