Exercising Through Grief

Exercising Through Grief

The thought of exercising through grief never really was something I had thought about before this week. I have been focused on working toward my health goals, gaining strength, improving my speed and endurance for soccer and running. Being a vet, I deal with medical issues on a daily basis so exercising for health makes sense to me. Of course, before I started with P90X, I was on the usual exercise and lose weight, gain it back and so forth.  My weight was a constant struggle since I was a teenager and I am so thankful I finally found something that clicked, putting exercise and nutrition hand in hand.

Exercising Through Grief: Our Cat Katie

Exercising Through Grief: our cat Katie

 

As a vet I have worked many years in emergency medicine seeing very sick cases and unfortunately many with sad outcomes. I have supported many families in saying goodbye to their loved ones and given more hugs than I can count. I have been fortunate to have not had to say goodbye to one of my own animals in a very long time. This all changed this week as I diagnosed our cat Katie with kidney failure. Katie or as we like to call her, “the cutest little black cat we know”, had been losing weight over the last few weeks and her blood work revealed that her kidneys were failing.  We hospitalized her for 3 days in the emergency hospital and brought her home when she started to feel better. Unfortunately, the disease has progressed too far and we said goodbye to her Thursday evening. We were blessed with that last night with her and are thankful she is at peace. However, losing her has left a huge hole in our hearts. Friday morning, I made sure to push play, but it was hard. I know the months of consistency helped me get up when I just wanted to cry and lay in bed. Before I made the commitment to my health I know I would have been laying on the couch eating unhealthy food as well. Also, one of my close friends and fellow coaches suddenly lost two family members this week. Please take a moment and think of her and her family. This sparked me research and to share some tips on exercising through grief.

Exercising Through Grief- Day 1 Video

I made this video on Friday after my Turbofire HIIT 30 workout. I had not planned a video, but knew expressing my grief was one way I could vent and possibly help others as one recommended way to deal with grief is to Reach out to Others. When experiencing grief, support from family, friends, your church or temple, or a support group can help ease the burden of grief. Additionally, being socially isolated can further add to the risk of depression after experiencing a loss. Having people around you can help buffer that risk. This is one of the reasons being a part of a fitness support group like ours is so important.

Exercising Through Grief – Why Exercise is Important

One of the best things you can do for yourself is exercise. This may sound really hard, but once you push yourself into an exercise routine you will be thankful that you did. It’s a known fact that exercise during grief and depression helps to distract from the painful emotions, lessens stress, makes you feel more in control, and restores your motivation to continue on in life. It also releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in your body that will help make you feel good. In turn, you will find your nerves becoming more calm, feelings of hurt and frustration are lessened in intensity. Even just short sessions of exercise can lift your spirit and spark these changes.

Exercising Through Grief – Which Exercise is Best?

Exercising Through Grief

Exercising Through Grief

 

I would not be ambitious with your exercise. You don’t need to jump into full-speed running or P90X or Insanity – your main goal should be to just get moving. So begin by setting small goals for yourself, such as going for a short walk around the neighborhood. If you are an avid exerciser, stick to your usual workouts. I recommend planning out each day and putting it on the calendar so you are committed. Make small goals as you go along like increasing the duration of exercise, how long you walk/run, how many days a week, etc. Aim for 30 minutes or more of exercise a day, for three to five days a week. Focusing on this goal will help you continue on your path of exercising through grief. Slowly, this will become a habit and you will see all the benefits of exercise. Within as little time as even a few days, it will be something you look forward to doing.

Exercising Through Grief – Eating well

Nutrition is just as important as being active.  Do your best to eat healthy foods. During the early stage of grief it is easy to revert to the old habit of comfort foods, but try to avoid foods that supply empty calories, like candy, chips, cookies and pastries. They may taste good in the short term, but your body needs whole foods. Drink plenty of fluids, and limit alcohol and caffeinated drinks. If you’ve lost your appetite, try simple foods, such as soups, mashed sweet potatoes with chicken or  turkey meatloaf, fruit and yogurt smoothies or Shakeology. Eating small portions frequently may help, too. Consider taking a multivitamin to cover any nutrients your diet isn’t currently supplying.

Exercising Through Grief – Sleep

I know from the last few days that sleep is difficult to come by. Your mind races and often leads to tossing and turning. However, sleep is a necessary part of your physical health. Try to find something that will calm you before trying to close your eyes, like mediation, prayer or a calming exercise. In addition, the benefits of exercise are simple in this department. The tension, anxiety, fear and frustration you’re carrying suddenly has an outlet and including exercise in your daily routine is a great way to help yourself sleep better at night, and it releases those very needed endorphins.

Exercising Through Grief – Summary

The loss of a family member whether human or pet can be traumatic. Taking small steps like incorporating exercise will help you cope and lead to additional healthy benefits such as eating healthy and better sleep. I hope you found these tips on exercising through grief helpful and please share with anyone who may benefit and comment below.

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