Psychotherapist

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Robin D. Stone is a New York City based psychotherapist, coach and consultant who works to help you achieve your most optimal self. 

Posts tagged walking
Ready to Hit the Reset Button?
 

In late 2013, with a grueling semester in graduate school, three major deadlines, client sessions and rich holiday meals, I ended the year with 12 extra pounds, fatigue, dry mouth, a dry, flaky scalp and zits like I haven’t seen since I was 15. 

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What happened? The short answer: Too much to do with too little time. The longer one: in the face of late nights (and snacking), less exercise (and more sitting) and tunnel vision (less time with friends and family -- and with myself), I stopped taking my own advice. Then my treadmill -- my go-to source of exercise -- broke, and that threw everything out of whack.

I talk to clients about these issues all the time. But in the face of new stressors (demands on my time and attention) and a broken treadmill, I hadn’t asked myself kinds of questions that I ask clients, like, “Where exactly can you fit that workout in your jam-packed schedule?” And “How can you get more sleep and cut the late-night snacks?” And “What can you do to recharge?” 

As the new year started and I teetered at the edge of my wardrobe and could barely button my favorite jeans, I knew I needed to change course. I took a hard look at why I had stopped taking care of myself and explored what my life was missing: more water, more sleep, more regular workouts, more connections and balance. Then I hit “reset,” and one-by-one, began to include those missing elements. 

I know that when our primary foods -- relationships, spiritual grounding, exercise, work -- don't fulfill us, we often turn to the foods we eat for satisfaction. And stressors slow down our metabolism, making our bodies slower to process what we do eat.

I tossed out those old dieters’ delusions that I’d get quick results, and then I jumpstarted my plan:
 

  • 30 minutes walking/jogging three times a week (wake up a half hour early to get it in), and 15-20 minutes other exercise two times a week (crunches, squats jumping jacks, pushups)
  • 7-8 glasses of water daily (one just after waking up, one with each meal, one between each meal, and one at night)
  • 6-7 hours of sleep daily (and no late-night munchies)
  • Connections and fun: At least one “play date” with girlfriends or my son per week, and a real date with my honey 
  • More meditation and journaling


Three weeks in, I’m three pounds lighter, and with a little less around my middle, my clothes already fit better. I have more energy, my face and scalp are clearing up, and I don’t wake up feeling tired and parched. Of course, breaking old habits can be like turning around a big ship, so it will take time to get back up to speed on exercise, and I’m still working on the sleep (but no more snacks). But I’ve been patient, forgiving and encouraging. I'm giving myself 60 days to get back on track, and as a new semester starts and clients and commitments come in, I know I'll need to follow my own advice and stick to my plan.

My plan doesn’t look like yours. That’s why it’s important to consider what you need to reset in your own life. One Facebook friend shared that she was looking to get her “mojo” back. She asked friends to describe what mojo meant to them. She got 10 different answers from 10 people. She then defined what mojo meant to her, and has since inspired us with #Projectmojo postings as she works on hers. 

One thing I love about a new year: We can wipe the slate and start all over. As 2014 gets in gear and you strive to do this one better, happier, healthier, make a commitment to stop, reassess and reset. And then stick with it. If you need some help to start or keep it up, get it. If you stumble, get back up and keep going. My mojo is Momentum. And you've got to start to get it.

Are you ready to hit a hard reset? Let me know the first thing you’ll do differently, and why.

Be well,
Robin

 
How Walking Saved Me from Despair
 
Down in front with my old Zumba crew.   

Down in front with my old Zumba crew.
 

I have never considered myself much of a fitness buff.

Family and friends, on the other hand, would beg to differ. I’ve been called a fanatic, been told that my vacations are “Outward Bound” adventures, and dubbed by my niece “that crazy health lady.”

What I am is a mover. I walk, jog, run and golf. I vibe to P90x and 20 Second Fitness. Back in the day, Tae-Bo was my thing. Before that, Jane Fonda (I’ve still got my three-part step). And way before that, I taught low-impact aerobics at a local Living Well Lady. I don’t like to sweat, but I’ve always I loved how I feel when I move my body.

Intellectually, I know how exercise boosts those feel-good chemicals called endorphins. After an intense workout session, I’ve even felt the “runner’s high” that we’ve read about. 

But it wasn’t until when I needed it most – when I was so down and out that it was hard to get out of bed and get dressed for the day – that I saw how exercise could lift you up from the depths of deep despair.

Cancer was killing my husband. The doctors referred us to hospice. My son was 10 and writing letters to his future self to come back in time and bring the cure. After a stressful day of work and tending to family, I found that nights became my friend. Before I rested, and as I said prayers for comfort, for peace, and for the strength to go on, I started walking on my treadmill. Almost every night I walked. Sometimes at 8 p.m., sometimes I got out of bed at midnight. And then I slept hard. On weekends I walked with girlfriends and at the rise-and-shine hour of 7.

I asked my therapist about medication. I hated feeling so bad. She didn’t dissuade me but she did ask, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?” I told her about all the walking, and confided that I was worried. Was it an addiction? Who walks at midnight? Keep going, my therapist assured me. I’m glad she did.

These days Americans are all too quick to reach for a prescription – after painkillers and cholesterol-lowering meds, antidepressants are the country’s most-prescribed drug. A part of the reason, as in this recent report, is that doctors are so quick to prescribe meds when movement might be enough. When you are feeling low, it’s important to know that you have a choice.

After my husband made his transition, I added meditation and golfing to the mix of what I was doing to take care of myself, and I walked and walked and walked. At some point, an older woman passed me on the neighborhood track, salt-and-pepper dreadlocks bouncing with each step. More encouraged than outdone, I started to trot. And so I became a runner. Growing up with chronic asthma, I had always told myself that vigorous exercise was beyond me. But once I started, and my asthma stayed in check, I saw how challenging exercise bolstered not only my lung capacity and my endurance, but also my spirits.

Walking gave me the motivation to get up and go on. I had a son to parent, a life to lead and dreams to fulfill. Running gave me the confidence to do more than I thought I could. Moving works. You may need more if you are down and depressed, but exercise is a good place to start. Studies show it, and I’ve lived it.