This One’s for the Girls: Think Positive!

This lock-down most of the country – world – has been in for nearly two months has given us a lot of opportunity for good (already discussed here), but it has also given us a lot of time to think and over-think.

(Quick Note: by “us,” I mean women because I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the minds of men; I have a few theories but nothing confirmed.)

This lock-down has caused a lot of women to start second-guessing their bodies. That may be because a lot of us feel like Wonder Woman when we leave our gym, and now we can’t go to the gym. It might be because so many of us are working from home which means we’re not getting all dressed up and feel frumpy. (Seriously, high heels on a hard floor is one of my favorite sounds!) Some are starting to realize we’re not as good at cooking full, nutrient-dense meals as we thought we were.

The most common reason, however, I’ve heard for why women are suddenly self-conscious or more self-conscious than usual is because we’re alone. We’re single. Our friends are enjoying, maybe, quality time with their husbands and/or kiddos. They’re getting projects done around the house, getting caught up on movies. . .pretty much in a honeymoon phase again. The friends with kids might be ready to pull their hair out with the homeschool situation, but they’re getting to see their kids be kids. Not just watch them grow up and spend time with them they normally wouldn’t have, but they’re watching them be the kind of kids we were growing up – bubbles, sidewalk chalk, exploring the great outdoors! That is awesome! But those of us who don’t have that significant other with whom we can spend quality time or little ones to enjoy feel a bit lost. We’re being forced to face all of our flaws – personality and physical.

I got one request in particular from a young lady. She wanted a work-out program for home after she joined a dating site and started comparing herself to other women she saw on that site. That absolutely broke my heart. I told her that, too even as I put together a program for her. Since we do talk every day, this motivation is something has been talked about in a gentle, coaching style.

Another woman told me she thinks she needs to start working out harder and more often because there must be something wrong with her body. She was in the early stages of a relationship and was suddenly dropped with no explanation. Because conversation had been great and easy, personality must not have been an issue leaving just the physical.

I truly despise how so many women – myself included – automatically assume there’s something wrong with us when we’re single or when a guy does a 180 on us. I honestly don’t think men realize how critical we are of ourselves, how much we think about every little thing. While I am thrilled that women are using this time to work on their physical health I truly wish the motivation was different for so many of us. I wish our motivation was “hey! I’ve finally got time to get in the habit of working out a little every day!” or “well, guess I’m going to be doing some more mobility and flexibility work for the next several weeks!”

While we can see some good coming out of this lock-down (again, this is not a political post), there is some not-so-good happening too. A lot of these ladies I’m hearing from don’t normally deal with depression or anxiety, but this leading to that. I saw a post on social media about “check on your extrovert friends; they’re not ok.” The thing is: introverts are struggling too. Introvert and extrovert has to do with energy levels – what drains you and what gives you a boost. Just because us introverts don’t like being constantly around people and may have a social quota does not mean that we hate people. I still have close friends I want to see, even if it is once a month or for a couple hours every few weeks. So, yeah, extroverts are probably being faced with thoughts and feelings they normally avoid. People who already struggle with anxiety and depression are struggling more than usual. In some cases, we’re not being allowed to do the things that normally help.

I cannot even begin to tell you how important regular, structured exercise is for someone battling depression and/or anxiety. There is a whole biological reason – neurotransmitters and all that – behind that importance, but the sense of accomplishment is huge. Throwing heavy weight around or running for an hour or rowing a 5k gives you a sense of accomplishment and pride even while the rest of your life might feel like it’s falling apart with nothing going right.

Gyms were among the first businesses to be closed. I have already seen a lot of them posting their equipment for sale as they won’t be able to re-open after this lock-down ends. That is awful on a whole different scale. But gyms being the first to close means that while people are struggling with terms like “essential” and “non-essential,” being laid off work indefinitely or having to figure out how to work from home, being faced with their relationships or lack thereof, people are without a healthy, safe mean of managing stress. Emergency responders spent just as much if not more time prepping for increased domestic calls and suicidal ideations or attempts as we did preparing for this virus in our communities.

The resulting mental health concerns of this lock-down. . .oof! It’s not just women; it’s affecting men too. We just process things differently. This is something men don’t know or can fix and women can’t organize or analyze. As a result, men seem to be going to the security of the known and starting and finishing numerous different projects while women organize their homes and analyze and over-analyze themselves.

This sounds kind of hopeless to where I feel tired even writing about it. Don’t worry! I have a few things to keep all of us sane and thinking better about ourselves, to help us find better motivation than worrying about a potential mate thinks of us!

  • Start doing some activity – walking, yoga – and document how you feel doing it. I track all my workouts in a notebook, not just what I did for the workout but also for how I felt after that workout, any improvements I see or things to work on. I hadn’t been doing that for yoga, but I started with all this Covid19 stuff. I can say I held a pose longer or that I didn’t need a prop or modification for a pose. It’s not quite as a nice as seeing a lift go from 200# to 210# but still gives a sense of accomplishment.
  • Pamper yourself. This doesn’t really help with motivation, but a good coffee body scrub and/or face mask can do wonders for your confidence level as well as help you relax. There are also some physical benefits, get rid of dead skin and such. You don’t have to go crazy buying it either. I got mine on Amazon for about $10. A friend is making hers with left-over coffee grounds and other ingredients commonly found in the kitchen – honey, salt, baking soda, etc.
  • Find a fitness partner. With the way things are, you can’t really technically work out together unless you live together. But! A friend told me how she and her sis have been doing video chat for their workouts. That’s a good way of having accountability and someone to share in your fun – or suffering, depending on the workout!
  • Grab a book or your ipod/mp3 player and a blanket. Go outside, in your yard; by a lake or pond or river; in a field; in the woods. Lay the blanket out, lay down, and just enjoy nature. One of my favorite things from books like Little Women is when they just go on a picnic. Some of them read to the others, some play catch or cricket. When was the last time we had the time do that without coordinating schedules months in advance? This would be a good time and place to do some yoga or other exercises too!

None of those are super complicated or expensive. Some have the potential for visible physical benefits, others focus more on your mental health – stress reduction, calming, help you sleep, shift your focus from the fear-mongering and unknown to the present. . .

I was trying to figure out how to wrap up this article and actually paused to read a magazine which contains an article on physical activity and mental well-being. Here are two quotes from the article written by Stephanie L. Cooper, Ph.D., ACSM CEP, an article she wrote for the ACSM Health & Fitness Journal, Volume 24.3:

“Reductions in anger, confusion, depression, and tension are often experienced after a single bout of exercise, and feelings of energy significantly improve.”

“As a result, further improvements in anxiety and mood could occur as a result of perceiving oneself as being more productive.”

I know all this is rough, personally and physically. But there are ways to get through it. If something else has been working for you, feel free to share! On top of that, do not ever let someone’s opinion of your appearance, or what you THINK their opinion MIGHT be influence your thoughts about yourself!

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