Couch to Wellness: Get Yourself Mentally Fit!

Practicing YogaWhy is recovery from depression so hard? It’s because you are working so hard against a long-standing way of thinking and responding to life. Depression probably ingrained into your family life and relationships. Just like your body strives to maintain the norm, your mind tends to do the same.

I won’t lie: It’s hard to make changes. Have you ever been to the gym then could hardly walk for the next three days? A good counseling session can leave you just as affected. Why do you go back to the gym for more? Do you go back at all? When the pain of the present is worse than the pain of change, you’ll know you’re ready to do the work.

When we are talking about recovery from depression, it’s helpful to think about it in terms of developing and maintaining emotional fitness. You’ve probably heard of the Couch to 5K running programs. You can think of counseling as your “Couch to Wellness” program. Just like any physical fitness program, you can choose to cheat and let things slide, or you can dig in. Your results will reflect what you put into it.

1. Find a counselor you like and trust. Think of your counselor as your personal trainer. You have come to the counselor with a desire to feel better. Your counselor is going to take into consideration your personal strengths and weaknesses, your demands and challenges, and will work with you to create a plan to get you in better emotional shape. But just like a personal trainer, counselors are not there to do the work for you. Just paying a personal trainer won’t make you physically fit. Likewise, just paying a counselor won’t make you feel better. You’ve got to do the work outside the session.

2. Make the choice to work it. You won’t be in therapy forever. Learn what you need, get a good start, then choose to integrate what you have learned into your life. I know people who bounce from one therapist to the next, in a sort of serial monogamy of counseling. If you find yourself doing this, it’s likely you’re avoiding taking responsibility for your wellness. This in and of itself is worthy of discussing during counseling, if you ultimately want to feel better.

3. Diversify. If you want to be physically fit, you don’t just do one exercise, right? Likewise, you want to make sure you’re not just trying one approach. A good counselor will leave you with a few new approaches to help you work through depression.

4. Make it a lifestyle. You don’t expect to go to one personal training session and be ready for the Ironman the next day, right? Physical fitness is something you have to work it into your schedule, your life. Same thing goes with emotional fitness and recovery from depression. You might be lucky enough to have a tremendous moment of insight in the first session or two, but that’s rare, and you still have to take that insight and DO something, make changes in your daily life.

5.Become an expert. This doesn’t mean that you have to become a counselor yourself. What this means is that you weave what you learn in counseling into the fabric of your daily life. You know that “gym bunny” co-worker who always seems to have workouts on the forefront of her mind? That guy who is always posting the latest exercise research on his Facebook page? That needs to be you—only your area of expertise is emotional wellness.

If you fall off track or hit a plateau, check back in with your counselor. Life isn’t a destination of emotional wellness; rather, life is the proverbial journey–when the emotional terrain changes and you’re struggling to keep pace, counseling is a useful tool to develop the stamina you need to keep up with new demands. It gets easier, and the results are well worth the effort.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kelly Baez, PhD, LPC, NCC

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • lori

    October 25th, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    But it’s so hard to make those changes when you aren’t fully commited to the process, know what I mean? There are people who are always talking all the talk but then not dedicated to doing the hard work and walking the walk. Look, healing form depression, it’s not easy. I don’t think that anyone ever said that it was. But think about ow much better you are going to feel about life in general once you give it your all and you do it!! This is not something that you will ever regret, I promise.

  • Barbara

    October 26th, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Therapy is such a chore for many because I think that most think that this is going to be more like a cake walk then the huge job that it actually is. You think that it is just going to be talking to someone and everythng is going to work out okay but then you forget about all the nasty stuff that led you there in the first place. So then you are hesitant to go back because who wants to go rehash all that all over again? But to get rid of all that past garbage you gotta get rid of it from your life, take it out and throw it out, don’t let it back in and that’s what therapy honestly allows you to do.. It does go against how you have been trained to deal with it all this time but it is good to finally do something productive with it for a change.

  • John V

    October 27th, 2013 at 1:48 AM

    To the advice dispensed in the article, I would add “take action” as a critical aspect of self-improvement. By identifying your short-term and long-term goals, you can go a long way towards improving your current situation, no matter how difficult it is.

  • Thayer

    October 28th, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    The one big thing that stood out to me is that you shouldn’t expect changes overnight. I just started exercising and training for a half marathon, but I don’t expect to be able to run it tomorrow! It will take me months to build up to that. I should know that with anything else, you have to build up to those things too. I would love it if most changes happened overnight and I could miraculously fit into those skinny jeans again, but it doesn’t work like that and sometimes I think that the people who give up too soon are really just using this as an excuse to self sabotage because they are afraid of the hard work that lies ahead. This is not a criticism, just a thought about what could be going on even when they may not know it.

  • kaia b

    November 5th, 2013 at 4:57 AM

    This is a most excellent time of year to start working on these changes too. Everyone seems to get a little depressed around the holidays what with the stress and family and gifts, but if you make up your mind to get a little stronger mentally right now, I think that this could help many of us get through more of the emotional stress that this time of year seems to introduce.

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