When my son asked me to sign him up for tackle football in 8th grade I was excited. The rainy south Florida summer season was diminishing, which meant less anxiety to deal with. But, he was still struggling with a fear of weather.
One practice, the weather started changing as they do here. Quick moving storm clouds were approaching the field. In the past, this would be a fight or flight moment for my son. I begin to get anxious about his anxiety. I know you have been there also. I hoped and prayed he would endure. To my surprise (he would tell me on the car ride home) he didn't even notice the clouds. The cloud cover was dark as night. And as one of the coaches, I was noticing the clouds. I was waiting for the weather alerts to light up our phones and the siren to go off ending our practice. Side note: in south Florida all parks/fields have weather detection systems.
As the clouds rolled in fast the team was running sprints at the end of a hard practice. Football is a physically demanding sport. To play well in the game, you have to be in shape, and to be in shape means you will have lots of running at the end of each practice. So why didn't he panic? My son had no energy left in his 12 year old body to fuel his anxious thoughts. Lesson learned.
Every counselor we saw asked my son this same question, "how many times did you work out this week?" Here's the key. Mental fitness and physical fitness go together. In the case of anxiety, they MUST go together.
According to some studies, regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the effects can be long lasting. One vigorous exercise session can help alleviate symptoms for hours, and a regular schedule may significantly reduce them over time.
What we should have done consistently is this: Get my son in a real fitness program (my favorite in south Florida) where he could burn fuel when he wasn't playing on a team. For many working through anxiety, fuel is always available. Like, way too much. You have to burn a lot of physical fuel daily. Get gains.
Three changes I wish I had made earlier with my son:
Start a daily mental and physical fitness plan that builds endurance and confidence.
Healthier meal planning to compensate for the fuel loss.
Normal Yoga (more on that later).
What consistent activities have you engaged to burn fuel? Let me hear from you and let's share this journey of Mental Fitness with others.