Stored Fuel is Combustible.
When my child asked me to sign him up for Fall sports in 8th grade, I was excited. The rainy South Florida summer season was diminishing, which meant less anxiety to deal with. But, they still struggled with a fear of the weather.
One practice, the weather started changing as they do in South Florida. Quick moving storm clouds were approaching the field. In the past, this would be a fight or flight moment for my child. I begin to get anxious about their anxiety. I know you have been there also. I hoped and prayed they would endure. To my surprise (they would tell me on the car ride home), they didn't even notice the clouds. The cloud cover was dark as night. And as one of the coaches, I saw 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 inclement weather detection systems.
As the clouds rolled in fast, the team ran sprints at the end of an already exhausting practice. To play well in their sport, you must be in shape, and to be in condition means you will have lots of running at the end of each practice. So why didn't they panic over the weather? Are you putting it together? My child had no energy left in their 12-year-old body to fuel anxious thoughts.
Every counselor we saw asked my child 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 studies, regular exercise works and 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.
We should have done this consistently: Get my child 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, energy is always available. Like, way too much. Anxiety is like an athlete that hasn't played their sport for a day or two. It has the energy to burn. You have to burn a lot of physical fuel daily. Get gains—lower anxiety.
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.
What consistent activities have you engaged in to burn fuel? Let me hear from you, and let's share this journey of Mental Fitness with others.