If you’ve ever suffered a loss, experienced heartbreak or felt the impact of tragedy, you’ve known what it feels like to be sad or maybe even to cross over into the territory of depression.
I’m not talking about the emotional feeling of sadness – I mean sadness and its effects on your body. After Cass and I traded our “it’s-funny-now” stories about when we were truly falling apart, I recalled a time, after a particularly bad weekend in college, when everything just kind of turned blue.
I was pulled over in Wisconsin on my way home, and the state patrolman’s lights behind me were legitimately the straw that broke the camel’s back. Before he even arrived at my window, I was sobbing.
He absolutely thought I was faking it, which is actually fairly ironic because I do get out of a lot of tickets, but it’s never through crying. It’s through a time-tested method of smiling, being really honest and mentioning that my dad is a fire fighter.
But on this particular occasion, I couldn’t smile, so the officer took my license and walked away. He came back to the car to find me still crying and realized his error, checking in with a cautious, “Are you okay?”
I probably could have gone to jail for this, but I just really didn’t want to talk about it on the side of the interstate, so I took a deep breath, pulled the ticket from his hand and said, “Just go.”
And he did.
It was at this point in college when getting out of bed was tough, and for a little while, my gym habit wasn’t so easy to fit into my days.
That feeling of sadness that ties you to the couch and makes you hate sunshine is actually a common side effect of depression, according to a study by Roshanaei-Moghaddam, Katon and Russo. The study found that “baseline depression was significantly associated with subsequent sedentary lifestyle or poor adherence to the physical exercise regimens recommended by physicians after a coronary event.”
But at the same time, exercise can reduce depression and anxiety, according to a study by the Mayo Clinic. That same study found that exercise helps ease depression symptoms by “releasing feel-good brain chemicals,” “reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression” and “increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects.”
It seems simple. Being sad makes you sedentary and not being sedentary makes you less sad, but it’s not always that easy to dig out of that hole. The answer is not to go it alone.
Lean on your support system if you start to feel like your down days aren’t balanced out by your up days. Tell a friend that you need her help to get to the gym or that you just want to spend a little time taking a walk together outside.
Cass describes what she calls “robot mode,” or the time when one transitions from truly sad to normal life again in her post titled On starting again:
“I tell myself,
Today, you are a machine. A robot of yourself. You are going to get up, you are going to pour yourself a cup of coffee, and then you are going to continue on doing what you need to do until it no longer feels this way. At some point this will feel natural again. Maybe not right this moment, but someday. Until then, robot mode will have to do, because robot me is moving in the right direction – forward and on with my life.”
The most important thing is to keep talking to your friends and your loved ones, and to stay in tune with your emotional state. If you truly are depressed, be sure to seek the help that you need and deserve. You can find some resources here.
It’s going to get better.