I have a dream coming true. It involves exercise, EMDR, and the blending of health and creativity.
I’ll soon open an office downtown. In a Pilates studio. More details to come, but here’s why I think it makes sense to do my EMDR therapy in a fitness studio, surrounded by instructors who understand how to make us stronger and fitter.
I begin every day with these indispensable rituals:
- breakfast and perfect coffee made by my husband
- three longhand journal pages (a la Julia Cameron)
- exercise with friends
These rituals let me do what I do. They keep it all moving. Without them, my ideas get paralyzed. If I skip breakfast, I fall flat by 10:00. If I skip more than a day at the page, I lose focus and feel annoyed at everything. If I skip more than a day of burpees and mountain-climbers, I get fuzzy-headed and gloomy.
Writing in a free, uncensored flow, blablablablablabla, with pen and paper, lets me manage all the little scraps of information piled up in my head since the day before: emotions from my clients, news of the world, thoughts about the future, what’s happening in Springfield, or the random mosaics in my head…It’s like a compost bin for thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
Exercise does something similar, AND helps me burn calories. But it does so much more than that. It changes me, mentally.
Movement as Mood Lifter, Thought Sorter, Body Soother
As I focus on my body and movement, I move my conscious attention away from anything that preoccupies me. This allows some alchemical mental health process to unfold while I’m not looking. I literally drag myself into cardio class with heaviness or tightness and skip away feeling free and light. I have energy for the rest of the day. I stay concentrated longer. Professional dilemmas resolve more quickly. I think more lucidly, breathe more deeply. I take setbacks in stride and I feel more compassion for people, wherever I meet them. I sleep like a stone. I get a shot of hope for the future. It’s like I’ve meditated for an hour without trying.
Research offers a number of explanations for this. Exercise may buffer the brain from stress by regulating our sleep-wake schedule and creating more feel-good neurotransmitters. Concentrated movement may also act like exposure therapy for our anxiety. It creates some of the same sensations as panic in the body – but we learn to associate them with a workout rather than a feared situation. And movement reduces the likelihood for obesity and diabetes, which both link to depression.
I’m not aware of any of these reasons when I’m doing Core Barre with friends. I’m in the moment, laughing, sweating, and pushing myself to hold a plank.
Another reason I’m so excited to practice therapy in my favorite Pilates studio: I get to wear sneakers and yoga pants to work every day. Woohoo! More to come on this…
Contact me to talk about EMDR, exercise, or a Body/Mind Makeover.