Exercise has become a huge part of my routine these last couple of months. I have discovered that it not only makes me feel physically healthy, it has a positive effect on my mentality too. I quite often have negative thoughts. After a full day at work I can feel exhausted and ill. If I were to go home I would sit and spiral myself into overthinking anything and everything. If I go and exercise it gives me the boost I require to get through the evening and clears my mind of all depressive thoughts.
I have always swam from a young age – not competitively. I used to swim a mile three or four times a week. I find the muffled sounds when you are underwater relaxing. While I swim I take the time to process my thoughts and clear my head. I leave feeling refreshed and with a positive mindset.
When I got my first tattoo I was told I would be unable to swim for 12 weeks. I knew I needed something to replace my swimming or my mental health would spiral.
I chose to replace swimming with the gym. I never thought I would be, but I am now one of those crazy gym fanatics. I have made it part of my routine to go at least three times a week; more if I can fit it in. I do 1 hour 30 minutes sessions and use a variety of the available equipment. After a workout I feel invincible. I spend all day feeling tired, groggy and overloaded by my surroundings. During and following my workout I get the burst of energy I have been craving all day. It gives me the motivation to enjoy the evenings before I crash again prior to bedtime. Those few hours of feeling mentally able to tackle anything are why I love to exercise.
My favourite form of exercise is to dance. I joined a club during my first year at secondary school and fell in love with the sport. I have qualifications in dance at both GCSE and A Level. It was the one lesson in my school timetable which I always looked forward to. I was able to be myself and not be judged. I was also able to express myself – it was a way for me to communicate without using words. I was lucky enough to have two wonderful dance teachers who bought out the best in me; they knew I was undergoing my ASD diagnosis in my final year of A Levels and I will be forever grateful of the support they provided me. I went on to teach dance after school to younger children within my community – I will save further details of this for another post. I still attend a local dance class regularly. I genuinely believe dance is good for the soul, the thrill of telling a story through your body’s motions and connecting with the music is a feeling I will never grow tired of.
The inspiration for this post comes from Harry Judd’s book, ‘Get Fit, Get Happy’. I read it a few months back and it really struck a chord. In the book Harry talks about his own experiences with exercise and how it can have a positive effect on mental health. He writes about research carried out by specialists in their areas and provides evidence of the impact exercise has on your body and mind. I would recommend to everyone, especially those who are autistic or struggle with their mental health, to give the book a read or carry out your own research into the benefits of exercise on your body and mind. It may provide you with an alternative to the traditional solutions of therapy or medication.
Exercise helps me cope with the anxiety, stress, negative thoughts and exhaustion my autism causes me. It helps me make it through each week and although it may not be everyone’s, ‘cup of tea’ I highly advise it is at least worth a try… you may surprise yourself.
Get Fit, Get Happy by Harry Judd: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Get-Fit-Happy-approach-exercise/dp/1473664535